Call for volunteers: Join the Sonic Acts Academy team

Are you interested in technology, art, new media and electronic music? The upcoming Sonic Acts Academy will take place from 23 to 25 February 2018 in Amsterdam. To help make the Academy a success, we are looking for volunteers to support us with various tasks, including promotion, communication, photography, production and the information desk. Interested? Apply by filling in the volunteer application form. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at volunteer[at]sonicacts[dot]com. We look forward to welcoming you to the team! Apply Now! Sonic Acts Academy is a new platform that aims to grow, expand, sustain and disseminate stimulating discourse about artistic research. Following its inception in 2016, the second edition of Sonic Acts Academy will take place from 23 to 25 February 2018 at various locations in Amsterdam.

Apply for the Critical Writing Workshop at Sonic Acts Academy

Call for Applications: Critical Writing Workshop by Jennifer Lucy Allan Following the success of the previous Critical Writing Workshops, a new edition will take place during Sonic Acts Academy 2018, from 23 to 25 February, facilitated by Jennifer Lucy Allan. During the workshop, we will focus on specific aspects of writing as a craft (language, style and focus) and how to shape the argument or perspective of a piece. You will take part in commissioning meetings with the other participants, and be given one-to-one feedback on all work produced during the Academy. The workshop focuses on developing writing skills, and all writers who complete text will have pieces published on the Sonic Acts blog. The Critical Writing Workshop this year will focus on the different critical modes we can use to write about, describe, and discuss art, while thinking about how to package your ideas. You will cover the conference, performances and other events during the Academy, and have a chance to interview participating artists and theorists. In line with the theme of the Academy, the workshop will engage with new conceptions of learning that focus on artistic practice as a means to explore new ideas. The workshop hosts a maximum of seven emerging international bloggers, journalists, critics and writers active or interested in the field of interdisciplinary arts (media arts, film, visual arts and performance). Fee Participants pay a €50,- contribution and receive free access to all events plus a copy of the Academy zine. Lunches will be provided during the workshop. Deadline Applicants are asked to submit a short motivation and CV to write[@]sonicacts[.]com. The deadline for applications is 21 December 2017. For an impression of the writing the workshop produces (usually two to three articles over the weekend), check out texts produced by previous participants on the Sonic Acts blog. This workshop is a co-production of Sonic Acts & Paradiso and part of Re-Imagine Europe, co-funded by the Creative Europe programme of the European Union.

Jennifer Lucy Allan is a writer, researcher, curator and label head, currently working on a PhD at CRiSAP on the social and cultural history of the foghorn. She previously worked as online editor of The Wire, writing, commissioning and editing features and news. She also runs the vinyl reissues label Arc Light Editions, part of James Ginzburg’s Multiverse Music, which started in 2013 with the first ever vinyl pressing of Arthur Russell’s Another Thought.

New collaboration with the ArtScience Interfaculty

Sensing the Shipyard A Sensorial Journey Sonic Acts is currently working together with several educational institutes in the Netherlands and abroad. As part of the upcoming Sonic Acts Academy 2018, we are collaborating with the ArtScience Interfaculty in The Hague on Sensing the Shipyard: A Sensorial Journey. The project is part of ongoing research into the transformation and rethinking of modes in the artistic field. Under the guidance of artist and teacher Cocky Eek and Sonic Acts curatorial team member Nicky Assmann, a group of ten art students are running a research programme at the Damen Shiprepair in Amsterdam. During November, these students tapped into the different industrious rhythms of the huge shipyard, which is used to conduct numerous repairs on cargo and leisure ships. This terrain, located in the harbour on the north side of Amsterdam, next to the River IJ, is in operation for almost a hundred years and is bustling with energy and activity on an industrial scale. With the coaching of architect and creative researcher Renske Maria van Dam and sound artist BJ Nilsen, the students delve into questions such as: How do we relate our human presence to enormous living machines? How is this relationship sensorially inscribed at this rich and historic industrial complex? Field trip during Sonic Acts Academy By recording the different sounds, movements and smells, and investigating surfaces and scales by touch, the students explore this remarkable shipyard by sensorial mapping, whilst researching how they can recompose these location-specific stimuli into an artistic experience that the Academy audience can embark on. More information about the field trip and how to apply will be announced soon.

'I’m standing right here below sea-level next to the riverbank of the IJ in Amsterdam North. To be more precise, I’m standing at the bottom of dry-dock nr 3 of Damen Shiprepair Amsterdam, in front of the giant cruise ship, while tiny tiny men are tending it carefully. I’m facing the vertical front line of this giant ship towering out high above me. This dazzling vertical line connects me straight through the bottom of the ocean and up to the sky above. From the bow line of the ship, two sensuous steel planes curve upwards reaching out to the surface of the sea. When the gate will be opened the water of the IJ will fill the dock with fluid matter, lifting the body of this ship, to get itself afloat on the maritime waters of our world.' – Cocky Eek
Follow all updates about the project at Early Bird tickets for the complete programme of Sonic Acts Academy 2018 are now on sale. Buy your tickets here. This project is a collaboration between the ArtScience Interfaculty and the Sonic Acts Academy in Amsterdam. The ArtScience Interfaculty offers interdisciplinary Bachelor’s and Master’s programmes that foster curiosity driven research as an approach for the making of art. The programme considers art and science as a continuum and promotes the development of new art forms and artistic languages. The ArtScience Interfaculty is embedded in both the Royal Conservatoire and The Royal Academy for Fine Arts in The Hague, Netherlands.

More talks confirmed for Progress Bar on 2 December

On Saturday 2 December, Progress Bar returns to Paradiso Noord (Tolhuistuin) with talks, performances and a club in a single night. As part of a programme of talks that open the evening, Iranian-British political commentator, writer, broadcaster and activist Aaron Bastani will give a presentation about 'Fully Automated Luxury Communism'. Artist and writer Rachel Rose O'Leary will talk about language as impact, information warfare, and the flattening of concept into code. We'll also sit down for a conversation with artist GAIKA to discuss his music and political visions. To reserve a seat for the talks, please send an email to 'There is a tendency in capitalism to automate labor, to turn things previously done by humans into automated functions,' says Aaron Bastani. 'In recognition of that, then the only utopian demand can be for the full automation of everything and common ownership of that which is automated.' Aaron Bastani is the co-founder of Novara Media and Silke Digital. He is an expert on digital media, protest and political communications and has published with, among others, the Guardian, Vice and the LRB. GAIKA is one of the most visionary artists of the moment, with a singular, confrontational performance style. GAIKA injects powerful drama into poetic dub sermons about city life and society ‘in a state of emergency’. Rachel Rose O'Leary is an artist and writer currently based in Amsterdam. Her research concerns philosophy, encryption technologies, and eroticism. More information about the rest of the programme Progress Bar S03E02 Date: Saturday 2 December 2017 Venue: Paradiso Noord, Tolhuistuin Amsterdam Times: 21:00–04:00 (doors open 20:30) Tickets: €10,00 presale / €12,50 at the door (card only) Buy tickets Attend on Facebook

GAIKA to be joined by a stacked line-up at Progress Bar

Progress Bar S03E02 trailer by Sam Rolfes
On 2 December Progress Bar presents The Spectacular Empire with GAIKA and more at Paradiso Noord (Tolhuistuin). Mixing talks, performance and a club in a single night, Progress Bar has developed into a platform for leading artists and speakers whose work straddles the intersection between nightlife and socio-political activism. For this special edition of Progress Bar, Brixton-born beatmaker and vocalist GAIKA will present an explosive history of the future, in the name of The Spectacular Empire. GAIKA will be joined by a stacked line-up of collaborators and like-minded musicians, including 808INK, /aart, Cõvco, Gage, Gloria, Kojey Radical, Madam X and S4U. In addition, this edition of Progress Bar will feature a live performance by Vancouver-based producer City and talks by Novara Media co-founder Aaron Bastani and artist Rachel Rose O'Leary. Buy your tickets here. Full line-up: 808INK AARON BASTANI /AART CITY CÕVCO GAGE GAIKA GLORIA KOJEY RADICAL MADAM X RACHEL ROSE O'LEARY S4U The Spectacular Empire is a new project by GAIKA that imagines a future world in which authority has been removed and cities destroyed, a world where chaos reigns. For Progress Bar, GAIKA brings The Spectacular Empire into the physical realm, in the shape of a live show alongside collaborators and like-minded musicians. You can read GAIKA's vision of the future at Dazed Digital. GAIKA is one of the most visionary artists of the moment, with a singular, confrontational performance style. Blending grime, dancehall, garage, hip-hop and R&B, GAIKA injects powerful drama into poetic dub sermons about city life and society ‘in a state of emergency’. The recent Warp Records signee takes the sonic textures of the streets and crafts them into brand new, glistening shapes. Progress Bar S03E02 Date: Saturday 2 December 2017 Venue: Paradiso Noord, Tolhuistuin Amsterdam Times: 21:00–04:00 (doors open 20:30) Tickets: €10,00 presale / €12,50 at the door (card only) Buy your tickets here To reserve a seat for the talks, please send an email to
The Spectacular Empire Tour

Continuum study programme in Shenzhen, China

Shenzhen, China
Continuum is a Pre-Master's programme founded by the Interaction Design, Product Design and Graphic Design departments of ArtEZ Arnhem and developed in collaboration with Sonic Acts. In November, a first phase of the programme will take place in Shenzhen, China, where participants will be able to critically reflect around the set theme of transit within a rapidly changing geography. During the month-long working residency, located in the Shenzhen Open Innovation Lab, participants will develop their research through guest lectures, hands-on workshops and project development. The research developed will be presented during Sonic Acts Academy 2018 (23–25 February) in Amsterdam. More info

Early Birds for Sonic Acts Academy now on sale

Buy tickets We are excited to tell you that a limited amount of Early Bird tickets for the upcoming Sonic Acts Academy 2018 are now available for only €50 (regular price €65). The Early Bird ticket is valid for the complete three-day programme. Sonic Acts Academy will take place from 23 to 25 February 2018 at various locations in Amsterdam. Now in its second edition, Sonic Acts Academy is a new platform that aims to grow, expand, sustain and disseminate stimulating discourse about artistic research. Following its inception in 2016, Sonic Acts Academy 2018 continues to highlight artistic engagement as vital to understanding the complexities of our contemporary world. Over the course of three days, artists will present work that challenges the sterile dichotomy of theory versus practice. Through an open and dynamic programme of workshops, masterclasses, a symposium, film programme, live performances and club nights, Sonic Acts Academy probes traditional notions of the academy by positioning art as a unique means of knowledge production, to be shared and expanded upon with future generations. The first artists for Sonic Acts Academy 2018 will be announced soon. Early Bird Passes are available for €50 until Sunday 31 December. The Early Bird Pass grants access to all events from Friday 23 February to Sunday 25 February. For some events reservation may be required due to limited capacity. Following the end of the Early Bird sale, we will be offering various different ticket options, including regular Academy Passes (€65) and tickets for individual events.

Design by The Rodina

HC Gilje's 'Barents (Mare Incognitum)' at Screen City Biennial 2017

We are happy to announce that HC Gilje's video installation Barents (Mare Incognitum), which was commissioned by Sonic Acts and Hilde Methi for Dark Ecology is part of Screen City Biennial 2017 in Stavanger, Norway.

A still from HC Gilje's video installation Barents (Mare Incognitum)
The installation shows a slowly rotating view of the Barents Sea: up becomes down, East becomes West. Border and thresholds become invisible, and the potential disaster inherent in the ocean is made visible. More info about Barents (Mare Incognitum) here. Screen City Biennial 12–31 October 2017 Stavanger, Norway

Progress Bar is an official afterparty of Museumnacht

We are happy to announce that on Saturday 4 November, Progress Bar at Paradiso Noord with Bbymutha, Eaves, Lsdxoxo & more is an official afterparty of Museumnacht Amsterdam 2017.

Progress Bar collaborates with Framer Framed in the Tolhuistuin for Museumnacht, an annual evening during which more than 50 Amsterdam-based museums open their doors from 19:00 until 02:00. The Museumnacht programme at Framer Framed revolves around the theme ‘revolution’. In exhibition It Won’t Be Long Now, Comrades!, a group of contemporary artists reflect on the role of resistance and protest, focusing specifically on so-called ‘post-communist’ regions. Take inspiration from the revolutions of the past, enjoy guided tours and create & photograph your own protest sign. End your revolutionary visit with a party at Progress Bar, ‘the only political party you can dance to’. As an official afterparty location, Museumnacht visitors can enter Progress Bar from 22:00 with their wristband and a €5 afterparty ticket. Buy your tickets here More info:

Early Bird tickets for the Academy on sale 7 November

Early Bird tickets for Sonic Acts Academy 2018 will be on sale from 7 November. Tickets will be available at a discount price of €50 (regular price: €65) until 31 December. Sonic Acts Academy is a new platform that aims to grow, expand, sustain and disseminate stimulating discourse about artistic research. Following its inception in 2016, the second edition of Sonic Acts Academy will take place from 23 to 25 February 2018 at various locations in Amsterdam. Stay tuned, as the first artists will be announced soon! Attend on Facebook.

Ewa Justka at Sonic Acts Academy 2016, photo by Pieter Kers

Book Launch: The Noise of Being

We are pleased to invite you to the launch of our new publication, The Noise of Being, on Saturday 4 November 2017 at Paradiso Noord (Tolhuistuin) in Amsterdam.

The Noise of Being book launch. Design by The Rodina
TIMETABLE: 20:00 Doors 20:30 Intro 20:40-21:10 The Rodina lecture 21:10-21:40 Nina Power lecture 21:40-22:10 Bbymutha interviewed by Stefan Wharton 22:10-22:40 Metahaven lecture UPDATE: the reservation list for the talks is now closed. If you've made a reservation, please be on time. Doors open at 20:00 and the programme starts at 20:30. We expect a full house. Regular tickets are available at the door and in pre sale here: Date: Saturday 4 November 2017 Venue: Paradiso Noord, Tolhuistuin Amsterdam Times: 20:30–22:30 (doors open 20:00) We expect a full house, so please come early. The Noise of Being attempts to piece together the dissonance that was produced and gathered at the 2017 Sonic Acts Festival. The festival focused on a theme that resonates deeply when thinking about the contemporary – namely, what it means to be human, to be part of a world that is an ever changing network. Many different ‘noises’ were featured and produced at the festival conference, in the clubs, museums, and cinemas. This book is by no means a definite conclusion: more of a reminder and a chance to continue speculating about the strange and anxious state of being. The book opens with Nina Power’s essay Anticapitalism, Postcapitalism, Decapitalism, a reflection on ways of visualising opposition to capitalism; and Juha van 't Zelfde interviews the Dutch duo Metahaven about their artistic practices in graphic design and film. Both Nina Power and Metahaven will be present at the book launch, along with the book's designers, The Rodina, to give three separate presentations about their work. The Noise of Being features contributions by Arie Altena, Ingrid Burrington, Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, Rick Dolphijn, Jennifer Gabrys, Louis Henderson, Jamon Van Den Hoek, Joey Holder, Rosa Menkman, Metahaven, Nina Power, The Rodina, Daniel Rourke, Lucas van der Velden, Eyal Weizman, Ytasha Womack, and Juha van ’t Zelfde. Jennifer Gabrys is interviewed about sensor technologies and changing conceptualisations of the environment, political agency, the human, and the citizen. Referencing Arthur Rimbaud and Derek Walcott, Louis Henderson’s poetic text presents his animistic materialist cinematic practice, which focuses on the critical reading of colonial histories. In her interview, Ytasha Womack discusses how Afrofuturism, as an aesthetic and epistemology, facilitates different ways of navigating the world. Daniel Rourke’s essay takes John Carpenter’s The Thing as a starting point for a reflection on the ontology of things. Rick Dolphijn’s study, The Cracks of the Contemporary – The Wound, explicates living the wounds and the void. In the context of computational biology and the Google Genomics project, artist Joey Holder invented a speculative pharmaceutical company Ophiux. Networked algorithms, big data, and habituation on the internet are the focus of a conversation with Wendy Hui Kyong Chun. In another interview, Eyal Weizman vigorously explains the political interventions of Forensic Architecture and how they gather and present facts. In By Any Lens Necessary, Jamon Van Den Hoek examines how satellite images provide and create accounts of geopolitical conflicts. Ingrid Burrington’s contribution, Forever Noon on a Cloudless Day, analyses Google Earth imagery for traces of military architecture. Juha van ’t Zelfde interviews the Dutch duo Metahaven about their artistic practices in graphic design and film. The book concludes with a series of photographs that provide an impression of The Noise of Being. You can order The Noise of Being at the Sonic Acts webshop or purchase it at the official book launch for the special introductory price.

The Noise of Being BOOK from The Rodina on Vimeo.

After the book launch you are warmly invited to stay for Progress Bar. The launch of The Noise of Being sets in motion a new season of Progress Bar – a club night that itself engages with the challenges facing society and club culture under capitalism. Now in its third season, Progress Bar has developed into a platform for leading speakers on a range of urgent topics, while featuring a genre-spanning line-up of international DJs and live performers, whose work straddles the intersection between nightlife and socio-political activism. Attend on Facebook

Progress Bar is back on 4 November

Progress Bar is back for a third season of cutting-edge thinking and dancing at Paradiso Noord (Tolhuistuin) on Saturday 4 November. Mixing talks, performance and a club in a single night, Progress Bar has developed into a platform for leading speakers on a range of urgent topics, alongside an uncompromising line-up of DJs and live performers, whose work straddles the intersection between nightlife and socio-political activism. The first edition of the season features Bbymutha, Bonaventure, Eaves, Hanz, LSDXOXO, Lyzza, Nina Power and more. Buy your tickets here.

Progress Bar S03E01 Trailer by Sam Rolfes
TIMETABLE: TALKS 20:00 Doors 20:30 Intro 20:40-21:10 The Rodina lecture 21:10-21:40 Nina Power lecture 21:40-22:10 Bbymutha interviewed by Stefan Wharton 22:10-22:40 Metahaven lecture CLUB 22:45-23:30 Eaves (LIVE) 23:30-00:15 Hanz (LIVE) 00:15-01:00 Lyzza (DJ) 01:00-01:45 Bonaventure (LIVE) 01:45-02:30 Bbymutha (LIVE) 02:30-03:30 LSDXOXO (DJ) 03:30-04:00 Juha (DJ) BBYMUTHA (Live) is a rapper from Chattanooga, Tennessee, whose lyrics are equally dark, witty, unforgiving and smart. You might have heard her tracks with collaborators LSDXOXO and Joey LaBeija, blending emotional release with venomous lyrical daggers. BONAVENTURE (Live) is a Swiss-Congolese producer who makes music that is inherently confrontational. She recently followed up her 'Complexion' single on NON Worldwide with the EP 'FREE LUTANGU’ on PTP, born out of a violent clash of sorrow and love. EAVES (Live) is a New York based producer whose music is inspired by the special connection between space and sound. Eaves’ debut LP, ‘Verloren’, came out at the end of last year via PTP and sees the producer place a lens to our relationship with digital environments. HANZ (Live), the Georgia born, North Carolina-based producer, cuts blasted, abstract beats on post-punk textures, resulting in a sound that somehow manages to echo RZA, Rammellzee, This Heat and PIL, whilst carving out a unique identity all of his own. LSDXOXO (DJ) is a producer & DJ from New York, by way of Philadelphia. He’s been described as “deliciously confrontational” by The Fader, and with a number of new projects on the way, is proving himself to be more than just an underground club-kid. LYZZA (DJ) is a promising young DJ and producer who is currently on the rise in Amsterdam. Born and raised in Brazil, she combines her Brazilian roots, through baile funk, with a taste of bass heavy club music, underground hip-hop and grime. METAHAVEN (Talk) is a collective working across design, art and filmmaking. Recent publications include Black Transparency (2015) and Can Jokes Bring Down Governments? (2013). Their first full-length documentary, The Sprawl (Propaganda about Propaganda), premiered in 2016. NINA POWER (Talk) is a cultural critic, social theorist and philosopher. She teaches Philosophy at the University of Roehampton and Critical Writing in Art & Design at the Royal College of Art. She has written widely on philosophy, politics, feminism and culture. THE RODINA (Talk) was founded in 2011 by the Czech born, Amsterdam-based independent graphic designers Tereza and Vit Ruller. Interested in connections between culture, technology and aesthetic , The Rodina designs events, objects, and tools. Progress Bar S03E01 Date: Saturday 4 November 2017 Venue: Paradiso Noord, Tolhuistuin Amsterdam Times: 20:30–04:00 (doors open 20:00) Tickets: €10,00 presale / €12,50 at the door (card only) Buy your tickets here. Free entrance before 20:30 Free for Subbacultcha members until midnight. Become a member: Progress Bar is an official afterparty of Museumnacht. €5 entrance after 10:00 (with Museumnacht wristband): Attend on Facebook

Sonic Acts Academy 2018

Sonic Acts Academy is a new platform that aims to grow, expand, sustain and disseminate stimulating discourse about artistic research. Following its inception in 2016, the second edition of Sonic Acts Academy will take place from 23 to 25 February 2018 at various locations in Amsterdam. The academy is initiated by Sonic Acts, which also organises the internationally renowned Sonic Acts Festival focusing on developments at the intersection of art, science and technology. Sonic Acts Academy highlights artistic engagement as vital to understanding the complexities of our contemporary world. Over the course of three days, artists will present work that challenges the sterile dichotomy of theory versus practice. Following an open and dynamic format, Sonic Acts Academy probes traditional notions of the academy with the aim of positioning art as a unique means of knowledge production, to be shared and expanded upon with future generations. Keep an eye on the Facebook event and Sonic Acts website for more information in the coming months.

Book Presentation at Stedelijk

On 29 September the Stedelijk Museum’s Friday Night is all about books. As part of the programme, Sonic Acts will present The Noise of Being, a new book that offers a chance to continue speculating about the strange and anxious state of being human in the present day. The book will be introduced by the Director of Sonic Acts, Lucas van der Velden, and design studio The Rodina will give an artist presentation about the process behind its design. This evening is a chance for visitors to purchase The Noise of Being and is a must for book lovers! View the full programme here The programme of the second edition of Stedelijk Book Club: Press! Print! Publish! features presentations and performances by authors and artists in the newly designed entrance area and at various spots throughout the museum. The evening also includes the opening of two exhibitions: The Best Book Designs and Always at Risk, yet never in Danger: Rietveld Graphic Design 2017. The annual display of The Best Book Designs is designed by EventArchitectuur. The museum library also takes part in Stedelijk Book Club: the annual book sale takes place at the library, where visitors can purchase numerous publications on contemporary art from home and abroad, both used and brand new. With: Sonic Acts, Antonis Pittas, Florian Idenburg, Herman Verkerk, Ian Whittlesea & Pádraic E. Moore, Katja Gruijters, LAPS, Marjan Teeuwen, Michael Tedja, Radna Rumping, Stedelijk Publicaties & Roma Publications, The Sandberg Series, Het Poëzie Museum, Offprint Library Amsterdam and fanfare. The Noise of Being publication features contributions by Arie Altena, Ingrid Burrington, Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, Rick Dolphijn, Jennifer Gabrys, Louis Henderson, Jamon Van Den Hoek, Joey Holder, Rosa Menkman, Metahaven, Nina Power, The Rodina, Daniel Rourke, Lucas van der Velden, Eyal Weizman, Ytasha Womack, and Juha van ’t Zelfde. View the full programme here. More information about The Noise of Being publication:

Vacature: communicatie stagiaire gezocht

SONIC ACTS ZOEKT EEN STAGIAIR(E) COMMUNICATIE & MARKETING van oktober 2017 t/m maart 2018 Sonic Acts organiseert tweejaarlijks de Sonic Acts Academy: een verdiepend programma op het snijvlak van kunst, technologie, muziek en wetenschap. De Academy omvat een lezingenprogramma, optredens, performances, een filmprogramma, masterclasses en workshops die plaatsvinden op verschillende plekken in Amsterdam zoals Paradiso, de Brakke Grond, het Stedelijk, OT301 en meer. De komende editie vindt plaats van 22 t/m 25 februari 2018. Momenteel zijn we op zoek naar een enthousiaste stagiair(e) voor onze marketing & communicatie afdeling. De stage loopt van begin oktober 2017 t/m eind maart 2018 en je werkt 4 dagen per week. Er wordt van je verwacht dat je flexibel bent: onze activiteiten vinden ook tijdens het weekend of in de avond plaats, en de werktijden passen zich aan aan de activiteiten. Kantoordagen: 4 dagen per week in Amsterdam 
Stagevergoeding: 200 euro bruto per maand Werkzaamheden 
 - Up-to-date houden van de diverse websites van Sonic Acts - Social media kanalen monitoren en content voor creëren (facebook, twitter, instagram) - Ideeën aandragen voor online marketingacties - Digitale nieuwsbrief voorbereiden - Content planning voor websites en social media - Onderhouden en uitbreiden van database perscontacten en relaties - Productionele en praktische ondersteuning voorafgaand- en tijdens het festival Vereisten - Je hebt een HBO of universitair denkniveau - Je weet van aanpakken, bent stressbestendig en je kunt zelfstandig werken - Je bent bekend met CMS-systemen als Wordpress, of maakt je dit soort systemen snel eigen - Vanzelfsprekend weet je alles van social media als Facebook, Twitter en Instagram - Je schrijft en spreekt correct Engels en Nederlands - Je hebt affiniteit met Sonic Acts en haar disciplines (kunst, muziek, wetenschap, technologie) - Eerdere ervaring met organisatie/publiciteit van culturele evenementen is een pré - Ervaring met grafische programma’s als Adobe Illustrator en Photoshop en HTML is een pré - Je woont in Amsterdam of omstreken Ben jij wie we zoeken? Stuur dan je CV en motivatiebrief zo spoedig mogelijk naar Stefan Wharton, via stefan[at]sonicacts[.]com. Voor vragen kun je ook contact opnemen via 020-5307641. In overleg is een eerder of later begin van de stage mogelijk.

Available now: The Noise of Being publication

Buy The Noise of Being The Noise of Being attempts to piece together the dissonance that was produced and gathered at the 2017 Sonic Acts Festival. The festival focused on a theme that resonates deeply when thinking about the contemporary – namely, what it means to be human, to be part of a world that is an ever changing network. Many different ‘noises’ were featured and produced at the festival conference, in the clubs, museums, and cinemas. This book is by no means a definite conclusion: more of a reminder and a chance to continue speculating about the strange and anxious state of being.

The Noise of Being. Design by The Rodina.
The book opens with Nina Power’s essay Anticapitalism, Postcapitalism, Decapitalism, a reflection on ways of visualising opposition to capitalism. Jennifer Gabrys is interviewed about sensor technologies and changing conceptualisations of the environment, political agency, the human, and the citizen. Referencing Arthur Rimbaud and Derek Walcott, Louis Henderson’s poetic text presents his animistic materialist cinematic practice, which focuses on the critical reading of colonial histories. In her interview, Ytasha Womack discusses how Afrofuturism, as an aesthetic and epistemology, facilitates different ways of navigating the world. Daniel Rourke’s essay takes John Carpenter’s The Thing as a starting point for a reflection on the ontology of things. Rick Dolphijn’s study, The Cracks of the Contemporary – The Wound, explicates living the wounds and the void. In the context of computational biology and the Google Genomics project, artist Joey Holder invented a speculative pharmaceutical company Ophiux. Neworked algorithms, big data, and habituation on the internet are the focus of a conversation with Wendy Hui Kyong Chun. In another interview, Eyal Weizman vigorously explains the political interventions of Forensic Architecture and how they gather and present facts. In By Any Lens Necessary, Jamon Van Den Hoek examines how satellite images provide and create accounts of geopolitical conflicts. Ingrid Burrington’s contribution, Forever Noon on a Cloudless Day, analyses Google Earth imagery for traces of military architecture. Juha van ’t Zelfde interviews the Dutch duo Metahaven about their artistic practices in graphic design and film. The book concludes with a series of photographs that provide an impression of The Noise of Being. The Noise of Being features contributions by Arie Altena, Ingrid Burrington, Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, Rick Dolphijn, Jennifer Gabrys, Louis Henderson, Jamon Van Den Hoek, Joey Holder, Rosa Menkman, Metahaven, Nina Power, The Rodina, Daniel Rourke, Lucas van der Velden, Eyal Weizman, Ytasha Womack, and Juha van ’t Zelfde. Format: 17 x 24 cm Edited by Mirna Belina Published by Sonic Acts Press Design by The Rodina Book, 212pp., English text, illustrated Special introduction price: 16.50 EUR (regular price 19.50 EUR) Buy The Noise of Being at

'Electro-Pythagoras (a Portrait of Martin Bartlett)' at the 55th New York Film Festival

Luke Fowler's lovingly constructed biographical essay of Canadian composer Martin Bartlett, Electro-Pythagoras (a Portrait of Martin Bartlett), will be screened at the 55th New York Film Festival on 8 October. As part of the festival's Projections section, Fowler's film – a co-production by Sonic Acts and Stedelijk Museum – finds Bartlett at home, at work and onstage, telling an intimate personal history.

Luke Fowler, 'Electro-Pythagoras (a Portrait of Martin Bartlett)' at Sonic Acts Festival 2017. Photo by Pieter Kers.
With the film Luke Fowler pays tribute to the work and musical ideas of Martin Bartlett (1939–93) a proudly gay Canadian composer who during the 1970s and 1980s pioneered the use of the ‘microcomputer’. Bartlett is hardly recognised, never mind canonised, in cultural life. He researched intimate relationships with technology and was particularly interested in handmade electronics where, as he states in one of his performances: ‘the intimacy of handcraftedness softens the technological anonymity creating individual difference making each instrument a topography of uncertainties with which we become acquainted through practice’. More information about the programme can be found here.

Subscribe to our YouTube channel

We’ve been busy uploading videos to our new YouTube channel. We’ve documented tons of presentations, performances, interviews and video diaries throughout the history of Sonic Acts – which stretches back to 1994 – from festivals, events and international projects. With over 100 videos already online, you can dig deep into the archive with our various playlists: learn about rethinking nature and ecology through our Dark Ecology project; watch snippets from our Vertical Cinema series, with specially projected films in vertical cinemascope; keep track of the latest scientific and philosophical developments from our conferences; and view newly commissioned works from our festivals and academies. Make sure to subscribe to the channel to stay updated about new work and new ideas from renowned artists and thinkers, and new collaborations with our partner organisations, as we continue to upload more videos.

Looking back on Progress Bar Season 2

The second season of Progress Bar has come to a close. Over eight monthly editions taking place at Paradiso Noord (Tolhuistuin) and Paradiso in Amsterdam, we moved beyond the pressures facing club culture, and towards wider socio-political issues. Indeed, Progress Bar began as something conscious of the threats facing underground club culture and has developed into a platform for leading speakers on a range of urgent topics regarding the relations between states, societies and their citizens. We sought out voices proposing hopeful alternatives to the dominant media through grass-roots organisation, intersectional thinking and constructive radicalism, and looked for cues in the DIY approaches and activist mentalities of artists and collectives as far as Lisbon, London and Chicago. Watch a recording of the talks from the season finale...

Progress Bar S02E08 with Hélène Christelle, Jeanette Bisschops, Flavia Dzodan, Bambii and Jo Kali.
...and look through our season highlights on Flickr.
Progress Bar Season 2 Recap
This season Progress Bar enlisted Amnesia Scanner, Malibu, Ash Sarkar, Michael Oswell, Jo Kali, Toxe, ALX9696, Mechatok, Juha, Dedekind Cut, Jam City, patten, Kate Cooper, Sky H1, Aaron McLaughlin, Cõvco, God Colony, Flohio, Shalt, Shygirl, Sega Bodega, Wartone, Akwugo Emejulu, Seada Nourhussen, Bonaventure, Traxman, Embaci, J. G. Biberkopf, s a r a s a r a, Evian Christ, An Ni, Coucou Chloé, DJ Earl, DJ Marfox, Kamixlo, Killavesi, Adamn Killa, Klein, Le1f, Lyzza, My Sword, Nidia Minaj, Organ Tapes, Sam Rolfes, Uli, Yon Eta, Cakes Da Killa, DJ Firmeza, Kablam, Wail Qasim, Jaako Pallusvuo, DJ Nigga Fox, Lotic, Moro, Ziúr, Meredith Greer, Huw Lemmey, Bambii, Endgame, Flavia Dzodan, Hélène Christelle, Jeanette Bisschops and Ashkan Sepahvand.

Videos: The Noise of Being Conference

The 17th edition of Sonic Acts Festival took place in February. Under the title The Noise of Being, the festival revolved around the exploration of what it means to be human in the present time. The festival included a three-day conference at De Brakke Grond in Amsterdam, where internationally renowned artists and thinkers from various disciplines explored and speculated on what being human means in the present time. If you missed the conference (or would like to refresh your memory) you can now watch videos of the presentations and discussions on the Sonic Acts Vimeo channel, or read reports of the conference as part of our Research Series. Watch Nick Axel's panel discussion with John Palmesino and Natasha Ginwala below, and follow the daily reports for many more videos from the conference.

Research Series

Day OneDay TwoDay Three

Announcing the Re-Imagine Europe project

We are very pleased to announce that our project Re-Imagine Europe has been selected for funding by the European Commission’s programme Creative Europe. Re-Imagine Europe is a four-year project presented by ten cultural organisations from across Europe, with an aim to respond to the social and political challenges that we are currently facing. Rising nationalism, climate change and migration are drawing European countries apart, while technological advances continue to change the ways that we interact, urging us to explore new modes of operation. Funded by Creative Europe, the project involves artistic residencies, commissions, workshops and symposia, using art to empower a young generation of digitally connected Europeans to explore new ideas. Re-Imagine Europe is initiated by Sonic Acts (NL) and coordinated by Paradiso (NL) in collaboration with Elevate Festival (AT), Lighthouse (UK), Ina GRM (FR), Student Centre Zagreb / Izlog Festival (HR), Landmark / Bergen Kunsthall (NO), A4 (SK), SPEKTRUM (DE) and Ràdio Web MACBA (ES). More information will follow soon.

Roly Porter & MFO at Sonic Acts Festival 2017. Photo by Pieter Kers.

Sonic Acts Summer Sale! Sale Ends 1 July

Summer is upon us, and what better way to spend it than to delve into one of our many publications. For that reason, we're offering various discounts at the Sonic Acts webshop, including great discounts on Travelling Time and The Dark Universe (€5 each instead of €17,50). Take advantage of our package deal on publications: Travelling Time + The Dark Universe + Sonic Acts Academy Vol. 1 (€12,50). You can also cool off in the warm weather with one of our many Sonic Acts t-shirts (€7,50 instead of €15). Go to and get a free bag with every purchase!

Talks confirmed for Progress Bar on 27 May

The only political party you can dance to. Progress Bar is a regular night for cutting-edge thinking and dancing, showcasing urgent sounds and voices while offering insight into the artistic practice of the most exciting contemporary artists, with interviews and lectures as well as a club programme. The final edition of this second series features DJ sets and live performances by Bambii, Endgame, Juha, Kamixlo and Lyzza. The programme begins at 21:00 in the Tuinzaal with a series of talks: writer and critic Flavia Dzodan, who focuses on issues of gender, immigration, race, politics and media analysis, will give a lecture about the possibilities of radical pleasure; political scientist Hélène Christelle will be interviewed by writer and curator Jeanette Bisschops; and Toronto-based DJ Bambii will be in conversation with Progress Bar about her artistic practice. Buy Tickets

Progress Bar S02E08. Design by Michael Oswell and Ashkan Sepahvand
Timetable: 20:30 Doors open 21:00-21:30 Interview Hélène Christelle Muganyende by Jeanette Bisschops 21:30-22:00 Lecture Flavia Dzodan 22:00-22:30 Interview Bambii by Jo Kali 22:30-23:30 Juha 23:30-00:30 Lyzza 00:30-01:50 Endgame 01:50-02:30 Kamixlo 02:30-04:00 Bambii BAMBII (DJ) is an emerging talent from Toronto, a DJ who has bypassed aux-cord wielding scenesters by always allowing her musical curiosity to dictate her sets. This insistence on instinct sets the Mykki Blanco tour DJ apart from her peers. ENDGAME (DJ) is a producer and DJ based in London, Hyperdubs most recent signee. His densely layered sound emerges from the cold ashes of grime. Combining corrosive melodies and artillery like percussion, with reference to dancehall, tarraxo, and drill. FLAVIA DZODAN (Talk) is a writer and cultural critic living in Amsterdam. She focuses on issues of gender, immigration, race, politics and media analysis. Dzodan is an editor at Tiger Beatdown and has written for The Guardian, Racialicious, Gender Across Borders and Global Comment. JEANETTE BISSCHOPS (Interview) is an independent curator and writer based in Amsterdam. She specialises in new media and deals with critically engaged work including themes such as intersectional feminism and migration. JUHA (DJ) is founder of Progress Bar and plays new internet dance music. As of 2016, Juha presents Viral Radio on ResonanceEXTRA, a monthly two-hour programme following new developments deep down the rabbit hole of internet music culture. HÉLÈNE CHRISTELLE (Interview) landed as a refugee in the Netherlands. She has since represented the European Union during G(irls)20, is a future political scientist, president at and has a passion for writing and new media. KAMIXLO (Premiere) presents Bloodless live at Progress Bar. Kamixlo's music lies at the riveting, emergent edge of grime, reggateon and experimental bass. The London-based producer's 'Demonico' EP marked out bold new territory. LYZZA (DJ) is a promising young DJ and producer who is currently on the rise in Amsterdam. Born and raised in Brazil, she combines her Brazilian roots through baile funk with a taste of bass heavy club music, underground hip-hop and grime. Progress Bar S02E08 Date: Saturday 27 May 2017 Venue: Paradiso Noord, Tolhuistuin Amsterdam Times: 21:00–04:00 (doors open 20:30) Tickets: €10,00 presale / €12,50 at the door (card only) Buy Tickets Free for Subbacultcha! members until midnight. Become a member: Free for We Are Public members.

29 April: Progress Bar S02E07

The only political party you can dance to. Progress Bar is a regular night for cutting-edge thinking and dancing, showcasing urgent sounds and voices while offering insight into the artistic practice of the most exciting contemporary artists, with interviews and lectures as well as a club programme. Writer and femenist Meredith Greer kicks off the evening with a talk about constructive radicalism, followed by interviews and DJ sets by DJ Nigga Fox, Juha, Lotic, Moro, Yon Eta and Ziúr. Buy Tickets

Lotic. Photo by Elias Johansson.
DJ NIGGA FOX (DJ) is part of Lisbon's Principe Discos crew, and an exciting sonic culture nurtured out of the Portuguese capital's urban and suburban areas. His debut 'O Meu Estilo' and follow up 'Noite e Dia' have liberated dancefloors. JUHA (DJ) is founder of Progress Bar and plays new internet dance music. As of 2016, Juha presents Viral Radio on ResonanceEXTRA, a monthly two-hour programme following new developments deep down the rabbit hole of internet music culture. LOTIC (DJ) is DJ and producer J’Kerian Morgan. Raised in Houston, Texas and now operating out of Berlin, Morgan is a resident at the city’s famed Janus parties and in recent years has evolved into one of the most original voices of Berlin's club life. MEREDITH GREER (talk) is a writer and a feminist. She has published in Vrij Nederland, hard//hoofd, de Volkskrant, het Parool, HP/De Tijd and had a column at Vileine adressing old white men. She now works as an editor at MORO (DJ) is an Argentian producer whose work is concerned with highlighting the African roots of his country's most famous musical export: tango. Moro's debut EP, 'San Benito', was released last year on NON Worldwide. YON ETA (DJ) has a maximalist approach to sound while striving to limit the options in the production process of his music. This Hague-based artist runs the DEVORM imprint, a hybrid community challenging the form of AV releases. ZIÚR (DJ) is a Berlin-based DJ/producer dedicated to combining different sonic textures and brainy beats into a functional dancefloor framework. Her music is clearly intended for loud soundsystems (and preferably accompanied by a fog machine). Timetable: Tuinzaal 21:00–21:30 Lecture by Meredith Greer 21:30–22:00 Lotic in conversation with Jo Kali 22:00–22:30 Moro in conversation with Roxy Merrell Club 22:30–23:15 Juha 23:15–00:15 Moro 00:15–01:15 DJ Nigga Fox 01:15–02:15 Lotic 02:15–03:15 Ziúr 03:15–04:00 Yon Eta Progress Bar S02E07 Date: Saturday 29 April 2017 Venue: Paradiso Noord, Tolhuistuin Amsterdam Times: 21:00–04:00 (doors open 20:30) Tickets: €10,00 presale / €12,50 at the door (card only) Buy Tickets Free for We Are Public members Become a member Free for Subbacultcha! members until midnight. Become a member: Attend on Facebook

Looking Back on The Noise of Being

Friday 3 March 10:30

The Noise of Being A shortish report touching on some of the highlights of the 2017 Sonic Acts Festival, written by a biased insider Arie Altena The Sonic Acts festival opened on Thursday, 23rd February at the Paradiso with a full evening of Vertical Cinema films, but it had actually already started three weeks earlier on the 1st of February. That Wednesday about 60 people convened at the Muziekgebouw aan ’t IJ to travel by coach to St. Jansklooster, 100 kilometres from Amsterdam, the heart of the nature reserve ‘De Wieden’. There, Signe Lidén and Espen Sommer Eide had developed Vertical Studies, a vertical soundscape in the old, 46-metre-tall water tower. The audience, spread out over the spiral staircase inside the tower, experienced a performance with sounds that slowly ascended the tower, and using environmental sounds, took full advantage of the specific characteristics and possibilities of the architecture. The piece was performed several times over the next three weeks, each time with many attentive visitors.

The Noise of Being Exhibition Opening from Sonic Acts on Vimeo.

Back in Amsterdam Jana Winderen’s new sound piece Spring Bloom in the Marginal Ice Zone opened at the Muziekgebouw aan ’t IJ. Outside on the terrace, by the waterside, an array of speakers played a precise composition of field recordings made in the Arctic during the brief plankton bloom in Spring – ecologically a very important event for Earth. Shrieks of seagulls blend in with the sounds of seals, cracking ice, fish, and underwater sounds. Jana Winderen was present and explained her work on the piece over the past two years, and what motivated her – also politically – to make it. That same evening the exhibition The Noise of Being opened in Arti. Five rooms, each with a room-filling installation, each with its own atmosphere, all meticulously produced. Five works by Justin Bennett, Pinar Yoldas, Kate Cooper, Joey Holder, and Zach Blas. Kitty AI by Pinar Yoldas, who uses an Internet or post-Internet aesthetic for her design fictions, might have been the favourite of the younger visitors. Joey Holder’s large installation, which felt like a hospital room, provoked the most questions from the audience. Justin Bennett’s fictional narrative of the Kola Superdeep Borehole Wolf Lake on the Mountains – a remake in installation format of the soundwalk he presented earlier in the year at the Superdeep Borehole near Zapolyarnye in Northwest Russia – seemed to be the overall favourite. Over the weeks I heard many people talking about it enthusiastically. (But that might have been just my friends…) The opening was packed, which meant that probably not all the visitors could enjoy the works fully, as each work demanded and deserved attention and time. Many came back over the next three weeks. So the festival had already begun prior to the opening. On the 8th of February during Taste the Doom I heard a great concert by Eisbein, with Gert-Jan Prins on drums and electronics, and BJ Nilsen playing field recordings; a week later we had an ‘evening with Joey Holder’. Yet, despite all these pre-activities, the opening at the Paradiso truly felt like the opening. (With some added stress for the Sonic Acts team as a storm raged over Western Europe causing many flights to be delayed, and some cancelled. But everyone did make it in time). The opening: a full house for the première of four new Vertical Cinema films, commissioned by Sonic Acts (and partner organisations). With a vertical science documentary on the meteorological research facility in Cabauw by Susan Schuppli, featuring the dizzying perspective of drone footage of the 300-metre-tall tower; a film on the urban and industrial landscape of Murmansk by Lukas Marxt; Karl Lemieux and BJ Nilsen’s almost abstract meditation on empty cities in China; and phenomenal abstract colour play by HC Gilje in his vertical film. The evening continued with Rainer Kohlberger, Roly Porter with MFO, and a screening of two earlier Vertical Cinema films.
Susan Schuppli, 'Atmospheric Feedback Loops' at the opening of Sonic Acts Festival 2017. Photo by Pieter Kers.
As before, this festival was probably more ambitious than the previous edition. For sure it was more ambitious in terms of night programming: three nights this time, and by night I mean after midnight. The first one was on Thursday at De School, located in a former school building far from the city centre in Amsterdam-West. (Conforming to the trend where new and adventurous culture finds a home in the periphery, not in the city centre). My highlight here was the Emptyset performance, which I enjoyed immensely once I started to listen to them as if they were a two-man noise metal band – which they are in a sense. It had been a long day and I only stayed for about 10 minutes of Violence, and not for Aisha Devi and JK Flesh. On Friday the conference kicked-off with a lecture by Maryam Monalisa Gharavi about cultural and political aspects of the face and the covering of the face. Very poignant, nuanced, not offering any simplified solution to any simplified problem. This was followed by Metahaven’s presentation that – though it was very strong and timely – seemed to be ensnared in the issue (timeline occupation by fake news and extreme distraction) it tried to analyse. But maybe that was the point. Erica Scourti performed living in a social media temporality. In the afternoon sessions, Nina Power, Isabell Lorey, and Peter Frase discussed the paradoxes of capitalism, and possible ways to escape from capitalist domination (either in a social or political sense). The first full conference day ended with John Palmesino (on some of the paradoxes of the Anthropocene) and Nathasha Ginwalla. There was an interesting film programme running partly parallel to the conference which I alas missed completely. (I would have loved to see Nikolaus Geyrhalter’s SF documentary Homo Sapiens).
Maryam Monalisa Gharavi at Sonic Acts Festival 2017. Photo by Pieter Kers.
The readout on the counter said: 1354. That’s how many visitors came to the Stedelijk Museum on Friday evening for a full programme of concerts and performances. I decided to start by listening to the first episode of Supreme Connections’ re-interpretation of Maryanne Amacher’s Mini-Sound Series. This was a recreation of an Amacher work, or better, an iteration of how Amacher might have approached making a new work at the Stedelijk, using visual and sounds materials from her archive. Amy Cimini, Keiko Prince, Woody Sullender, Sergei and Stefan Tcherepnin, Kabir Carter, and Bill Dietz – all former collaborators and friends of Amacher – worked in the auditorium and the cellar for more than a week to create this work. The overall effect was very moving, especially because of the way the sounds interacted with the architecture: creating strange and beautiful pockets of sound with physical and emotional impact. All the performers were dressed-up, as if they were channelling Maryanne Amacher. I stayed until the end of the first episode, which meant I was way too late to get into the performance of Jennifer Walshe’s Everything is Important with none other than the Arditti Quartet. I heard it was great and one of the best events at the festival. I also missed Jennifer Walshe’s second performance. I love Microtub’s work, but having heard them before I just dipped into their exploration of microtonality for a few minutes: that room was also packed. I decided to forget about trying to hear everything and simply experience the second episode of the Mini-Sound Series instead, going from the auditorium to the cellar a few times, and revisiting some of my favourite sound spots. The only other performance I caught was Cilantro, subtle free improv noise by Billy Roisz and Angélica Castelló.
Supreme Connections presents: 'Mini-Sound Series' at Sonic Acts Festival 2017. Photo by Pieter Kers.
The night hadn’t ended. Not at all. In fact, in retrospect it seems as if it had only just begun. From 11 pm, Paradiso hosted the Progress Bar with a truly incredible line-up of very contemporary ‘Internet dance music’: wild, diverse and hybrid in all respects. Progress Bar is a series of club nights that has been running for a while now at the Tolhuistuin – and with this XL-edition it has definitely put itself on the map as the most forward-looking club night in Amsterdam. I needed to be fresh for the conference the next morning, so I regret missing out on Nidia Minaj, DJ Earl and Kamixlo – who I would have loved to hear live – but at least I was there for the wild set by My Sword, the show by Flohio, and I did stay till the end of Le1f’s performance which so-to-say ‘blew the roof’ off the Paradiso. The diversity of Progress Bar – with so many genres and cultures in the mix – made it a true party. And that as such is a political statement as well.
Le1f at Sonic Acts Festival 2017. Photo by Pieter Kers.
On Saturday I had two panels to moderate at de Brakke Grond, the venue for the conference. I’ll only briefly mention that I was very happy to see how well Sarah Whatmore’s practical approach to political potency connected to the more philosophical talks by Rick Dolphijn and David Roden. Many people left towards the end of the panel, but this was because they wanted to see Fabrizio Terranova’s documentary about Donna Haraway, which started at 12.00 sharp. Though we hadn’t been able to convince Haraway to speak at Sonic Acts, her ideas were very present at the conference, and the room where the film was shown was completely packed, with many sitting on the floor. After lunch Erika Balsom powerfully and polemically called for a rehabilitation of observation in documentary film, in a world where fake news proliferates. She was followed by Ben Russell, whose films were also screened in the film programme. Helen Verran forced the audience to slow down with her oral account of cultural difference and the encounter with others. At first, this felt a bit irritating – in times of speedy Powerpoints and snappy presentations – but was very effective. Through nuanced repetitions she stressed the respectfulness of the encounter with the other and experimented with negotiating cultural and linguistic difference. The last panel of the day was with Noortje Marres, Jennifer Gabrys, Wendy Chun, and Armen Avanessian. This seemed like a strange combination, with Avanessian, who is often identified as an accellerationist, paired with the political philosophy of Noortje Marres, Jennifer Gabrys, and Wendy Chun’s critical media theory, but it worked. Chun’s talk was most powerfully delivered, and examined the erasure of difference – leading to racism – at the core of network theory. Noortje Marres spoke about street trials and self-driving cars, Jennifer Gabrys about practical experiments in political participation using sensing networks, and Armen Avanessian about the temporality of our ‘postcontemporary times’. In the evening the festival changed its location to the beautiful Muziekgebouw aan ’t IJ, with a night programme at the Bimhuis. To be honest, by now my head was filled with so many impressions and new ideas that I didn’t feel ready for more, and I decided to ‘take it easy’. I only caught the last 10 minutes of Pierce Warnecke and Matthew Biederman’s audiovisual performance, which was a wonderful ‘classic Sonic Acts work’: electronic music and abstract imagery with a powerful effect on the senses. I was very curious to hear Kara-Lis Coverdale: there was a lot that I found interesting musically, or in terms of composition. For instance, the way she juxtaposed live organ with pure electronic sounds. Sometimes it sounded like music without any reference. Musically it was my highlight of the evening. I did stay longer, even until after midnight, catching a bit of MSHR’s performance with self-built noise machines, and the no-wave of Yeah You at the Bimhuis (great atmosphere), but as I wrote: my head was already full.
Matthew Biederman & Pierce Warnecke, 'Perspection (squared)' at Sonic Acts Festival 2017. Photo by Pieter Kers.
As usual, the conference on Sunday started early in the morning – early for a Sunday, that is – with presentations by two artists who were part of the exhibition in Arti, Zach Blas and Pinar Yoldas, who provided a lot of background to their works. The talks by Daniel Rourke, Ytasha Womack, and Laurie Penny were about speculative fiction, SF, and the imagination: Daniel Rourke zoomed in on monsters, Ytasha Womack celebrated the imagination of Afrofuturism, and Laurie Penny took a powerful feminist stance against the proliferation of misogynistic new fascists (largely based on her piece ‘Fear of a Feminist Future’, published last year in The Baffler). I missed out on the Q&A and the last panel of the conference (with Jamon van den Hoek, Ingrid Burrington and Eyal Weizman) because I had to introduce the film Hyperstition and do the Q&A with Armen Avanessian afterwards. It was definitely a day that was very much about today, and – like the entire conference – about understanding what it means to be human, now. The final event of the festival was a celebration of the composer and musician Martin Bartlett, whose work remained obscure during his lifetime, and also afterwards. Luke Fowler made a documentary film about him, Electro Pythagorus: A Portrait of Martin Bartlett. The film was commissioned by Sonic Acts and the Stedelijk, and premièred at the Brakke Grond. I love the portraits that Luke Fowler makes of musicians and composers, and this one was no exception: a careful consideration of Bartlett’s life and legacy. The evening was also a rare opportunity to hear Martin Bartlett’s music, both in the film, and as mixed by Ernst Karel afterwards: a curious and interesting type of computer music that to my surprise sometimes did sound ahead of its time (considering it was composed in the 1980s and early 1990s). Fowler discussed the film and Bartlett with Amy Cimini. A double 16mm projection was also shown with sound by Richard McMaster, and then the festival was over. (Save for an afterparty, an occasion to catch up some more with old and new friends).

Sonic Acts Festival 2017 - Day 1 - Thursday 23 February from Sonic Acts on Vimeo.

Sonic Acts Festival 2017 - Day 2 - Friday 24 February from Sonic Acts on Vimeo.

Sonic Acts Festival 2017 - Day 3 - Saturday 25 February from Sonic Acts on Vimeo.

Progress Bar on 1 April

Thursday 2 March 15:31

The only political party you can dance to. Progress Bar is a regular night for cutting-edge thinking and dancing, showcasing urgent sounds and voices while offering insight into the artistic practice of the most exciting contemporary artists, with interviews and lectures as well as a club programme. The next edition of Progress Bar takes place on Saturday 1 April at Paradiso Noord, Tolhuistuin, and features An Ni, Cakes Da Killa, DJ Firmeza, Juha, Kablam and Wail Qasim. AN NI (DJ) is an Estonian DJ, currently based in Netherlands. She describes her sonic palette as genre fluid, embracing raw and hard hitting percussions. Her sets blend a mix of industrial grime and floating melodies with glimpses of noise and sound design. An Ni is affiliated to the SISTER platform. CAKES DA KILLA (live) is one of hip-hop’s most exciting voices and a ferocious rapper. His unique sound is a mix of various musical influences, cinema and underground experiences. Cakes is praised for both his lyrical content and flow, which has earned him comparisons to Lil Kim and Foxy Brown.

DJ FIRMEZA (DJ) hails proudly from the Quinta do Mocho neighbourhood, where originators Nervoso and Marfox also reside. Firmeza is a revered and unmatchable DJ; his unique trance-inducing style has made him an acclaimed regular on Lisbon label Príncipe's monthly club residency.
JUHA (DJ), founder of Progress Bar, plays new internet dance music. As of 2016, Juha presents Viral Radio on ResonanceEXTRA, a monthly two-hour programme following new developments deep down the rabbit hole of internet music culture. KABLAM (DJ) started her DJ career as one of the residents of Berlin’s Janus party alongside co-residents Lotic and M.E.S.H. Blom’s style, in keeping with her Janus peers, experiments with the radical possibilities of club environments, finding imaginative points of entry and combinations between genres. WAIL QASIM (talk) is a writer, activist and campaigner. Their writing has covered philosophy and politics, specifically dealing with racism, issues of (gender)queer and black social movements, and their (social) media strategies. Qasim currently works as a freelance writer for The Guardian, The Independent, UK VICE Media and Novara. More artists and speakers to be announced soon. Progress Bar S02E06 Date: Saturday 1 April 2017 Venue: Paradiso Noord, Tolhuistuin Amsterdam Times: 21:00–04:00 (doors open 20:30) Tickets: €10,00 presale / €12,50 at the door (card only) Ticket sale starts 2 March 2017 Attend on Facebook Free for Subbacultcha! members until midnight. Become a member:

What Is Dark Ecology?

Monday 7 November 13:21

RESEARCH SERIES #26 In this essay, which draws on his book Dark Ecology, For a Logic of Coexistence, Timothy Morton — who originally coined the term dark ecology — explains what dark ecology is. He also argues how agrilogistics underpins our ecological crisis and our view of the world. This essay forms part of Living Earth – Field Notes from Dark Ecology Project 2014 – 2016. The publication Living Earth is available now at Lighten up: dark ecology does not mean heavy or bleak; it is strangely light.

Progress means: humanity emerges from its spellbound state no longer under the spell of progress as well, itself nature, by becoming aware of its own indigenousness to nature and by halting the mastery over nature through which nature continues its mastery. — Theodor Adorno
Dark is dangerous. You can’t see anything in the dark, you’re afraid. Don’t move, you might fall. Most of all, don’t go into the forest. And so we have internalized this horror of the dark. — Hélène Cixous
The ecological era we find ourselves in — whether we like it or not, and whether we recognise it or not — makes necessary a searching revaluation of philosophy, politics and art.The very idea of being ‘in’ an era is in question. We are ‘in’ the Anthropocene, but that era is also ‘in’ a moment of far longer duration.

What is the present? How can it be thought? What is presence? Ecological awareness forces us to think and feel at multiple scales, scales that disorient normative concepts such as ‘present’, ‘life’, ‘human’, ‘nature’, ‘thing’, ‘thought’ and ‘logic’. I shall argue there are layers of attunement to ecological reality more accurate than what is habitual in the media, in the academy and in society at large.

These attunement structures are necessarily weird, a precise term that we shall explore in depth. Weirdness involves the hermeneutical knowingness belonging to the practices that the Humanities maintain. The attunement, which I call ecognosis, implies a practical yet highly nonstandard vision of what ecological politics could be. In part ecognosis involves realising that nonhumans are installed at profound levels of the human — not just biologically and socially but in the very structure of thought and logic. Coexisting with these nonhumans is ecological thought, art, ethics and politics.

We can trace the ecological crisis to a logistical ‘programme’ that has been running unquestioned since the Neolithic. Ecological reality requires an awareness that at first has the characteristics of tragic melancholy and negativity, concerning coexisting inextricably with a host of entities that surround and penetrate us; but which evolves paradoxically into an anarchic, comedic sense of coexistence. Ecological awareness has the form of a loop. In this loop we become aware of ourselves as a species—a task far more difficult than it superficially appears. We also grow familiar with a logistics of human social, psychic and philosophical space, a twelve-thousand-year set of procedures that resulted in the very global warming that it was designed to fend off. The logistics represses a paradoxical realm of human– nonhuman relations. The realm contains trickster-like beings that have a loop form, which is why ecological phenomena and awareness have a loop form. The growing familiarity with this state of affairs is a manifestation of dark ecology. Dark ecology begins in darkness as depression. It traverses darkness as ontological mystery. It ends as dark sweetness.

A bear monument in Nikel. Photo by Annette Wolfsberger, 2015.
I The Arctic Russian town of Nikel looks horrifying at first, like something out of Tarkovsky’s Stalker, only on bad acid. A forest devastated by a nickel smelting factory. Soviet buildings stark and bleak. Mounds of garbage sitting on hills of slag. A solitary tree, last of the pines destroyed by the sulphur dioxide. We were a small group of musicians, artists and writers. We had travelled there in late 2014 to start a three- year art and research project called Dark Ecology.

Then Nikel becomes rather sad and melancholic. A collection of broken things. Past things. Garages repurposed as homes. Broken metal structures in which people are living. Holding on to things for no reason. Peeling paint tells stories of decisions and indecisions and non-decisions.

And then for some strange reason it becomes warm. There is a Palace of Culture, full of wonderful kitschy communist art, Terry Gilliam sculpture-like lampshades, hauntingly luminous pale blues, pinks and yellows, the building grooving as hard as a Tibetan stupa. And on the outskirts the reality of death is so explicit. It’s a charnel ground almost identical to the one on Mount Kailash, another very friendly place where offerings (or are they huge piles of garbage?) litter the space at the top and nuns meditate in a land strewn with bits of corpses like an emergency room. People are dying, or are they going to live, or are they already dead? There is a lot of blood, severing and severed limbs. A lot of care.

It’s even a little bit funny. A drag queen poses for a photographer outside a metallic building. Some kind of joy is here. The demons and ghosts aren’t demons or ghosts. They are faeries and sprites.

II What is dark ecology?1 It is ecological awareness, dark- depressing. Yet ecological awareness is also dark-uncanny. And strangely it is dark-sweet. Nihilism is always number one in the charts these days. We usually don’t get past the first darkness, and that’s if we even care.

What thinks dark ecology? Ecognosis, a riddle. Ecognosis is like knowing, but more like letting-be-known. It is something like coexisting. It is like becoming accustomed to something strange, yet it is also becoming accustomed to strangeness that doesn’t become less strange through acclimation. Ecognosis is like a knowing that knows itself. Knowing in a loop; a weird knowing. Weird from the Old Norse, urth, meaning twisted, in a loop.2 The Norns entwine the web of fate with itself; Urðr is one of the Norns.3 The term weird can mean causal: the spool of fate is winding. The less well-known noun weird means destiny or magical power, and by extension the wielders of that power, the Fates or Norns.4 In this sense weird is connected with worth, not the noun but the verb, which has to do with happening or becoming.5

Weird: a turn or twist or loop, a turn of events. The milk turned sour. She had a funny turn. That weather was a strange turn-up for the book. Yet weird can also mean strange of appearance.6 That storm cloud looks so weird. She is acting weird. The milk smells weird. Global weirding.

In the term weird there flickers a dark pathway between causality and the aesthetic dimension, between doing and appearing, a pathway that dominant Western philosophy has blocked and suppressed. Now the thing about seeming is that seeming is never quite as it seems. Appearance is always strange.

Though the web of fate is so often invoked in tragedy, that default agricultural mode, words such as weird and faerie evoke the animistic world within the concept of the web of fate itself. We Mesopotamians have never left the Dreaming. So little have we moved that even when we thought we were awakening we had simply gathered more tools for understanding that this was in fact a lucid dream, even better than before.

Ecological awareness is weird: it has a twisted, looping form. Since there is no limit to the scope of ecological beings (biosphere, Solar System) we can infer that all things have a loop form. Ecological awareness is a loop because human interference has a loop form, because ecological and biological systems are loops. And ultimately this is because to exist at all is to assume the form of a loop. The loop form of beings means we live in a universe of finitude and fragility, a world in which objects are suffused and surrounded by mysterious hermeneutical clouds of unknowing. It means that the politics of coexistence are always contingent, brittle and flawed, so that in the thinking of interdependence at least one being must be missing.

What kind of weirdness are we talking about? Weird weirdness. Weird means strange of appearance; weirdness means the turning of causality. There are many kinds of loops. There are positive feedback loops that escalate the potency of the system in which they are operating. Antibiotics versus bacteria. Farmers versus soil, creating the Dust Bowl in the Midwestern United States in the 1930s. Such loops are common in human ‘command and control’ approaches to environmental management and they result in damage to the ecosystem.7 Some of them are unintended: consider the decimation of bees in the second decade of the twenty-first century brought on by the use of pesticides that drastically curtail pollination.8 Such unintended consequences are weirdly weird in the sense that they are uncanny, unexpected fallout from the myth of progress: for every seeming forward motion of the drill bit there is a backwards gyration, an asymmetrical contrary motion.

Then there are the negative feedback loops that cool down the intensity of positive feedback loops. Think of thermostats and James Lovelock’s Gaia. There are phasing loops. We encounter them in beings such as global warming, beings that are temporally smeared in such a way that they come in and out of phase with human temporality.9

Yet there is another loop, the dark-ecological loop. Ecognosis is a strange loop. A strange loop is a loop in which two levels that appear utterly separate flip into one another. Consider the dichotomy between moving and being still. In Lewis Carroll’s haunting story, Alice tries to leave the Looking Glass House. She sets off through the front garden yet she finds herself returning to the front door via that very movement.10 A strange loop is weirdly weird: a turn of events that has an uncanny appearance. And this defines emerging ecological awareness occurring to ‘civilized’ people at this moment.

III The Anthropocene is the moment at which we humans begin to realise that the correct way to understand ourselves as a species is as a hyperobject. This is a truly non-racist and non-speciesist way of thinking species, which otherwise is a problematically teleological concept: ducks are for swimming, Greeks are for enslaving non-Greeks...that’s the traditional Aristotelian mode in which we think species. In a twisted way it’s fortunate that the Anthropocene happened, because it enables us to drop the teleology yet preserve the notion of species, upgraded from something that we can point to directly (these beings rather than those beings). The Anthropocene enables us to think at Earth magnitude. Unless we try this, unless we endeavour to think the concept species differently, which is to say think humankind as a planetary totality without the soppy and oppressive universalism and difference erasure that usually implies, we will have ceded an entire scale—the scale of the biosphere, no less—to truly hubristic technocracy, whose ‘Just let us try this’ rhetoric masks the fact that when you ‘try’ something at a general enough level of a system, you are not trying but doing and changing, for good.

The concept of species, upgraded from the absurd teleological and metaphysical concepts of old, is not anthropocentric at all. Because it is via this concept, which is open, porous, flickering, distant from what is given to my perception, that the human is decisively deracinated from its pampered, ostensibly privileged place set apart from all other beings.11

Anthropocene’ is the first fully anti-anthropocentric concept.

The Anthropocene is an anti-anthropocentric concept because it enables us to think the human species not as an ontically given thing I can point to, but as a hyperobject that is real yet inaccessible.12 Computational power has enabled us to think and visualise things that are ungraspable by our senses or by our quotidian experience. We live on more timescales than we can grasp.

We are faced with the task of thinking at temporal and spatial scales that are unfamiliar, even monstrously gigantic. Perhaps this is why we imagine such horrors as nuclear radiation in mythological terms. Take Godzilla, who appears to have grown as awareness of hyperobjects such as global warming has taken hold. Having started at a relatively huge fifty metres, by 2014 he had grown to a whopping one hundred and fifty metres tall.13 Earth magnitude is bigger than we thought, even if we have seen the NASA ‘Earthrise’ photos, which now look like charming and simplistic relics of an age in which human hubris was still mostly unnoticed; relics of, precisely, a ‘space age’ that evaporates in the age of giant nonhuman places. We have gone from having ‘the whole world in our hands’ and ‘I’d like to buy the world a Coke’ to realising that the whole world, including ‘little’ us, is in the vice-like death grip of a gigantic entity—ourselves as the human species. This uncanny sense of existing on more than one scale at once has nothing to do with the pathos of cradling a beautiful blue ball in the void.

IV Global warming is a symptom of industrialisation and industrialisation is a symptom of massively accelerated agriculture. Of what is this acceleration a symptom? We could say that it was capitalism, but that would be circular: accelerating agriculture and subsequent industrialisation are symptoms of capitalism, not to mention existing forms of communism. So we are looking for the problem of which these things are symptoms. What is it? Why, if so influential, is it so hard to point to?

Two reasons: it is everywhere, and it is taboo to mention it. You could be labelled a primitivist even for bringing it up. Yet foundational Axial (agricultural) Age stories narrate the origin of religion as the beginning of agricultural time: an origin in sin. The texts are almost shockingly explicit, so it’s strange we don’t think to read them that way. Pretty much out loud, they say that religion as such (was there ‘religion’ beforehand?) was founded in and as impiety. We witness the extraordinary spectacle of ‘religion’ itself talking about itself as a reflective, reflexive loop of sin and salvation, with escalating positive feedback loops. Like agriculture.

There’s a monster in the dark mirror and you are a cone in one of its eyes. When you are sufficiently creeped out by the human species you see something even bigger than the Anthropocene looming in the background, hiding in plain sight. What on Earth is this structure that looms even larger than the age of steam and oil? Isn’t it enough that we have to deal with cars and drills? It is the machine that is agriculture as such, a machine that predates Industrial Age machinery. Before the web of fate began to be woven on a power loom, machinery was already whirring away.

The term agrilogistics names a specific logistics of agriculture that arose in the Fertile Crescent and that is still plowing ahead. Logistics, because it is a technical, planned, and perfectly logical approach to built space. Logistics, because it proceeds without stepping back and rethinking the logic. A viral logistics, eventually requiring steam engines and industry to feed its proliferation.14

Agrilogistics: an agricultural programme so successful that it now dominates agricultural techniques planet-wide. The programme creates a hyperobject, global agriculture: the granddaddy hyperobject, the first one made by humans, and one that has sired many more. Toxic from the beginning to humans and other lifeforms, it operates blindly like a computer program.

Agrilogistics promises to eliminate fear, anxiety and contradiction—social, physical and ontological—by establishing thin rigid boundaries between human and nonhuman worlds and by reducing existence to sheer quantity. Though toxic it has been wildly successful because the program is deeply compelling. Agrilogistics is the smoking gun behind the (literally) smoking gun responsible for the Sixth Mass Extinction Event.

The humanistic analytical tools we currently possess are not capable of functioning at a scale appropriate to agrilogistics because they are themselves compromised products of agrilogistics. The nature–culture split we persist in using is the result of a nature–agriculture split (colo, cultum pertains to growing crops). This split is a product of agrilogistical subroutines, establishing the necessarily violent and arbitrary difference between itself and what it ‘conquers’ or delimits. Differences aside the confusions and endlessly granular distinctions arising therefrom remain well within agrilogistical conceptual space.15

V Agrilogistics arose as follows. About 12,500 years ago a climate shift experienced by hunter-gatherers as a catastrophe pushed humans to find a solution to their fear concerning where the next meal was coming from. It was the very end of an Ice Age, the tail end of a glacial period. A drought lasting more than a thousand years compelled humans to travel farther. It happened that in the Fertile Crescent of Mesopotamia, barley and wheat were growing wild beneath the trees. The same can be said for rice growing in China, corn, squash and beans growing in America, and sorghum and yam in Africa. Significantly, the taro of New Guinea is hard to harvest and low in protein, not to mention hard to plant (you have to plant taro one by one), and so the farmers in the highlands never ‘advanced’ from hunter- gathering. The taro cannot be broadcast. Incidentally, so many terms from agrilogistics have become terms in media (field among them), not to mention the development of that very significant medium, writing. How we write and what we write and what we think about writing can be found within agrilogistics.

Humans in Mesopotamia established villages with granaries. The storage and selection of grain pushed the harvested plants to evolve. Humans selected grain for its tastiness, ease of harvesting and other criteria favoured by the agrilogistical program. Scaled up the evolutionary pressure was substantial. Nine thousand years ago humans began to domesticate animals to mitigate seasonal variations in game, a modification to the agrilogistical programme that kept it in existence.16 Several agrilogistical millennia later, domesticated animals far outweigh (literally again) the number of non-domesticated ones. Humans represent roughly 32% of vertebrate biomass. The other 65% is creatures we keep to eat. Vertebrate wildlife counts for less than 3%.17 The term cattle speaks to this immensity and to a too-easy ontology humming away in its background.

Miserable social conditions were the almost immediate consequence of the inception of agrilogistics yet the virus persisted like an earworm or a chair, no matter how destructive to the humans who had devised it.18 Private property emerged based on settled ownership and use of land, a certain house and so on. This provided the nonhuman basis of the contemporary concept of self no matter how much we want to think ourselves out of that. Agrilogistics led rapidly to patriarchy, the impoverishment of all but a very few, a massive and rigid social hierarchy, and feedback loops of human–nonhuman interaction such as epidemics.19

The human hyperobject (the human as geophysical species) became a machine for the generation of hyperobjects. Precisely because of the sharp imbalance between the ‘civilisation’ concept and actually existing social space (which was never fully human), agrilogistics itself having produced this difference, ‘civilisations’ (the human structures of agrilogistical retreat) are inherently fragile.

Living Earth cover photo by Rosa Menkman, 2015.
VI Three axioms provide the logical structure of agrilogistics:

(1) The Law of Noncontradiction is inviolable.

(2) Existing means being constantly present.

(3) Existing is always better than any quality of existing.

We begin with Axiom (1). There is no good reason for it. There are plenty of ways to violate this law, otherwise we wouldn’t need a rule. This means that Axiom (1) is a prescriptive statement disguised as a descriptive one. Formulated rightly Axiom (1) states, Thou shalt not violate the Law of Noncontradiction. Axiom (1) works by excluding (undomesticated) lifeforms that aren’t part of your agrilogistical project. These lifeforms are now defined as pests if they scuttle about or weeds if they appear to the human eye to be inanimate and static. Such categories are highly unstable and extremely difficult to manage.20

Axiom (1) also results in the persistent charm of the Easy Think Substance. Agrilogistical ontology, formalised by Aristotle, supposes a being to consist of a bland lump of whatever decorated with accidents. It’s the Easy Think Substance because it resembles what comes out of an Easy Bake Oven, a children’s toy. Some kind of brown featureless lump emerges, which one subsequently decorates with sprinkles.

The lump ontology evoked in Axiom (1) implies Axiom (2): to exist is to be constantly present, or the metaphysics of presence. Correctly identified by deconstruction as inimical to thinking future coexistence, the metaphysics of presence is intimately bound up with the history of global warming. Here is the field, I can plough it, sow it with this or that or nothing, farm cattle, yet it remains constantly the same. The entire system is construed as constantly present, rigidly bounded, separated from nonhuman systems. This appearance of hard separation belies the obvious existence of beings who show up ironically to maintain it. Consider the cats and their helpful culling of rodents chewing at the corn.21 The ambiguous status of cats is not quite the ‘companion species’ Haraway thinks through human coexistence with dogs.22 Within agrilogistical social space cats stand for the ontological ambiguity of lifeforms and indeed of things at all. Cats are a neighbour species.23 Too many concepts are implied in the notion of ‘companion’. The penetrating gaze of a cat is used as the gaze of the extra-terrestrial alien because cats are the intra-terrestrial alien.

The agrilogistical engineer must strive to ignore the cats as best as he (underline he) can. If that doesn’t work he is obliged to kick them upstairs into deity status. Meanwhile he asserts instead that he could plant anything in this agrilogistical field and that underneath it remains the same field. A field is a substance underlying its accidents: cats happen, rodents happen, even wheat happens; the slate can always be wiped clean. Agrilogistical space is a war against the accidental. Weeds and pests are nasty accidents to minimise or eliminate.

Agrilogistical existing means being there in a totally uncomplicated sense. No matter what the appearances might be, essence lives on. Ontologically as much as socially, agrilogistics is immiseration. Appearance is of no consequence. What matters is knowing where your next meal is coming from no matter what the appearances are. Without paying too much attention to the cats, you have broken things down to pure simplicity and are ready for Axiom (3):

(3) Existing is always better than any quality of existing.

Actually we need to give it its properly anthropocentric form:

(3) Human existing is always better than any quality of existing.

Axiom (3) generates an Easy Think Ethics to match the Easy Think Substance, a default utilitarianism hardwired into agrilogistical space. The Easy Think quality is evident in how the philosophy teacher in Stoppard’s Darkside describes the minimal condition of happiness: being alive instead of dead.24 Since existing is better than anything, more existing must be what we Mesopotamians should aim for. Compared with the injunction to flee from death and eventually even from the mention of death, everything else is just accidental. No matter whether I am hungrier or sicker or more oppressed, underlying these phenomena my brethren and I constantly regenerate, which is to say we refuse to allow for death. Success: humans now consume about 40 percent of Earth’s productivity.25 The globalisation of agrilogistics and its consequent global warming have exposed the flaws in this default utilitarianism, with the consequence that solutions to global warming simply cannot run along the lines of this style of thought.26

VII The Philosopher Derek Parfit observes that under sufficient spatiotemporal pressure Easy Think Ethics fails. Parfit was trying to think about what to do with pollution, radioactive materials and the human species. Imagine trillions of humans, spread throughout the galaxy. Exotic addresses aside all the humans are living at what Parfit calls the bad level, not far from Agamben’s idea of bare life.27 Trillions of nearly dead people, trillions of beings like the Musselmäner in the concentration camps, zombies totally resigned to their fate. This will always be absurdly better than billions of humans living in a state of bliss.28 Because more people is better than happier people. Because bliss is an accident, and existing is a substance. Easy Think Ethics. Let’s colonise space—that’ll solve our problem! Let’s double down! Now we know that it doesn’t even take trillions of humans spread throughout the Galaxy to see the glaring flaw in agrilogistics. It only takes a few billion operating under agrilogistical algorithms at Earth magnitude.

To avoid the consequences of the last global warming, humans devised a logistics that has resulted in global warming.

The concept Nature isn’t only untrue; it’s responsible for global warming! Nature is defined within agrilogistics as a harmonious periodic cycling. Conveniently for agrilogistics, Nature arose at the start of the geological period we call the Holocene, a period marked by stable Earth system fluctuations.29 One might argue that Nature is an illusion created by an accidental collaboration between the Holocene and agrilogistics: unconscious, and therefore liable to be repeated and prolonged like a zombie stumbling forwards. Like Oedipus meeting his father on the crossroads, the cross between the Holocene and agrilogistics has been fatally unconscious.

Nature is best imagined as the feudal societies imagined it, a pleasingly harmonious periodic cycling embodied in the cycle of the seasons, enabling regular anxiety-free prediction of the future. Carbon dioxide fluctuated in a harmonious-seeming cycle for 12,000 years—until it didn’t.30 We Mesopotamians took this coincidence to be a fact about our world, and called it Nature. The smooth predictability allowed us to sustain the illusion. Think of how when we think of nonhumans we reminisce nostalgically for a less deviant-seeming moment within agrilogistics, such as fantasies of a feudal worldview: cyclic seasons, regular rhythms, tradition. This is just how agrilogistics feels—at first. The ecological value of the term Nature is dangerously overrated, because Nature isn’t just a term—it’s something that happened to human built space, demarcating human systems from Earth systems. Nature as such is a twelve-thousand-year-old human product, geological as well as discursive. Its wavy elegance was eventually revealed as inherently contingent and violent, as when in a seizure one’s brain waves become smooth.31. Wash-rinse-repeat the agrilogistics and suddenly we reach a tipping point.

The Anthropocene doesn’t destroy Nature. The Anthropocene is Nature in its toxic nightmare form. Nature is the latent form of the Anthropocene waiting to emerge as catastrophe.

VIII Let’s now explore another key term, the arche-lithic, a primordial relatedness of humans and nonhumans that has never evaporated. Bruno Latour argues that we have never been modern. But perhaps we have never been Neolithic. And in turn this means that the Palaeolithic, adore it or demonise it, is also a concept that represses the shimmering of the arche-lithic within the very agrilogistical structures that strive to block it completely. We Mesopotamians never left the hunter-gathering mind.

What is required to remember is that this is a weird essentialism.

Earth isn’t just a blank sheet for the projection of human desire: the desire loop is predicated on entities (Earth, coral, clouds) that also exist in loop form in relation to one another and in relation to humans. We are going to have to rethink what a thing is. We require a Difficult Think Thing. That I claim humans exist and made the Anthropocene by drilling into rock does indeed make me an essentialist. However, if we must attune to the Difficult Think Thing, such a thing wouldn’t cleave to the Law of Noncontradiction, agrilogistical Axiom (1). Which in turn implies that while beings are what they are (essentialism) they are not constantly present. Demonstrating this would constitute a weird essentialism in the lineage of Luce Irigaray, whose project has been to break the Law of Noncontradiction so as to liberate beings from patriarchy.32

As a performance of not seeming an idiot in theory class one is obliged to convey something like, ‘Well of course, I’m not an essentialist’ (make disgusted face here). Compare the ridicule that greets the idea of creating social spaces that are not agrilogistical (so not traditionally capitalist, communist or feudal). Such reactions are themselves agrilogistical. Both assume that to have a politics is to have a one-size-fits-all Easy Think concept. If you don’t, you are called a primitivist or an anarchist, both derogatory terms, and deemed unserious. Or you want to regress to some utopian state that ‘we couldn’t possibly even imagine’. ‘Of course, I’m not advocating that we actually try a social space that includes nonhumans in a noncoercive and nonutilitarian mode.’ Or its inverse, ridiculing ‘civilisation’: insisting that humans should ‘return’ to a pre-agrilogistical existence (John Zerzan, archivist of the Unabomber Ted Kaczinski). ‘Eliminate the evil loops of the human stain. Anyone with prosthetic devices such as glasses is suspect.’33 Once one has deconstructed civilisation into agrilogistical retreat it is tempting to think this way. But imagine the Year Zero violence of actually trying to get rid of intellectuality, reflection, desire, whatever we think is a source of evil, so we can feel right and properly ecological. The assertion that this problem has something to do with ‘domestication’—which is how Zerzan and others frame it—avoids the genuine agrilogistical problem. ‘Domestication’ is a term from some kind of fall narrative: once upon a time, we let things be wild, but then we took some into our homes and unleashed evil. Neanderthals lived in homes. Primates make beds of leaves. Dogs were fused with humans hundreds of thousands of years ago. ‘Domestication’ is a canard that is itself agrilogistical, straight out of a theistic fall narrative.

The question of origins is complicated by the way in which that question is contaminated in advance by agrilogistics. We need to figure out how we fell for it, in order not to keep retweeting it. What seems to be the case is that a default paranoia about existing—an ontological uncertainty —was covered over as a survival mechanism, and the compelling, almost addictive qualities of that mechanism of covering-over has provided enough ontological comfort, until very recently, so as to go unexamined.

IX To think in this new-old way, we will need to restructure logic. Nietzsche argues that logic itself is ‘the residue of a metaphor’.34 Despite the concept of logic ‘as bony, foursquare, and transposable as a die’, logic is saturated with fossilised social directives. Hegel had an inkling of this when he distinguished between logic and thinking, that is to say between the mind’s movement and the manipulation of preformatted thoughts. Nietzsche asserts that language is caught up in the caste system—and let’s not forget that that system is a direct product of agrilogistics. With uncanny insight, Nietzsche himself seems to confirm this when he then asserts that logic as such is a symptom of caste hierarchies. Without doubt, these hierarchies oppress most humans. The human caste system, itself a product of agrilogistics, sits on top of a fundamental caste distinction between humans and nonhumans, a founding distinction wired into the implicit logic of agrilogistics.35

Recall, furthermore, that some of the most common words for thinking and apprehension—gather, glean—derive from agriculture.36 What is required is no less than a logic that is otherwise than agrilogistical. A logic that is fully eco-logical. If you want ecological things to exist—ecological things like humans, meadows, frogs and the biosphere—you have to allow them to violate the logical ‘Law’ of Noncontradiction and its niece, the Law of the Excluded Middle. If we don’t, then it won’t be possible to explain the existence of vague, heap-like beings such as lifeforms and ecosystems, because they are not entirely self-identical.

According to the rigid agrilogistical logic format, there is no single, independent, definable point at which a meadow (for example) stops being a meadow. So there are no meadows. They might as well be car parks waiting to happen. And since by the same logic there are no car parks either, it doesn’t really matter if I build one on this meadow. Can you begin to see how the logical Law of Noncontradiction enables me to eliminate ecological beings both in thought and in actual physical reality? The Law of Noncontradiction was formulated by Aristotle, in section Gamma of his Metaphysics. It’s strange that we still carry this old law around in our heads, never thinking to prove it formally. According to the Law of Noncontradiction, being true means not contradicting yourself. You can’t say p and not-p at the very same time. You can’t say a meadow is a meadow and is not a meadow. Yet this is what is required, unless you want meadows not to exist.

X First peoples don’t live in holistic harmony without anxiety; they coexist anxiously in fragile, flawed clusters among other beings such as axes and horses, rain and spectres, without a father sky god or god-king. Yet because anxiety is still readily available—because agrilogistics has far from eliminated it— the divergence is an unstable, impermanent construct. We glimpse the space of the arche-lithic, not some tragically lost Palaeolithic. The arche-lithic is a possibility space that flickers continually within, around, beneath and to the side of the periods we have artificially demarcated as Neolithic and Palaeolithic. The arche-lithic is not the past.

The arche-lithic mind is immersed in a non-totalisable host of patterns that cannot be bounded in advance: lifeforms, ghosts, phantasms, zombies, visions, tricksters, masks. The idea that we might be deceived is intrinsic to the agrilogistical virus. The possibility of pretence haunts arche-lithic ‘cultures’ of magic as a structurally necessary component of that culture: ‘The real skill of the practitioner [of magic] lies not in skilled concealment but in the skilled revelation of skilled concealment.’37 (I must put ‘culture’ in quotation marks because the term is hopelessly agrilogistical.) Skepticism and faith might not be enemies in every social configuration. In arche-lithic space they might be weirdly intertwined.

There is an ontological reason why the play of magic involves epistemological panic giving rise to hermeneutical spirals of belief and disbelief. The dance of concealing and revealing happens because reality as such just does have a magical, flickering aspect. It is as if there is an irreducible, story-like hermeneutical web that plays around and within all things. An irreducible uncertainty, not because things are unreal, but because they are real.

XI What the Law of Noncontradiction polices most is the profound ambiguity and causal force of the aesthetic dimension. The aesthetic has been kept safe from something that looks too much like telepathic influence, though that is strictly what it is if telepathy is just passion at a distance.38 Right now, visualise the Mona Lisa in the Louvre — see what I mean? Something not in your ontic vicinity is exerting causal pressure on you. So the aesthetic and its beauties are policed and purged of the ‘enthusiastic’, buzzy, vibratory (Greek, enthuein) energies that shimmer around its fringe, forever turning beauty into something slightly strange, even ‘disgusting’ (at least at the edges) insofar as it can’t shake off its material embodiment, shuddery, rich, affective and effective.

This telepathic Force-like zone of nonhuman energy keeps nuzzling at the edge of modern thought and culture, as if with enough relaxed religious inhibitions and enough enjoyable products humans default to the arche-lithic.

There is something profound and perhaps disturbing about the aesthetic–causal dimension. And about life: ‘life’ is not the opposite of death. The homology between cancer cells and embryo growth bears this out. The only difference is that an embryo becomes shapely through another death process, apoptosis: the dying-away of superfluous cells. There is no final resting spot: there is always something excessive about the pattern.39 Life is an ambiguous spectral ‘undead’ quivering between two types of death: the machination of the death drive and the dissolution of physical objects.

And going down a level, this is because of the structure of how things are. Being and appearing are deeply, inextricably intertwined, yet different. This means that beings are themselves strange loops, the very loops that ecological awareness reminds us of. Much philosophical and cultural muscle has been put into getting rid of these loops, which are often decried as narcissistic, because they are self-relating, self-referential. But what is required for caring for nonhumans is precisely an extension of what is called narcissism! So attacking narcissism is something dark ecology won’t do: ‘What is called non-narcissism is in general but the economy of a much more welcoming, hospitable narcissism...without a movement of narcissistic reappropriation, the relation to the other would be absolutely destroyed, it would be destroyed in advance’ (Derrida).40

We have to accept the disturbing excess of the aesthetic dimension as an intrinsic part of everything in the universe, and indeed as the part that has to do with causality itself.

XII We think that existence means solid, constant, present existence. It is based on the fantasy that all the parts of me are me: that if you scoop out a piece of me, it has Tim Morton inscribed all over it and within it, just as sticks of English Brighton rock contain a pink word all the way through their deliciously pepperminty tubes. This is not the case. All entities just are what they are, which means that they are never quite as they seem. They are rippling with nothingness. A thing is a strange loop like a Möbius strip, which in topology is called a non-orientable surface. A non-orientable surface lacks an intrinsic back or front, up or down, inside or outside. Yet a Möbius strip is a unique topological object: not a square; not a triangle. Not just a lump of whateverness, or a false abstraction from some goop of oneness. When you trace your finger along a Möbius strip you find yourself weirdly flipping around to another side—which turns out to be the same side. The moment when that happens cannot be detected. The twist is everywhere along the strip. Likewise beings are intrinsically twisted into appearance, but the twist can’t be located anywhere.

So things are like the ouroboros, the self-swallowing snake. The Norse myth is pertinent: when Jörmungandr, the Midgard Serpent, stops sucking its own tail this is the beginning of Ragnarok, the apocalyptic battle. Agrilogistics has been a constant process of trying to un-loop the loop form of things. Finally to rid of the world of weirdness is impossible, as is devising a metalanguage that would slay self-reference forever. Violent threats can be made: ‘Anyone who denies the law of non-contradiction should be beaten and burned until he admits that to be beaten is not the same as not to be beaten, and to be burned is not the same as not to be burned.’41 You are either with us or against us. Torture isn’t an argument any more than kicking a pebble is, and the threat of torture is no way to display intelligence, let alone proof. The violence of the threat is in proportion to the impossibility of actually ridding the world of contradiction. Beating and burning, something done to cattle and corn, witches and weeds, is not the same as thinking and arguing. Still, in the margins of agrilogistical thought, we cannot but detect the disturbingly soft rustling of the arche-lithic and its serpentine beings. Beings inherently fragile, like logical systems that contain necessary flaws, like the hamartia of a tragic hero.

The modern upgrade of the Cadmus myth is the idea of progress, for instance, the idea that we have transcended our material conditions. I’m Harold and the Purple Crayon, ‘I am the lizard king, / I can do anything’, ‘I’m the Decider, goo-goo-ga-joob.’42 (Harold and the Purple Crayon is a US children’s character who can draw whatever he likes with his crayon in the void. Say he is drowning: he can draw a boat.) But if things are nonorientable surfaces, philosophy had better get out of the mastery business and into the allergy medicine business. We need philosophical medicine so as not to have allergic reactions before we mow the allergens down and build a parking lot. To remain in indecision.

XIII The more philosophy attunes to ecognosis the more it makes contact with nonhuman beings, one of which is ecognosis itself. The world it discovers is nonsensical yet perfectly logical, and that is funny: the sight of something maniacally deviating from itself in a desperate attempt to be itself should remind us of Bergson’s definition of what makes us laugh.43 And this is because, in a sense, to say ‘Being is suffused with appearing’ is the same as saying being is laughing with appearance. Ants and eagles cause philosophy to get off its high horse and smile, maybe even laugh. The name of this laughter is ecognosis. You begin to smile with your mouth closed. To close the mouth in Greek is muein, whence the term mystery, the exact opposite of mystification.

We find this ecological smile within in the horror, disgust, shame and guilt of ecological awareness itself, because strangely, that joy is the possibility condition for all the other, more reified forms of ecological awareness. It goes like this. We have guilt because we can have shame. We have shame because we can have horror. We have horror because we can have depression. We have depression because we can have sadness. We have sadness because we can have longing. We have longing because we can have joy. Find the joy without pushing away the depression, for depression is accurate.

XIV We live in a reality determined by a one-size-fits-all window of time, a window determined by some humans’ attempts to master anxieties about where their next meal was coming from. As Agrilogistical Axiom (3) states, the logistics of this time window imply that existing is better than any quality of existing. So it’s always better to have billions of people living near to misery, than even millions living in a state of permanent ecstasy. Because of this logic industrial machines were created. The small rigid time tunnel now engulfs a vast amount of Earth’s surface and is directly responsible for much global warming. It’s a depressive solution to anxiety: cone your attention down to about a year—maybe five years if you really plan ‘ahead’. One of the most awful things about depression is that your time window collapses to a diameter of a few minutes into the past and a few minutes into the future. Your intellect is literally killing little you by trying to survive. Like a violent allergic reaction, or spraying pesticides.

We live in a world of objectified depression. So do all the other lifeforms, who didn’t ask to be sucked into the grey concrete time tunnel. No wonder then that we find mass extinction depressing and uncanny.

XV Let’s have more time tunnels of different sizes. Let’s not have a one-size-fits-all time tunnel. Let’s get a bit playful. Which also means, let’s not have a one-size-fits-all politics. We need a politics that includes what appears least political—laughter, the playful, even the silly. We need a multiplicity of different political systems. We need to think of them as toy-like: playful and half-broken things that connect humans and nonhumans with one another. We can never get it perfect. There is no final, correct form that isn’t a toy. There is no one toy to rule them all. And toys aren’t exclusively human or for humans. We don’t have to get back to a mythical time of need as opposed to want. That binary is an agrilogistical artefact, which means that not everything about consumerism is bad, ecologically speaking. There are some ecological chemicals in consumerism, because consumerism provides an ethical pathway for relating to nonhuman beings for no particular reason (that is, for aesthetic reasons). The ecological future is going to be about more playful pleasure for no reason, not less. Think about it this way. I recently switched my power provider to 100% wind. For the first few days I felt efficient and virtuous and pure, until I realised that what was really the case now was that I could have a rave in every single room of my house and do no harm to Earth. Efficiency and sustainability, which is how we talk to ourselves about ecological action, are just artefacts of our oil economy version of agrilogistics. Change the energy system, and all that changes.

Lighten up: dark ecology does not mean heavy or bleak; it is strangely light. Lifeforms play (‘This is a bite and this is not a bite’), because play is structural to reality, because things shimmer.44 A disturbing imbalance and fragility haunts this play in order for it to be play. This is why play isn’t just candy or glue but structural to reality. If you think of (agrilogistical) civilization as normative you have already decided that it is inevitable, and this means that you have decided that agrilogistical retreat is the only way to move across Earth.

XVI The trouble with consumerism isn’t that it sends us into an evil loop of addiction. The trouble is that consumerism is not nearly pleasurable enough.45 The possibility space that enables consumerism contains far more pleasures. Consumerism has a secret side that Marxism is loath to perceive, as Marxism too is caught in the agrilogistical division between need and want. Consumerism is a way of relating to at least one other thing that isn’t me. A thing is how I fantasise it. And yet...I fantasise, not onto a blank screen, but onto an actually existing thing, and in any case my fantasy itself is an independent thing. This thing eludes my grasp even as it appears clearly. You are what you eat. Doesn’t the mantra of consumerism (concocted by Feuerbach and Brillat-Savarin, almost simultaneously) put identity in a loop?46 Doesn’t this formula hide in plain sight something more than (human) desire? That the reason-to-buy is also a relation to an inaccessible yet appearing entity, to wit, what you eat? I imagine what I eat gives me luxury, or freedom, or knowledge. Yet there I am, eating an apple. I coexist. This can’t be! The formula for consumerism kat’ exochēn is underwritten by ecology! What a fantastic loop that is. Once we discover that what is called subjectivity is a cleaned, stripped, devastated version of something much vaguer and more spectral that includes the abjection that the idea of subject is meant to repress, then we are in the phenomenological space of ecological awareness. It is at first horrifying (to white patriarchy), because ecological awareness means noticing that you are profoundly covered in, surrounded by and permeated by all kinds of entities that are not you. That horror then becomes strangely ridiculous, like watching someone trying to escape the inevitable. This sense of the ridiculous is the first hint that at its deepest, ecological awareness has some kind of laughter in it. The laughter of ridicule subsides into a melancholic laughter in which we curate all the nonhumans that surround and permeate us without knowing exactly why, a bit like Wall E, the robot in an ethereal, goth-y realm of (other people’s) toys, like J.F. Sebastian’s apartment in Blade Runner. This not- knowing-why becomes beautiful and we sense the ungraspability of things. This sense in turn leads to a kind of joy. Abjection has been transfigured into what Irigaray calls nearness, a pure givenness in which something is so near that one cannot have it — a fact that obviously also applies to one’s ‘self’.47

Timothy Morton - Dark Ecological Chocolate from Sonic Acts on Vimeo.

1. In 2013, Paul Kingsnorth published an essay called ‘Dark Ecology: Searching for Truth in a Post-Green World’ in Orion magazine (January–February 2013). Dark ecology is a term I coined in 2004 and wrote about in Ecology without Nature (2007). 2. Oxford English Dictionary, ‘weird’, adj. 3. S.N. Hagen, ‘On Nornir ‘Fates’, Modern Language Notes, vol. 39, no. 8 (December 1924), pp. 466–69. 4. Oxford English Dictionary, ‘weird’, n. 1.a., 1.b., 2.a. 5. Oxford English Dictionary, ‘worth’, v. 6. Oxford English Dictionary, ‘weird’, adj. 1, 2.a., 3, 7. C.S. Holling and Gary K. Meffe, ‘Command and Control and the Pathology of Natural Resource Management’, Conservation Biology, vol. 10, no. 2 (April 1996), pp. 328–37 8. Michael Wines, ‘Mys- tery Malady Kills More Bees, Heightening Wor- ry on Farms’, New York Times, 28 March 2013, r=0. Brad Plumer, ‘We’ve Covered the World in Pesticides: Is That a Problem?’, Washington Post, 18 August 2013, 9. Suzanne Goldenberg, ‘Americans Care Deeply about “Global Warming”—But Not ‘Climate Change’, The Guardian, 27 May 2014,, accessed 2 June 2014. 10. Lewis Carroll, Alice Through the Looking Glass in The Annotated Alice: The Definitive Edition, ed. Martin Gardner, New York: Norton, 2000, p. 157. 11. This idea is occurring to a number of people simultaneously. See for instance Charles C. Mann, ‘State of the Species: Does Success Spell Doom for Homo Sapiens?’, Orion (November–December 2012), 12. I use the term ‘ontic’ as Martin Heidegger uses it in Being and Time, tr. Joan Stambaugh, Albany, N.Y: State University of New York Press, 2010, p. 11. 13. I’m grateful to my talented Ph.D. student Toby Bates for pointing this out. 14. Timothy Morton, Dark Ecology, New York: Columbia University Press, 2015. 15. There are far too many texts to mention, but two reasonably recent ones that have stood out for me have been Geoffrey Hartman, The Fateful Question of Culture, New York: Columbia University Press, 1997; and Terry Eagleton, The Idea of Culture, Oxford: Blackwell, 2000. 16. In New Guinea, native pigs can’t plough, so agrilogistics was stymied there again. 17. Jan Zalasiewicz, ‘The Geological Basis for the Anthropocene,’ The History and Politics of the Anthropocene, University of Chicago, 17–18 May 2013. 18. Jared Diamond, ‘The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race’, Discover Magazine (May 1987), pp. 64–66. Derek Parfit, Reasons and Persons, New York: Oxford University Press, 1984. He offers a slightly revised discussion in ‘Overpopulation and the Quality of Life’, in Applied Ethics, ed. Peter Singer, New York: Oxford University Press, 1986. Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998. 19. On the patriarchy aspect insofar as it affects philosophy as such, Luce Irigaray is succinct: woman has been taken ‘quoad matrem... in the entire philosophic tradition. It is even one of the conditions of its possibility. One of the necessities, also, of its foundation: it is from (re)productive earth-mother-nature that the production of the logos will attempt to take away its power, by pointing to the power of the beginning(s) in the monopoly of the origin.’ This Sex Which Is Not One, tr. Catherine Porter and Carolyn Burke, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1985, p. 102. 20. See, for instance, Pedro Barbosa, ed., Conservation Biological Control, San Diego: Harcourt Brace, 1998. 21. Rebecca J. Rosen, ‘How Humans Invented Cats’, The Atlantic, 16 December 2013, Gerry Everding, ‘Cat Domestication Traced to Chinese Farmers 5,300 Years Ago’, Washington University St. Louis Newsroom, 16 December 2013, Carlos A. Driscoll, ‘The Taming of the Cat’, Scientific American, vol. 300, no. 6 (June 2009), pp. 68–75. Yaowu Hu et al., ‘Earliest Evidence for Commensal Processes of Cat Domestication’, PNAS, vol. 111, no. 1 (7 January 2014), pp. 116–20. 22. See, for instance, Donna Haraway, When Species Meet, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007. 23. For arguments in support of this hypothesis, see Terry O’Connor, Animals as Neighbors: The Past and Present of Commensal Animals, East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University Press, 2013. 24. Tom Stoppard, Darkside: A Play for Radio Incorporating The Dark Side of the Moon (Parlophone, 2013). 25. Richard Manning, ‘The Oil We Eat’, Harper’s Magazine, 4 February 2004, See Richard Manning, Against the Grain: How Agriculture Has Hijacked Civilization, New York: North Point, 2005. 26. Gardiner, Perfect Moral Storm, pp. 213–45. 27. Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998. 28. Derek Parfit, Reasons and Persons, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987, pp. 433–41. 29. It is well accepted that concentrations of O18, an oxygen isotope, track climate stability. O18 concentrations were remarkably stable from the start of agrilogistics until the start of the Anthropocene. 30. Jan Zalasiewicz, presentation at ‘History and Politics of the Anthropocene’, University of Chicago, May 2013. 31. I am grateful to Jan Zalasiewicz for discussing this with me. 32. See also Hélène Cixous, The Laugh of the Medusa, tr. Keith Cohen and Paula Cohen, Signs, vol. 1, no. 4 (Summer, 1976), pp. 875–93 (882). 33. See, for instance, John Zerzan, ‘The Catastrophe of Post-modernism’, Future Primitive Revisited, Port Townsend, WA: Feral House, 2012, pp. 64–90. The first demon named is the loop of ‘Consumer narcissism’ (64). In contrast, Neanderthal mind was fully present to itself and to its environment in a pure, non-deviant circularity, compared to which even the pre-Neolithic divisions of labour and cave paintings seem like original sin: ‘Running on Emptiness: The Failure of Symbolic Thought’, Running on Emptiness: The Pathology of Civilization, Los Angeles: Feral House, 2002, pp. 1–16 (2–3). 34. Friedrich Nietzsche, ‘On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense’, The Nietzsche Reader, ed. Keith Ansell Pearson and Duncan Large, Oxford: Blackwell, 2006, pp. 114–23 (118). 35. Cary Wolfe, What Is Posthumanism?, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012. 36. Oxford English Dictionary, ‘gather’, 4.a., b., c.; ‘glean’, v. ‘1. To gather or pick up ears of corn which have been left by the reapers.’ 37. Michael Taussig, ‘Viscerality, Faith and Skepticism’, in Birgit Meyer and Peter Pels, eds., Magic and Modernity: Interfaces of Revelation and Concealment, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003, pp. 272–341 (273). 38. See, for instance, Nicholas Royle’s magnificent Telepathy and Literature: Essays on the Reading Mind, Oxford: Blackwell, 1991. 39. George Johnson, ‘A Tumor, the Embryo’s Evil Twin’, New York Times, 17 March 2014. 40. Jacques Derrida, ‘There Is No One Narcissism: Autobiophotographies’, Points: Interviews 1974–1994, ed. Elisabeth Weber, tr. Peggy Kamuf et al., Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1995, pp. 196–215 (199). 41. Avicenna, Metaphysics I.8, 53.13–15. 42. The Doors, ‘The Celebration of the Lizard’, Absolutely Live (Elektra, 1970). The Beatles, ‘I Am the Walrus’, Magical Mystery Tour (EMI, 1967). 43. Henri Bergson, ‘Laughter’, in Wylie Sypher, ed., and intro., Comedy: ‘An Essay on Comedy’ by George Meredith and ‘Laughter’ by Henri Bergson, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1956, pp. 59 – 190. 44. Gregory Bateson, ‘A Theory of Play and Fantasy’, Steps to an Ecology of Mind, foreword Mary Catherine Bateson, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000, pp. 177 – 93. 45. Kate Soper ‘Alternative Hedonism, Cultural Theory and the Role of Aesthetic Revisioning’, Cultural Studies, vol. 22, no. 5, Taylor and Francis, September 2008, pp. 567–87. 46. Jean-Antheleme Brillat-Savarin, The Physiology of Taste, tr. Anne Drayton, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1970, p. 13. Ludwig Feuerbach, Gesammelte Werke II, Kleinere Schriften, ed. Werner Schuffenhauer, Berlin: Akadamie-Verlag, 1972. 47. Luce Irigaray, This Sex Which Is Not One, tr. Catherine Porter and Carolyn Burke, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1985, p. 31.

Nikel — The City as a Material

Tuesday 15 November 11:59

RESEARCH SERIES #27 Tatjana Gorbachewskaja (TG) is an architect who grew up in the Russian town Nikel, located in the far North near the Russian border with Norway. For Dark Ecology she researched the materials of her hometown together with Katya Larina (KL), resulting in Nikel Materiality, which consists of a small publication, a presentation and guided walk through Nikel. Mirna Belina (MB) interviewed them. This interview forms part of Living Earth – Field Notes from Dark Ecology Project 2014 – 2016. The publication Living Earth is available now at

Tatjana Gorbachewskaja icw Katya Larina, Nikel Materiality. Photo by Lucas van der Velden
MB How did you start researching Nikel? KL My interests come from two sides. One is the research I did for my studies in Landscape Urbanism at the Architectural Association in London, which is about understanding the city as a complex interconnected ecology. The other is my practical experience as an advisor and expert on strategies for industrial cities, closed cities, mining cities, or cities with heavy industry in Siberia. In the research into Nikel I managed to combine both interests. TG My curiosity stems from my background: Nikel is my hometown. I also teach at the University of Art and Design in Offenbach, where we investigate various experimental design methodologies relating to the topic of ‘new materiality’. In August 2015 I returned from a research residency in Nikel with a huge collection of material samples. Then Katya and I realised that the material phenomena and artefacts from Nikel could be structured using certain motifs relating to the idea of an ecological material system. MB Nikel has a dynamic political history. Can you connect the dots for us? TG The town emerged solely because of the nickel smelter. It’s a young settlement, established around 1935. From the beginning, the town was a centre of advanced and innovative industrial production. American technologies were used for the construction of a chimney—apparently the tallest one in Europe at that time. Only Canadians had the construction technologies suitable for Arctic climatic conditions, so all the smelting plants projects were developed in Canada. The general plan was designed by Finnish architects and further developed by Soviet urban planners after the Second World War. The mining technology was the most advanced for its time. Life in Nikel was highly subsidised and therefore quite appealing to the residents. Nikel was built in an area of extreme living conditions. It materialised as an artificial organism covered by a top-down ‘protective dome’ of vital infrastructure provided by one supplier—the state. Nikel and the region have been maintained by the state for many years, but after 1991, due to more volatile economic and political circumstances, the town was left without central control. As a result the artificial ecology of the city collapsed, and had to adapt to survive. KL I’ve worked with several Soviet industrial cities. They typically have separate districts which reflect different political epochs of Soviet and post-Soviet times. You can have a very distinguished Stalin or Khrushchev town. They are characterised by completely different ideologies and aesthetics. But Nikel, with its special Arctic weather conditions, is structured more rationally. At the same time, in Nikel, one epoch is resisting another one. The architectures use more varied resources and interact with each other. It’s more about respecting what has been done, learning from others. In Nikel the epochs all exist simultaneously. TG That is really rare for a Soviet city. For example, the first eight Finnish buildings in Nikel were integrated into the Soviet Promenade Axis. That’s why they’re still in good condition. Other early buildings were destroyed because they weren’t fully integrated. Not being integrated means dying off. MB You are working within a framework of ‘new materiality’. Can you elaborate on the methodology and how you applied it to Nikel? TG New Materialism is about rethinking relationships between object and subject, people and nature; moving from a focus on the human experience of things to things themselves. New Materialism is about acknowledging nonhuman forces in events. Important theorists in this field are, for instance, Jane Bennett, Manuel DeLanda and Graham Harman. In the case of Nikel, the methods of New Materialism help us to trace non-material social processes and transformations through the material agency. Technology and material fabrication can reveal very specific aspects in this context. We have explored different logics of material assemblies of the town’s construction in different political epochs. Each epoch reveals its own sensibility to the fabrication of a material. The sources of energy used for construction also changed over the decades, depending on whether the town’s relationships were externally regulated or self-sustaining. Through this perspective every piece of the town’s construction can explain a lot on many different levels of interrelations. KL The name of the city itself already suggests this. Nikel as a real material and a symbolic notion penetrates all levels of the existence of this settlement, manifesting the evolution of the artificial ecology the town has created. ‘Nickel’ as a non‐physical entity provided an artificial immunity to the city in the form of high subsidies and pensions, twice the holiday time, earlier retirement, and good facilities for sports and education. The products of nickel have become unpredictable. We started looking into the variety of materials that make up the city on a micro level and expanded its qualities to social, economic and environmental processes on a large scale. For instance, an exciting part of the research was to trace a representation of larger processes, which were shaping the city in one material, such as the slag, a by-product of the nickel ore smelting. The pressure from the artificial and natural environment gave this material many shapes and forms: it became a building material, an agent of damage, it is also present as a component of the natural ecosystem. It has penetrated into the surfaces of the buildings and accumulated in cracks and dark corners. This dust mixed with the brightly painted surfaces in the city creates a specific texture typical of most of the buildings in Nikel. MB So we could see this city as a living system? KL Nikel was initially set up as a very artificial system, controlled top down by the state. But in time it started behaving and expressing itself as a real living organism. All of its components, including the materials from which it is built, are changing and evolving to adapt to the transforming conditions. All materials behave dynamically in Nikel. They degrade faster than elsewhere. Nature is quite aggressive. It’s all about the energy the city shares with nature and for which it competes with nature. TG This city is slowly opening up to its environment. And this process is a self-organising process. No one controls it! MB What about the pollution from the smelter? TG The main ecological damage happened in the 1980s, when the company started smelting a non-local material, the nickel ore imported from Norilsk (the mining city further to the East in Russia), with a high concentration of sulphur dioxide. It killed almost all the vegetation around the town within just a couple of years. Another cause of major damage was the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s. That had an even worse impact on Nikel. The city lost its source of social security and its future perspective. People started leaving the city. It’s still possible to trace the scars of these processes in the material tissue of Nikel. It’s a city fighting to survive. Nature is slowly recovering because the company now mostly processes local ore. The city is also starting to take on its proper size. So it is stabilising. Let’s hope! MB You said in your lecture in Nikel during the second Dark Ecology Journey that one of the most interesting parts of your research was the perception of the city as an infrastructural element. Could you elaborate on that? KL Infrastructures create comfortable spaces for people. An example is the heating infrastructure. Nikel needs such a comprehensive life-support infrastructure because it’s located in such a hostile environment. It was supported by an infrastructure for a long time but at some point in the 1990s, when it stopped functioning properly and had to interact with nature, it began falling apart, it transformed, and developed another life. In other cities these life-support infrastructures are not visible, they are hidden below the surface, but here their presence above the surface emphasises the city’s artificiality. TG In the Arctic, the most important thing is the artificial energy network. Nikel’s energy infrastructure requires very high maintenance; it is a high resource-consuming component of the city. For example, in Soviet times, buildings were regularly painted in bright colours so that the residents did not suffer from colour starvation. Now, because of the low maintenance financing and the harsh climatic conditions, all the layers of paint on the façades have cracked to expose the surface beneath them. Also, heating pipes are not underground in Nikel, they are built above the ground because of the permafrost. It’s like an exposed artificial organism. You see the flow, the veins. That’s how we set up our map of Nikel—we tried to show the infrastructure veins of the city.
Tatjana Gorbachewskaja icw Katya Larina, Nikel Materiality. Photo by Rosa Menkman
MB You made a very elaborate and different map of the city, with several interesting structural elements. What was the framework you used for mapping? TG The original idea was to create an alternative map of the city. Instead of mapping the classical city’s highlights, we tried to map a material agency representing the power of the city. We took material artefacts as witnesses that are able to describe the history of natural, political and social processes of the settlement. The artefacts we found were extraordinary and very expressive. Through the map and catalogue of the artefacts we present Nikel as a ‘material system’, as a multi- scalar expression of new materials that appeared and evolved while embedded in the town’s fabric. We organised the artefacts into four sections. KL As said, the material entity of Nikel has been shaped by successive ideological paradigms of the Soviet and the Post-Soviet political context. In the first group (Historical Clash) we presented artefacts and materials related to the history of social and political rhythms which structured the physical territories of the town. The second group (Energy Infrastructure) is related to the organisational concept of the ecosystem which is a function representing a ‘flow of energy and materials’. Here, we perceive Nikel as an infrastructural element for the resource-development industry, a life- support mechanism of a large industrial machine. In the third group of materials (Self-Organising Boundaries) we draw the boundaries of ‘competing patterns of existing ecosystems’. This part of the research reveals the fragmented character of the city and traces boundaries and borders that evolved naturally in the town as a response to the overlay and resistance of different elements of Nikel’s artificial ecology. In the last group (The Slag), we consider a physical representation of a new material that has appeared in Nikel, copper-nickel dust. For this section we created a wind simulation map, which helped us to understand how the environmental forces spread slag and pollution through the city. It shows how the urban tissue reacts to it. MB Did you present your insights about Nikel to locals? KL Yes, we had a presentation in Nikel for the local people. For us, the process of the environmental degradation indicates an evolutionary process of the city’s artificial system, revealing its qualities. For inhabitants, it’s mostly a personal tragedy. We were worried that we would be misunderstood, but surprisingly, we had quite a positive response. TG A teacher from the art school pointed out one more important energy resource in Nikel, another important resource of Nikel materiality: the people. And that is true: they really are the driving force of the city.

Queer Kinship

Tuesday 15 November 15:53

RESEARCH SERIES #28 In this interview by Rosa Menkman the Canadian theorist Heather Davis discusses the value of artistic experimentation, the Anthropocene, the importance of queer theory and the ecology of plastics. This interview forms part of Living Earth – Field Notes from Dark Ecology Project 2014 – 2016, which is available now at

Heather Davis, Sonic Acts Academy 2016. Photo by Pieter Kiers
RM In your writing, you often use art to unpack and contextualise the otherwise abstract conditions and processes of the Anthropocene. Do these works inspire you to write about these subjects, or do you search for these works to illustrate the subjects you would like to write about? HD My writing usually doesn’t follow a uniform process. The way I write is maybe not so dissimilar from the ways in which certain people produce art. It evolves by constantly asking new questions, and through the shifting of scales and perspectives. In one of my latest texts, Molecular Intimacy (2016), I write about Inhale/Exhale, which was part of an installation at the Nordic Pavilion of the Venice Biennale of Art in 2013, by Finnish artist Terike Haapoja. I met Haapoja at a residency in Lapland a few years ago and I was really struck by her work. Haapoja connects the different levels through which the carbon cycle operates, to illustrate the ways in which carbon both enables life and is ‘exhaled’ in the processes of decomposition. While carbon is a rather abstract element that usually can’t be perceived by the human sensorium, this work asks us to consider breathing, through the process of decomposing leaves, in a much more visceral way. We hear the carbon release from the leaves, and it sounds uncannily like breath. This work made me reconsider how breath passes through my own body, as well as my thinking about carbon dioxide. Inhale/Exhale prompted me to ask what happens to our understanding of climate change and the carbon cycle when we approach it not just as scientific data, or as a series of graphs, charts and numbers? How can we make this data more intimate and how would this influence our imaginary? This work by Haapoja suggests a shift in discourse towards affective attunement—towards an intimate engagement with the molecular and the different strata at which carbon ecologies, economies and molecules operate—one that is useful to elaborate in contemporary theory. I would have never arrived at this question if not for my conversations with Haapoja. RM Lucy R. Lippard reviewed the compendium Art in the Anthropocene (2015) which you co-edited as: ‘an art book like no other (...) Visual artists are, for once, equal participants in these imaginative, intelligent, and informative discussions of the most pressing issues of our time, and deep time.’ How does the work of artists within the realm of climate change relate to the work of scientists? HD The featured texts are all written by philosophers, curators and artists who are very knowledgeable about scientific processes and climate change. We did, however, purposefully not invite any scientists to contribute to the book. One of the main things my co-editor, Etienne Turpin, and myself wanted to highlight is the difference in methodology between the ways in which artists and scientists contribute to understanding climate change. While the sciences often aim to produce the ‘truth’ and research questions that are directed towards very specific aims and outcomes, artistic work has this amazing ability to embrace contradictions that don’t have to be resolved. I believe that this is what the best forms of art do. Art can contain contradictory thoughts without falling apart. This can be incredibly useful when thinking about the affective and political implications of climate change. Besides that, artists are able to create work in ways that scientists can’t: scientists have to follow specific rules when they conduct scientific experiments. Artists can experiment with materials and use scientific practices in non-traditional ways and, in doing so, contribute to scientific breakthroughs. Artists can open up avenues of scientific research that were previously not up for discussion in a manner that can be explicitly political or with the aim of engaging a wider audience. RM Earlier you also mentioned ‘affect’ and ‘intimate engagement’ as vital to the understanding of climate change. Could you elaborate on this? HD I believe that there is an absolutely crucial element, namely the affective register, missing from the scientific engagement with climate change. Art can play an important role in negotiating this absence. I was trained in the traditions of Deleuze and Spinoza, so I understand affect as a pre- emotional, pre-verbal intensity. Affect moves me with a certain energy that cannot be attributed to a specific emotion or any particular sensibility. Affect can describe this state of hovering on the edge of emotion, or the kinds of emotions that don’t really posses a descriptive language, that can’t be categorised. Affect describes this intensity. In relation to climate change, there is an eerie sense that things are going horribly wrong, even among those of us who are disconnected from natural cyclical processes. We see unprecedented weather in the places we grew up. We see shifting patterns among animals and plants. Because humans are such adaptable creatures, we can accommodate these changes, but the speed at which they are happening remains in this register of intensity, in the register of something going wrong that we can feel, that we are cognizant of, even as we think of other things. This kind of bodily knowing is what art can make us aware of: the feelings of rapid change, and the sense of great unease that we share in the face of dramatic destabilisation.
Terike Haapoja, Inhale–Exhale, installation, 2008/2013, Falling Trees exhibition, Nordic Pavilion, 55th Venice Biennale, 2013. Photo by Ugo Carmeni.
RM In your Sonic Acts Academy presentation on 28 February 2016 in Amsterdam The Queer Futurity of Plastic, you used queer theory to create an awareness of the affective intimacy between humans and our plastic spawn. You asked: what can we learn if we embrace our non-filial plastic progeny and the plastisphere ecosystems that evolve in our man-made, plastic environments? Could you elaborate on this? HD Queer theory, especially the realm of queer kinship, creates an incredibly important space for queerness not (just) as an identity, but as a politics. Queerness doesn’t just question heteronormative practices, but asks to open up space for who our intimate partners can be beyond a binary gender system, the conventions of the couple, and the nuclear family. We need ways to express intimacy within and beyond our legal systems; ways that allow for more plurality in terms of who can be understood as our life partners or our kin. These questions are also tied to questions of inheritance and the sense of obligation and care that we have towards those who came before us and those who will come after us. The question of who we think our kin are, in part determines this sense of responsibility. This ties into ecological thinking because if we presume that our kin are not just human, then we have an obligation towards our companion species, including those we have unintentionally brought into being.

Plastics have been around for 110 years, and bacteria have evolved to deal with these new environments. There is, for instance, a type of plastic eating waxworm that has two different kinds of bacteria inside its gut that allow it to digest polyethylene. Specific communities of bacteria have developed on the tiny pieces of plastics in the ocean. This is called the plastisphere. The waxworm and the plastisphere can be understood as a kind of non-filial human progeny, as I have suggested, and we should ask ourselves what kind of responsibility we have towards them. There has to be an ethics of acknowledgement and maybe even an ethics of care towards these particular kinds of bacterial communities, because of the fact that we inadvertently created them. This is not to suggest a godlike capacity and I certainly don’t mean that we should produce more plastic to accommodate these bacteria, but we do need to rethink the scales on which humans act and create. We are responsible for the life and deaths of so many creatures, regardless of our intentions. These questions are really essential.

Queer theory is a movement that pushes for entirely different configurations of intimacy, belonging, attachment and gendered identity or sexuality, which move beyond heteronormative frameworks that serve, among many other things, to uphold anthropocentrism. Queer kinship makes us aware of the responsibility we have towards the beings we create, and those that live and die, including humans and nonhumans. It calibrates a new political space to reconsider the state and presence of our relation to time, space and plastics. Thinking in these terms can help us to re-situate the place of the human, at least in dominant Western understandings; in essence the narrative of the human becomes less a narrative of mastery and moves towards ethical engagement and responsibility.

RM How can we actually be ethical about plastics? HD Surprisingly, I find this a really hard question. I’ve been thinking about plastics for three or four years now; however, I’ve been using the materiality of plastic to explore larger questions in terms of ecology and human hubris in relationship to technology. I think the important thing about plastic is to think of it as incredibly valuable, rather than infinitely disposable. The ecological problem with plastics is that they are incredibly recalcitrant in the face of change. Plastic objects can break, but on a molecular level, unless you burn them (which is really toxic), there aren’t many ways of turning plastics into something else. Plastics are impermeable to their environments, yet those same environments are deeply affected by plastics. The fact that within the 110 years since the invention of thermoplastics we suddenly discover this plastic-eating waxworm—I find that really heartening: it shows that life has a generative capacity that is far greater than humans. It puts us in our place in a really important way. RM Can we re-value plastic from a perspective of deep time and attribute value through the ecological consequences plastics have on our ecologies? HD I find it unbelievable that we use this material, which is incredibly valuable and definitely finite, as disposable and cheap. I have no idea how this happened in terms of economic logic but somehow it did, even though we don’t have adequate waste management systems and despite knowing the havoc that plastic waste wreaks in the world. It isn’t the only chemical material product out there that I wish didn’t exist, but...

While I’m saying this, I am thinking about what would happen if plastics suddenly disappeared. Our world as we know it would collapse—there would be no Internet, computers or airplane travel. Our clothes would evaporate, our buildings would fall apart. Materials, including food, could not be cheaply or effectively shipped around the globe. Plastic is the material infrastructure of the 20th and 21st centuries. It is this contradiction of plastic that really fascinates me. On the one hand, I see how much damage it does and on the other, it is an incredibly important, life- saving material. Plastics are so much a part of our everyday lives, they literally become us.

Tom Cohen, who is co-editor of the Critical Climate Change series at Open Humanities Press, uses the term tempophagy, meaning time-eating. We are burning up so much time through our dependence on oil, which results in these incredibly destructive accelerations in terms of climate, evolution, extinction, movement, and technology. We are producing this crazy kind of time, that exists only because we keep consuming the evolutionary and decomposed matter that is many hundreds of thousands of years old. Oil is a kind of compressed time. I think an inversed theory of planned obsolescence could play a role here: what if we used oil-based materials to build technologies with a planned continuum, that were meant to last for hundreds or thousands of years? RM With Dark Ecology we travel in the Arctic Barents Region, also to heavily polluted sites, to explore an area that illustrates how intimately connected humans can be with pollution. HD In the Canadian High Arctic, things decompose at an incredibly slow rate because of the cold and the lack of microbes. You can find a Coke can from the 1940s and it will look like it was left there last week. There is something really amazing about the fact that time has a completely different pace in this part of the world. However, the Arctic is warming faster than anywhere else on Earth. It’s experiencing a rate and intensity of change on a scale that is unprecedented. I wonder how time in this part of the Arctic will make itself felt and seen. I think a lot about understanding the self as porous, so if we pollute the world, we pollute our own bodies. There is something really fruitful about confronting the fact that we cannot barricade ourselves off from toxicity, especially those of us with the privilege to do so.

Heather Davis: The Queer Futurity of Plastic from Sonic Acts on Vimeo.

The Maryanne Amacher Listening Session

Listening Session: The Maryanne Amacher Archive presents The Mini Sound Series Tuesday 13 December, 20:00 hrs de Appel arts centre, Prins Hendrikkade 142, Amsterdam As legendary as Maryanne Amacher’s work remains, few if any of Amacher’s listeners have been able to experience her variegated body of work as a whole. Amacher’s prescient use of media coupled with her insistence on perceptually anchored situational specificity made the question of documentation and publication of her artistic work complicated, if not moot. Now for the first time as more and more of the materials from the Maryanne Amacher Archive are digitized, the first sketches of an overview of her life's work are on hand. The Listening Session offers a live-annotated audio-outline of moments throughout Maryanne Amacher’s 50 year career, comprised entirely of unpublished audio. The listening session is accompanied by pertinent and likewise unpublished images of scores, notes, and texts selected from the Amacher Archive, presented by Bill Dietz, Amy Cimini & Robert The.

Maryanne Amacher. Photo by Kathy Brew.
Admission: EUR 7,50 (students/CJP EUR 5,00) Buy Ticket The Listening Session is part of ‘The Mini Sound Series’ Seminar, organised by Sonic Acts in collaboration with The Maryanne Amacher Archive, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam & Blank Forms. This event is supported by de Appel arts centre.

Progress Bar on 21 January

Wednesday 7 December 14:20

Progress Bar offers insight into the artistic practice of the most exciting contemporary artists with interviews and lectures as well as a club programme. Before Sonic Acts Festival 2017 begins, the next edition of Progress Bar will be on Saturday 21 January at Paradiso Noord, Tolhuistuin. LINE UP AKWUGO EMEJULU (talk) BONAVENTURE (DJ) EMBACI (live) J. G. BIBERKOPF (live) JUHA (DJ) S A R A S A R A (live) SEADA NOURHUSSEN (talk) TRAXMAN (DJ) AKWUGO EMEJULU (talk) Akwugo Emejulu is Senior Lecturer at the University of Edinburgh. As a political sociologist, she has research interests in two areas: investigating racial and gender social and economic inequalities in a comparative perspective and exploring the grassroots organising of women of colour for social welfare and social citizenship. BONAVENTURE (DJ) NTS Radio affiliate and citizen of NON, Bonaventure (Soraya Lutangu) uses music as an identity research tool along with practical and speculative initiatives to connect her African and European roots and investigate human boundaries. Tracks like ‘White Policy’, ‘Cauz Cauz Cauz’ and ‘Complexion’ get at the crux of human motivation. EMBACI Embaci is an 18-year-old singer-songwriter and producer from Brooklyn who interweaves her lilting voice’s commentary on body and feminist politics with shattered, metallic off-rhythms. Her recent “digital tape” release featured collaborations with the likes of ANGEL-HO, Chino Amobi, Mhysa, Nkisi, LAO, ZutZut, IMAABS and Elysia Crampton. J. G. BIBERKOPF (live) J. G. Biberkopf works within the paradoxical relationship between club music and art music. His recent first EP, titled ‘Ecologies’, launched the Knives label created by Kuedo and Joe Shakespeare. Biberkopf’s music is intended as a field trip into the representations of nature that emerge from the (social) mediascape. JUHA (DJ) Progress Bar founder Juha plays new internet dance music. Since 2014, Juha has been artistic director of Lighthouse in Brighton, uniting the worlds of culture and technology. As of 2016, Juha presents Viral Radio on ResonanceEXTRA, a monthly two-hour programme following new developments deep down the rabbit hole of internet music culture. S A R A S A R A (live) Hailing from Lille, France, singer, musician and producer s a r a s a r a recently released her debut album ‘Amor Fati' via One Little Indian, co-produced by Matthew Herbert. Already a boundary pushing artist, s a r a s a r a’s music is as experimental as it is versatile, taking in elements of industrial electronica, trip-hop, r’n’b, breaks and more. SEADA NOURHUSSEN (talk) Seada Nourhussen is Africa-editor at Trouw. She has previously worked for, amongst others, Elsevier and De Volkskrant. Nourhussen also wrote the book 'Bloedmobieltjes'. TRAXMAN (DJ) Cornelius Ferguson a.k.a. Traxman is from the West Side of Chicago and one of the longest serving producers working in footwork with releases stretching back to the glory days of ghetto house on Dance Mania records in the nineties. His unique brand of footwork is very strongly rooted in Chicago's history of soul, funk, house and ghetto trax. Progress Bar S02E04 Date: Saturday 21 January 2017 Venue: Paradiso Noord, Tolhuistuin Amsterdam Times: 21:00–04:00 (doors open 20:30) Tickets: €10,00 presale / €12,50 at the door (card only) Free for Subbacultcha! members until midnight and part of the We Are Public programme. Become a member Attend on Facebook

This week: Taste The Doom at OT301

Thursday 5 January 16:01

As a precursor to the Sonic Acts Festival programme (23-26 February), every Wednesday leading up to it will offer a guided tour of the The Noise of Being exhibition in the afternoon, and then present a different special event in the evening. For this Wednesday 8 February we have Taste The Doom at OT301, combining two of the most delightful things in life: excellent whisky and a splendid mix of doom metal. Taste a hand-picked selection of outstanding whiskies, introduced to you one by one, while listening to a selected mix of songs matched to accompany each. The event includes live performances by EISBEIN and Puce Mary. Buy Tickets Timetable: 19:00 Doors open 19:30 Taste The Doom 22:00 Performances (EISBEIN + Puce Mary) EISBEIN (Benny Nilsen & Gert-Jan Prins) BJ Nilsen is a Swedish composer and sound artist based in Amsterdam. His work primarily focuses on the sounds of nature and how they affect humans. Recent work has explored the urban acoustic realm and industrial geography in the Arctic region of Norway and Russia. Gert-Jan Prins focuses on the sonic and musical qualities of electronic noise and percussion and investigates its relationship with the visual. He lives and works in Amsterdam. Puce Mary An unrelenting fear of dread and coldness penetrates the avant-garde power electronics of Copenhagen-based artist Puce Mary, the nom de plume of Frederikke Hoffmeier. The Danish noisenik first came to prominence in 2010 with the collaborative release Lucia with Lust for Youth’s Loke Rahbek, on Danish label Posh Isolation. That same year, she released the Piss Flowers cassette, which showcased her unremitting use of feedback, noise, and guttural screams to climatic effect. Taste The Doom Date: Wednesday 8 February 2017 Venue: OT301, Amsterdam Times: 19:30–00:00 (doors open 19:00) Tickets: for tasting & performances: €30 (valid from 19:00); for performances only: €5 (valid from 22:00) Buy Tickets Due to the intimate setting of this event there is very limited capacity. Attend on Facebook. Taste The Doom is hosted by Lars Lundehave Hansen and Peter Votava.

Excursion: Vertical Studies in Sint Jansklooster

Wednesday 11 January 14:29

Vertical Studies: Acoustic shadows and boundary reflections. by Signe Lidén and Espen Sommer Eide In this new collaborative work by Eide and Lidén, participants are invited on a journey to a 46 meter high former water tower in Sint Jansklooster. The tower has been re-imagined as a vertical field-lab where the artists will introduce their ongoing investigations into connections between sound, history, wind and weather. For this purpose they have constructed a range of special instruments for the recording and playback of sounds in the vertical dimension. The participants on this journey, will experience both live vertical studies outdoors and inside the towers spiral staircase, as a ascending vertical soundscape shaped by Eide and Lidén. BUY TICKETS In their collaborations, Lidén and Eide investigate how sound is shaped by and resonates in various environments. Their previous work, the critically acclaimed 2016 performance Altitude and History was staged in the hills above Nikel, Russia, as part of the Dark Ecology journey. Leading the audience on a performative field trip, they delved into the connections between wind and sound at various altitudes and its connections vertically to layers of local history. Sound movement through the atmosphere is affected by the wind profile, the open landscape and the winter temperatures, which can bend the wave front, causing sounds to be heard where they normally would not, or vice versa, creating acoustic shadows. Building upon this archive of altitudinal sounds from Nikel and other areas visited by the artists, they are now working on a new model of verticality. As an imaginative figure the artists experiment with sorting their archive of sounds by height. From the bottom of the oceans, to the planetary boundary layer with land formations and weather shaping the sounds, up through the clouds to the outer atmosphere. Signe Lidén is an artist based in Amsterdam and Bergen. Her installations and performances explore man-made landscapes and their resonance. She is interested in how places resonate; in memory and matter, through narratives and as ideological manifestations. Her installations are often a combination of sound recordings from specific places and sculptural objects, where the material of the objects becomes ‘speakers’. Her work ranges from sound installations and performance to more documentary forms such as sound essays and archives. She has made works for Dark Ecology, Center for PostNatural History, VOLT, Resonance Sound Art Network, Hordaland Art Center, Kunsthall Oslo and Ny Musikk, Touch Radio, and Interferenze New Arts Festival among others. Espen Sommer Eide is a musician and artist based in Bergen. With his music projects Phonophani and Alog, he has composed and performed a series of experimental electronic works. As an artist his works investigates subjects ranging from the linguistic, the historical and archival to the invention of new scientific and musical instruments for performative fieldwork. His works has been exhibited and performed at Bergen Kunsthall, Nikolaj Kunsthal, Manifesta Biennial, Henie Onstad Kunstsenter, Stedelijk Museum, GRM, De Halle Haarlem, Bergen Assembly, Sonic Acts, Mutek, Performa and more. Commissioned by Sonic Acts & Dark Ecology. Practical information & Tickets For this excursion we have arranged buses that will drive us to the water tower in Sint Jansklooster (1,5 hour drive). There are a limited amount of seats available, so be quick if you don't want to miss this exciting trip. Buses will leave from Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ. Tickets are €12,50 (limited amount of tickets are available). Sonic Acts Festival passe-partout holders can reserve their space free of charge by sending an mail to info[at]sonicacts[dot]com. Excursion 1 February (12:00) 11:45 meet up at Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ, Piet Heinkade 1 12:00 bus leaves to Sint Jansklooster 14:00 performance by Signe Lidén and Espen Sommer Eide 17:00 back in Amsterdam Excursion 23 February (12:00) 11:45 meet up at Paradiso, Weteringschans 6-8 12:00 bus leaves to Sint Jansklooster 14:00 performance by Signe Lidén and Espen Sommer Eide 17:00 back in Amsterdam Excursion 23 February (14:00) 13:45 meet up at Paradiso, Weteringschans 6-8 14:00 bus leaves to Sint Jansklooster 16:00 performance by Signe Lidén and Espen Sommer Eide 19:00 back in Amsterdam Address Sint Jansklooster Bezoekerscentrum de Wieden, Beulakerpad 14, 8326 AH St. Jansklooster BUY TICKETS The installation in the water tower is open for the public during visitors hours on 4, 11, 18 and 25 February. For more information see

Exhibition now open!

Thursday 26 January 16:29

The Noise of Being exhibition speculates on the strange and anxious state of being human. Works by five international artists – Justin Bennett, Zach Blas, Kate Cooper, Joey Holder, and Pinar Yoldas – function as portals into parallel realities, where the audience is invited to decipher weird histories and eerie futures, defy systems of power and control through queerness, explore synthetic alien biologies, take refuge within the hyperreal, and imagine other possible species and impossible environments. What does it mean to be human? While navigating the meshes that grow ever more complex, how can we deal with the noise that surrounds us? Will the introduction of more or advanced technology obscure our view, or help us to understand the world better? Because we are all entangled in a web of different encounters, can we strive for a world in which all (non)humans are equally (non)human? By envisioning fantastic and horrific narratives of an uncanny world with alternative modes of existence, the exhibition offers different strategies for understanding the noise of being. The exhibition is now open and can be visited until the end of the Sonic Acts Festival. The five emerging artists have made site-specific and immersive installations that are commissioned by or restaged especially for Sonic Acts and present their work in a series of events consisting of guided tours, workshops and artist talks in the weeks preceding the festival and during the festival conference. OPENING HOURS Tuesday — Sunday 12:00-18:00 hrs During the festival (23-26 Feb): 10:00 – 20:00 hrs GUIDED TOURS & EVENTS Wednesday 8 February 17:00-18:00 Guided Tour by Nicky Assmann (part of the curatorial team of Sonic Acts) 19-00-00:00 Taste The Doom at OT301 Wednesday 15 February 19:00-20:00 Guided Tour by Nicky Assmann 20:00-21:00 An evening with Joey Holder at Spui25 Wednesday 22 February 19:00-20:00 Guided Tour by Nicky Assmann TICKET PRICES 3 euros. Free entrance for students and Arti et Amicitiae members. Tickets can be bought at the door.


Saturday 4 February 19:37

As part of the Sonic Acts' pre-festival lineup, The Noise of Being exhibition artist Joey Holder will present her work and have a public conversation with fellow artist Nicky Assmann the evening of 15 February at Spui 25 in Amsterdam. Come join as Holder delves into her project, showcasing the research that inspired her to create a speculative pharmaceutical company and how this relates to the search and sampling of lifeforms at the depths of the Antarctic Ocean to inform an understanding of what it means, or could mean, to be human. Working with scientific and technical experts, Joey Holder makes immersive, multimedia installations that explore the limits of the human and how we experience non-human, natural and technological forms. Mixing elements of biology, nanotechnology and natural history against computer programme interfaces, screen savers and measuring devices, she suggests the impermanence and interchangeability of these apparently contrasting and oppositional worlds: ‘everything is a mutant and a hybrid’. For her upcoming touring exhibition at Sonic Acts — against the backdrop of the emergent field of computational biology and the Google Genomics project — Holder invented Ophiux, a speculative pharmaceutical company, imagining its use of genetic sequencing equipment and biological machines to collect data from humans and to sample data from other organisms. As she explains: ‘It seems as if everything has become a branch of computer science, even our own bodies probed, imaged, modelled and mapped: re-drawn as digital information’. For the evening's talk, Holder will take us through the research that inspired the project and show unseen footage from remotely operated vehicles at the bottom of the Antarctic Ocean. This presentation will demonstrate how scientists sample data from lifeforms from the deep sea to find insights into our own makeup and further our evolution. An Evening with Joey Holder Date: Wednesday 15 February 2017 Time: 20:00–21:30 Location: Spui 25, Amsterdam Tickets €3 ex. fee

Share your feedback!

Tuesday 7 March 15:58

What did you think of Sonic Acts Festival 2017 - The Noise of Being​? Share your thoughts while they're still fresh! If you attended The Noise of Being, help us evaluate the festival by participating in our online survey. It takes approximately 5–10 minutes to complete and your feedback will help us to improve future editions. By completing the survey you can also win one of three passe-partouts for next year's (22–25 Feb) Sonic Acts Academy 2018​. Take part in our survey Your feedback matters...

Atmospheric Feedback Loops 2017 CLIP from Susan Schuppli on Vimeo.

First artists announced!

Wednesday 7 December 14:21

We are very excited to announce the first batch of artists in the 17th edition of Sonic Acts Festival. This edition, titled The Noise of Being, includes an exhibition, conference, performances, film programme, workshops, masterclasses and club nights at Paradiso, Stedelijk Museum, Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ, Bimhuis, De Brakke Grond, OT301 and Arti et Amicitiae. Sonic Acts has also commissioned a series of new audiovisual works and sound installations. The full programme will be announced in January. ARTISTS CONFIRMED SO FAR Aïsha Devi, Armen Avanessian, Ben Russell, BJ Nilsen & Karl Lemieux, Christina Vantzou, Daniel Rourke, David Roden, EISBEIN, Emptyset, Erika Balsom, Erica Scourti, Ernst Karel, Espen Sommer Eide & Signe Lidén, Eyal Weizman, Geert-Jan Hobijn + Gijs Gieskes + Radboud Mens, HC Gilje, Helen Verran, Ingrid Burrington, Jamon Van Den Hoek, Jana Winderen, Jennifer Gabrys, JK Flesh, Joey Holder, Justin Bennett, Kabir Carter, Kara-Lis Coverdale + MFO, Keiko Prince, Killavesi + Adamn Killa, Lukas Marxt, Luke Fowler, Maria Hlavajova, Maryam Monalisa Gharavi, Matthew Biederman & Pierce Warnecke, MSHR, My Sword, Nick Axel, Nina Power, Noortje Marres, Organ Tapes, Peter Burr, Peter Frase, Pinar Yoldas, Rainer Kohlberger, Rick Dolphijn, Roly Porter + MFO, Sarah J. Whatmore, Sergei Tcherepnin, Susan Schuppli, VIOLENCE, Wendy Chun, Woody Sullender, Ytasha L. Womack and Zach Blas. Read press release

Announcing Progress Bar December

The third edition of Progress Bar will be on Saturday 17 December at Paradiso Noord, Tolhuistuin in Amsterdam. Continuing to support radical club culture and celebrate the work of vanguard music producers, filmakers, artists and activists, the December edition will include performances by DJ and NTS resident Cõvco; production duo God Colony with south London MC Flohio; Progress Bar resident Juha; experimental club artist Shalt; Shygirl with Glaswegian producer and Activia Benz signee Sega Bodega; and Wartone. Tickets on sale: Timetable: 20:30 Doors 21:00-21:30 Lecture by Aaron McLaughlin 21:30-22:00 God Colony + Flohio interviewed by Stefan Wharton 22:00-22:30 Shygirl + Sega Bodega interviewed by Jo Kali CLUB 22:30-23:15 Wartone (DJ) 23:15-00:00 Juha (DJ) 00:00-01:00 God Colony + Flohio (Live) 01:00-02:00 Shalt (DJ) 02:00-02:45 Shygirl + Sega Bodega (Live) 02:45-04:00 Cõvco (DJ)

Progress Bar S02E03 - Design by Michael Oswell
CÕVCO (DJ) London DJ and NTS Resident Cõvco plays a deadly selection of footwork, grime, rap, r’n’b and club music. Radio shows on NTS have featured guest mixes by artists and labels including Eaves, City, DJ Earl and Beatgatherers, peppered with tracks by DJ Manny, Vybz Kartel, Imaabs and others. Cõvco has also contributed guest mixes for Tropical Waste, Absolute Zero and Angel Food, featuring alongside Aimee Cliff, E.M.M.A. and DJ Haram. As a DJ, Cõvco is intent on creating an atmosphere, essence, feeling or vibe, and asks the listener to be free and share that space. GOD COLONY + FLOHIO (live) London-based production duo God Colony recently released their debut EP 'Where We Were'. The record tells stories about cities and the lives inside them, and the duo felt a necessity to communicate that sprawling, chaotic sense of place. God Colony have also collaborated with previous Progress Bar act GAIKA on the video for their track “SE16”. The duo have a penchant for raw productions bound for dark club spaces, laden with screaming sirens, steely drums and zipping synths. Flohio is a south London MC with verses that make your hair stand up. Described as jaw-droopingly good and an undeniable natural talent in front of a mic, Flohio takes industrial and concrete beats and turns them into something personal. Full of fire and ‘dont care’ attitude, Flohio's voice comes out blazing, with a punchy, straight-talking, no-holds-barred flow. Flohio will perform at Progress Bar together with production duo God Colony, where cavernous productions meet a no-nonsense new voice. JUHA (DJ) DJ and Viral Radio founder Juha plays internet dance music. Since 2014, Juha has been artistic director of Lighthouse in Brighton, uniting the worlds of culture and technology. In 2012, Juha won De Hallen Curatorial Scholarship for his proposal ‘DREAD - The Dizziness of Freedom’, resulting in an exhibition, festival and an accompanying book. As of 2016, Juha presents Viral Radio on ResonanceEXTRA, a monthly two-hour programme following new developments deep down the rabbit hole of internet music culture. SHALT (DJ) British DJ and producer SHALT released the EP 'Acheron' earlier this year on The Astral Plane. Described by The FADER as “thrilling in its lurches and ripples, too melodic and rhythmic to be noise, too prickly and unpredictable to be labeled straight-up dance music”, the EP explores the idea and effects of prolonging individual lives by technological means in relation to the sense of self and of being human. SHALT’s upcoming release, 'Inertia', is a larger-than-life slab of harsh electronics, hook-like riffs and knife’s edge sound design. SHALT has also produced edits of tracks by Kid Smpl, Rizzla, Tim Hecker and Lotic. SHYGIRL + SEGA BODEGA (live) Shygirl is south London vocalist, lyricist and merchant of mysteries, bars for the Sydenham skets, poetry for the lonely ones at the front of the bus - hoods up, tears streaming down. From the leafy suburbs with bloodstained concrete right out to the rest of the fucking planet. Watch yourself. Sega Bodega creates music equally fit for the club as for the movie theatre. The Glaswegian producer presents a monthly soundtrack series on London’s NTS Radio, pitting re-composed film scores head to head with emo-dancefloor ballads. Sega Bodega’s music is cinematic and emotionally weighty — 'Sportswear' EP, released last year on Activia Benz, is a suite of lush, emotional club tracks accompanied by a made-to-order tracksuit. Sega Bodega is also one half of duo Y1640 (with french producer coucou chloé) and has recently worked with rapper Mikey Dollaz and experimental electronic group WWWINGS. WARTONE (DJ) Wartone is a regular feature of Amsterdam’s underground club scene, presenting a series of parties that have featured Lisbent, Why Be, Toxe, Mechatok and The Punishment of Luxury, among others. Wartone co-curated NTS Radio’s Unthinkable show with J. G. Biberkopf, examining ideas and theories across platforms, and was featured on Wasabi Tapes’ '美しい (UTSUKUSHII)' compilation alongside artists such as Ssaliva, Niclas, Brood Ma and Malibu; tracks have also cropped up in mixes by Tropical Waste, YYAA Recordings and NODE. FREE ENTRANCE BEFORE 21:00 HRS Progress Bar S02E03 Date: Saturday 17 December 2016 Venue: Paradiso Noord, Tolhuistuin Amsterdam Times: 21:00–04:00 (doors open 20:30) Ticket sale starts Wednesday 19 October €10,00 presale / €12,50 at the door (card only) Free for Subbacultcha! members until midnight. Become a member: Attend on Facebook First up: Progress Bar 19 November (with Dedekind Cut, Jam City, Juha, patten en Sky H1).

Early Bird Tickets on sale!

Thursday 8 December 16:23

Buy Early Bird or Group tickets now! We are very excited to announce a new edition of the Sonic Acts festival, which will take place in Amsterdam from 23 to 26 February 2017 at Paradiso, Stedelijk Museum, de Brakke Grond, Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ, Bimhuis, OT301 and an exhibition from 1 till 26 February at Arti et Amicitiae. The festival includes a conference, exhibition, performances, concerts, installations, a film programme, workshops and masterclasses. A limited number of Early Bird Festival Passes are available at a discount price of €75 (regular price: €90). Group Festival Passes are also available at €65 for groups of 5 or more. Regular Festival Passes will go on sale in January.

UNFOLD #3: Reinterpreting the digital

Wednesday 23 November 15:36

UNFOLD #3: Reinterpreting the digital 1 December 2016 at LIMA in Amsterdam LIMA is pleased to announce the third public event within the framework of UNFOLD on 1 December, continuing with the research line mediation by reinterpretation. How to revisit digital and media artworks over time? This evening programme will concentrate on the consequences that are brought about when using the mode of mediation as an act of reinterpretation specifically in digital- and media artworks. The key lecturers will concentrate on the idea of variability; posing concerns about authorship and transparency while taking - often limiting institutional protocols into account. How can we negotiate preservation strategies with regard to these principles? Preserving media artworks is undeniably related to issues of technological obsolescence, networked connectivity and the interactive nature of digital art. A range of elements stretches the boundaries of traditional preservation methods and requires insights from both the artist and the curator to determinate the future viability of re-staging the piece. Most conservation practices are concentrating primarily on authenticity and functionality in relation to the rapid development of browsers, computer hardware and operating systems. How do we deal with the changes of digital or media artworks over time, and how can the performative aspect of a work be preserved? UNFOLD presents and researches reinterpretation not as a strategy that reinvents the originally intended, but rather rethinks it. On December 1st, artists, academics and conservators will revolve around several topics in regard to the reinterpretation of digital art, followed by a panel discussion. Programme: 19:00 - 20:00 - The evening will start with a presentation of the workshop (applications closed) Joost Rekveld and LIMA organised together with Sonic Acts in the context of the UNFOLD research project, in order to create a case study to reflect upon. For more info on the workshop see 20:00 - 21:30 lectures by: - Maaike Bleeker, professor of Theatre Studies in the Department of Media & Culture Studies at Utrecht University. - Sanneke Stigter, assistant Professor in Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Heritage at the University of Amsterdam. - Jan Robert Leegte, internet artist. 21:30 - 22:00 - Panel discussion moderated by Katja Kwastek, professor Modern and Contemporary Art at the Faculty of Humanities of VU Amsterdam. 22:00 - Drinks at the LAB111 Bar. For more info & updates, please keep an eye on the Facebook Event. Doors open: 6:30 PM Start: 7:00 PM until 10:00 PM 7.5 / 5 euro (pin only) This project is made possible by the Mondriaan Fund and Creative Industries Fund NL.

Sonic Acts Idenity Survey

Thursday 10 November 11:09

Studens from the Willem de Kooning Academie in Rotterdam conducted a study on the identity of Sonic Acts. Please help them by completing the survey. It takes up to 5 minutes and you have a chance at winning 2 tickets for Progress Bar on 17 December! Thank you!

Call for volunteers: Join the Sonic Acts team

Photo by Pieter Kers
Are you interested in a look behind the scenes? Do you want to be part of a great team and gain some invaluable work experience? We are looking for volunteers to support us during the upcoming Sonic Acts Festival in February with various tasks such as promotion, communication, photography, production and the information desk. Interested? Find out more about the opportunities for and benefits of volunteering on our website or get in touch with us at volunteer[at]sonicacts[dot]com. We look forward to welcoming you to the team! Apply Now! We are looking for: Promotion support Pre-production support A/V documentation (video/ photo - professional camera needed) Production assistance Audience handling Technical assistance Runner What can we offer? - Free entrance to the Sonic Acts Festival - Valuable (net)working experience - Travel support within the Netherlands - A meal during your shift - Free tickets to concerts for promotional work We need your help to make the festival a success. Apply by filling in the volunteer application form. If you have any questions do not hesitate to contact us at: volunteer[at]sonicacts[dot]com.

Sonic Acts part of VPRO Tegenlicht

The prize-winning Dutch television documentary series, VPRO Tegenlicht, joined Sonic Acts on the last Dark Ecology Journey in June this year and interviewed Timothy Morton. The documentary, which focuses on the future of art, will be broadcasted on Dutch national television on Sunday 9 October, at 21:05 hrs on NPO 2. On Wednesday 12 October there will be a Tegenlicht MeetUp event at Pakhuis de Zwijger where we will expand on this topic.

VPRO Tegenlicht
Watch programme

Van Gogh Museum invites Sonic Acts

On 28 October Sonic Acts presents an evening about Dark Ecology as part of the Vincent on Friday series at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. The research and commissioning project Dark Ecology (2014–2016) is about rethinking the connections between humans and nonhumans, and reimagining our connections to the Earth and nature. Many of the works created for Dark Ecology can be seen as a new form of landscape art, revealing unexpected or hidden aspects of the landscape and our relation to it. As such they connect to the current Impressions of Landscape exhibition at the Van Gogh Museum about the discovery of the landscape by painters Daubigny, Van Gogh and Monet.

Joost Rekveld reflects on his participation in the three Dark Ecology research journeys (2014–2016) in the Barents Region. Sound artist Jana Winderen talks about her recent works, Pasvikdalen (2015) and Iskanten (2016), that deal with ecological issues in the Arctic. Signe Lidén’s krysnin/conflux (2014) is a ‘sound-measurement’ of the border-zone between Norway and Russia using a bow and arrow with recording devices and a weather balloon with a camera. HC Gilje’s Barents (Mare Incognitum) (2015) shows a slowly rotating view of the Barents Sea, and BJ Nilsen & Karl Lemieux perform unearthed (2014), an audiovisual work using materials collected around Nikel, where the sparse beauty of the Arctic landscape meets industrial decay and heavy pollution. The evening is moderated by Rosa Menkman, and accompanied by DJ-set by Yon Eta. Programme Guided tours l Daubigny, Monet, Van Gogh 7 pm in English and 8 pm in Dutch, start at the Entrance Hall Information Desk Delve into the museum’s new exhibition: Daubigny, Monet, Van Gogh: Impressions of Landscape. Discover why mid-19th-century artists headed into nature and check out our version of Daubigny’s renowned studio boat. Talks l Joost Rekveld and Jana Winderen, with introduction by Rosa Menkman 7:15 pm - 8:30 pm, Rietveld Room Artist Joost Rekveld introduces you to the world of Dark Ecology. Jana Winderen uses ambient noises to create art, capturing an otherwise invisible world. This evening, Jana will let you hear her work and personally explain precisely what you’re listening to. Film l Signe Lidén: krysning/пересечение/conflux 7:30 pm -9:30 pm, Auditorium Signe Lidén captures various landscapes in the Norwegian/Russian border area from a unique perspective: during her field trips, she attaches a weather balloon with a camera to her backpack, which sways in the wind as it records the surroundings. Performance l BJ Nilsen & Karl Lemieux: Unearthed 8:45 pm - 9:30 pm, Rietveld Hall A performance by artists Karl Lemieux and Benny Nilsen in which analogue film recordings of the landscape are placed alongside and on top of each other, creating a new, layered composition. The performance is accompanied by live soundscapes. Video | HC Gilje l Barents (Mare Incognitum) 7 pm - 9:30 pm, Rietveld Hall Thanks to his rotating camera, above is below and east is west in HC Gilje’s productions. Check out the images he shot of the Barents Sea from a constantly changing perspective. DJ l Yon Eta 7 pm - 9:30 pm, Entrance Hall This winner of the Grote Prijs (a major Dutch award acknowledging talented new musicians) is characterised by his maximalist approach to music. Maximum sound, but minimal production processes. Yon Eta has previously collaborated with Amsterdam institutions including Foam and the EYE Filmmuseum. Yon regularly performs at Sonic Acts events such as Progress Bar, which is organised in collaboration with Lighthouse. Not music to work up a sweat to, but music for minimal movement. More information and tickets

The Maryanne Amacher Archive Seminar

The Maryanne Amacher Archive: ‘Mini Sound Series’ Seminar A Sonic Acts collaboration with Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam & Blank Forms 12 – 13 December 2016 in Amsterdam The two-day seminar presented by Amy Cimini, Bill Dietz, and Robert The offers a selection of documents, images, and audio from various iterations of Maryanne Amacher’s THE MINI SOUND SERIES as well as works leading to its development, all recently digitised by the Maryanne Amacher Archive. It will be an intensive knowledge-exchange opportunity for those interested in Amacher’s work and in methodologies of post-Cagean sonic art. Following the second day of the seminar, a public listening session of additional unpublished Amacher audio will be presented as a practical elaboration for seminar participants, and as an introductory overview for the general public.

Maryanne Amacher - ‘the best kept secret in American New Music’ (The Wire, 1999)
Background For its festival in February 2017 Sonic Acts collaborates with the Maryanne Amacher Archive (US), Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam (NL), and Blank Forms (US) on a programme dedicated to the work of Maryanne Amacher (1938–2009). Amacher is best known for her groundbreaking acoustic art that staged entire buildings and offered listeners exciting new ways of hearing. Following studies with Karlheinz Stockhausen, Amacher’s development of otoacoustic-based music with the help of Marvin Minsky’s Triadex Muse, her seminal telematic City Links series, and her collaborations with John Cage and the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, in the late 1970s and early 1980s Amacher sought out a format that would best allow visitors to navigate her large-scale sound works. This led to THE MINI SOUND SERIES, a ‘serialized musical continuity’. Writing about this format, Amacher noted, ‘I wanted the kind of engaging format television has developed [...], an evolving sound work “to be continued”, as distinguished from a continuous installation, or traditional concert genre.’ As these rigorously site-specific installations were almost impossible to document (the impact of the sound could not be captured by audio recordings on CD or LP), these key works have yet to be discovered by a wider audience. As Amacher’s work anticipated many concerns and interests of 21st century sound art, Sonic Acts and Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam find a re-assessment and re-interpretation of her work of the utmost importance. The overall programme will consist of a two-day seminar and listening session in 2016 as an intensive introduction to Amacher’s work and ideas, a two-week rehearsal period in 2017 with artists who will work toward a re-interpretation of Amacher’s MINI SOUND SERIES, and immediately following the rehearsals, a series of performances at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. Enrollment This masterclass is aimed at artists, curators, scientists, and cultural practitioners with an interest in sound art, experimental music, psychoacoustics and architectural acoustics, non-standard art presentation formats, time-based media, and non-linguistic semiotics. Dedicated novices and experts are welcome, no institutional affiliation is required. Please send a biography and a short statement outlining your motivation to participate to workshop[@]sonicacts[.]com. Deadline for applications is 21 November 2016. Participants must attend the full two-day programme. Late or incomplete applications will not be considered. A detailed schedule and more information about how to prepare for the seminar (including unpublished documents by Amacher) will be sent to the selected participants. Fee Participants pay a €40 contribution. Lunches will be provided.
Maryanne Amacher (photo by Peggy Weil)
Maryanne Amacher Maryanne Amacher was born in 1938 in Kane, Pennsylvania. She enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania in 1955, where she studied with George Rochberg, and Karlheinz Stockhausen during his tenure in Philadelphia in 1964 and 1965. After her work at University of Pennsylvania, Amacher went on to hold a series of fellowships at the University of Illinois’ Studio for Experimental Music, MIT’s Center for Advance Visual Studies (CAVS), SUNY Buffalo, the Capp Street Project in San Francisco, and many others, also internationally. In the late 1960s, while at SUNY-Buffalo, Amacher pioneered what she called ‘long distance music’, or telematic, site-related works that would later crystallise into her renowned City Links series. During her time as a fellow at CAVS (1972–76) she began developing her ‘ear tone’ (otoacoustic-based) music with the help of Marvin Minsky’s Triadex Muse, a synthesizer and compositional tool utilising principles of artificial intelligence. While at MIT, her extensive listening research was also profoundly influenced by a continuous, four-year long, live feed from Boston Harbour to her studio via a dedicated phone line. After meeting John Cage through Lejaren Hiller at the University of Illinois in 1968, she went on to collaborate with Cage in the mid-1970s on Lecture on the Weather, and later created Close Up, the sound component of Cage’s Empty Words. Amacher’s Remainder was commissioned for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company piece Torse, and later the Charles Atlas film of the same name. In the late 1970s and early 1980s she developed presentational models for how her subsequent work should be staged: Music for Sound- Joined Rooms and the Mini Sound Series. Amacher also spent the early 1980s working on the material for a multi-part drama originally imagined for TV and radio simulcast called Intelligent Life. While never fully realised, Intelligent Life reveals much of her thinking on music and the advancement of potentialities for future listeners, transcending the social and physiological limitations of music as we know it. Her work in the 1990s continued largely internationally in Europe and Japan. In the US she was commissioned to compose a large-scale work for the Kronos Quartet, received a Guggenheim Fellowship, performed at Woodstock ’94, and released her first CD on Tzadik. In the 2000s, she participated in the Whitney Biennale, joined the faculty of Bard College’s Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts, released a second CD on Tzadik, and continued to work internationally. In 2005 she received Ars Electronica’s Golden Nica, their highest award. She died in Kingston, NY after sustaining a head injury and a subsequent stroke during the summer of 2009.

IMAfiction #06 13 Maryanne Amacher from IMA on Vimeo.

The Maryanne Amacher Archive Since its inception after Amacher’s death in 2009, The Maryanne Amacher Archive has taken up the challenge of formulating a posthumous structure for Amacher’s oeuvre in keeping with the radicality of the works themselves. Amacher’s lifelong pursuit of material intelligence, of a practice of ‘listening mind’, stands in timely contradistinction to many of the prevalent dichotomies that populate the contemporary sonic discourse. Locating listening in the nexus of body, mind, and history – in a listening subject’s encounter with a world – Amacher’s practice continually pursued a fugitive rigour which staged the encounter of emergent subjects and objects. Understanding Amacher’s work as a body of living thought provides the current archival initiative with a mission in essential proximity to forms of pedagogy and interpretation as an extension of Amacher’s own investigative methodology, now reflexively mapped back onto her own materials. As of 2015, the contents of the archive have been inventoried, and a partial digitisation of print materials has been achieved. The Maryanne Amacher Archive has collaborated in public presentations at Ludlow 38 (New York, curated by Axel Wieder and Tobi Maier), the DAAD Galerie (Berlin, also curated by Axel Wieder), Tate Modern (London), the Sao Paolo Biennial, and at the Bonner Kunstverein. As of 2016, over 20,000 documents have been digitised. Approximately 100 of reel-to-reel audio tapes are currently being digitised, and a handful of Amacher’s obscure video works have likewise been transferred to digital formats. Bill Dietz Composer and writer Bill Dietz, born in Bisbee, Arizona, and based in Berlin since 2003, is one of the supervisors of the Maryanne Amacher Archive. Since 2007 he has been the artistic director of Ensemble Zwischentöne, and co-chair of Music/Sound in Bard College’s MFA programme since 2012. He co-founded and edits Ear │ Wave │ Event with Woody Sullender. In 2015 Edition Solitude released his monograph 8 Tutorial Diversions, 2009-2014, with works listeners perform themselves in domestic settings. He is currently Guest Professor of Sound at the Academy of Media Arts (Cologne). Robert The Robert The is a New York artist known for his altered book pieces and signage, with works in many public collections including MOMA, LA MOCA, Yale, and The Walker Art Center. He initiated the Maryanne Amacher Archive together with Micah Silver in 2009; Bill Dietz joined them not long afterwards. Amy Cimini Amy Cimini is a historian and performer of music from the 20th and 21st centuries. She earned her Ph.D. in Historical Musicology in 2011 from New York University. Prior to herappointment at UC San Diego, she held an Andrew W. Mellon Post-Doctoral Teaching Fellowship in Music Theory at the University of Pennsylvania from 2011 to 2013 as well as a visiting position in Music Theory at the College of William and Mary from 2010 to 2011. She is interested how performers, composers and audiences practice and theorise listening as an expression of community, sociability and political alliance, with a special focus on improvisation, sound art and installation practices. Cimini is also an active violist working across improvised, rock, noise and contemporary classical genres.

Workshop by Joost Rekveld as part of UNFOLD

Workshop by Joost Rekveld Sensory Augmentation and Obstruction As part of UNFOLD, organised by LIMA & Sonic Acts 29 November – 1 December 2016 in Amsterdam

Telc - The Vasulkas, 1974
There is a long history of thinking about technology and media as extensions of the body. According to this view, a hammer is an extension of our hand, a car an extension of our feet, and a telescope an extension of our eyes. Science has developed instruments to access phenomena we cannot perceive, since they are too small, too large, too fast, too slow, or because they involve forms of energy which are beyond the scope of our senses.
This workshop will focus on our senses and investigate the artistic potential of augmenting and obstructing them.
Joost Rekveld will introduce different schools of thought that deal with human perception, from ancient concepts of perception as a meeting of influences, to cognitive psychology and more recent ideas such as enactivism. Inspiration is taken from animal senses that, compared to human senses, have a range that is sometimes refined to the most basic imaginable. The workshop will provide examples of attempts to understand such non-human perspectives, as the sensory worlds of most animals are almost completely inaccessible to us. It will also consider research into the development of artificial eyes for blind people and think about cyborgs and the intimate relations between humans and technological devices. The group will examine projects by artists and designers who address, for example, the web of invisible relations within an urban environment, or reveal things we cannot normally perceive. A discussion about whether it is even possible to understand things humans have never perceived before will be part of the workshop as well. Using wearable devices, participants will experiment with the perception of our surroundings. Taking inspiration from two early video works by Steina and Woody Vasulka (Telc and Reminiscence, both from 1974), participants will translate the output of various types of sensors to real-time visuals. As a practical starting point Android phones in cardboard ‘virtual reality’ viewers will be used, with the possibility of extending the interference with other senses and devices. An important aspect of the workshop is the use by participants of their self-built devices during short field trips around the city, whereby they will become aware of one’s self-inflicted sensory modifications: How does modifying one’s sensory system affect interaction with one’s environment? Do we discover things we did not know before? A small reader with texts will be made available to participants. Large Android phones are welcome. There will be a very informal, semi-public presentation at the end of the workshop. Enrolment This workshop is aimed at art students and emerging artists, but is also open to people with different backgrounds and motivations. Up to 15 people can participate. To apply please send a short biography, a motivation why you would like to attend, why you are interested in research-through-practice, and your expectations to info[at]li-ma.nland workshop[at], with ‘application workshop Joost Rekveld’ in the subject line. The deadline for application is Monday 7 November 2016. Participants must attend the full programme. Late or incomplete applications will not be considered. A detailed schedule, a small reader and more information about how to prepare for the workshop will be sent to the selected participants. Fee Participants pay a contribution of €30. Lunches will be provided. About Joost Rekveld Joost Rekveld (NL) is motivated by what we can learn from a dialogue with machines. In his work, he explores the sensory effects of systems of his own design, often inspired by forgotten corners in the history of science and technology. His films, installations and live performances are composed documentaries of the worlds opened by such systems. In their sensuality they are an attempt to reach an intimate and embodied understanding of our technological world. About UNFOLD UNFOLD is a new one-year research project conducted by LIMA and a collaborative, international research network that examines re-interpretation as emerging practice for the preservation of media artworks. UNFOLD researches processes of documentation and conservation of performance and post-net and digital art in relation to the live-ness of dance, theatre and music, which have ensured their survival and transmission through live performance. Bearing in mind that media and digital art share a number of characteristics with performance art, UNFOLD asks if we can develop new standards and techniques within media art preservation strategies by using reinterpretation to capture the hybrid, contextual and live qualities of an original piece, rather than proposing an ongoing process of changing platforms and operating systems. As part of UNFOLD, artist Joost Rekveld will re-interpret two works by The Vasulkas. Workshop by Joost Rekveld Sensory Augmentation and Obstruction As part of UNFOLD, organised by LIMA & Sonic Acts 29 November – 1 December 2016 in Amsterdam

patten confirmed for Progress Bar November

After summer Progress Bar is back with monthly shows at Paradiso Noord, Tolhuistuin in Amsterdam. The next episode on 19 November will include the future-facing experimental duo patten, based in London. They will present work from their new album with an incredible new live performance. Other artists performing that night are Sky H1, who performed at the Sonic Acts Academy earlier this year, Dedekind Cut, who just released his first album on NON Worldwide and Jam City, the artist alias of Jack Latham, producer, songwriter and musician from London, TTB from London, Kate Cooper and Progress Bar resident Juha.

Progress Bar S02E02 - Design by Michael Oswell
Tickets on sale DEDEKIND CUT (DJ) New York based experimental artist Fred Welton Warmsley iii (also known as Lee Bannon) is releasing new music under his new moniker Dedekind Cut (pronounced “Ded-da-kend Cut”). Dedekind Cut’s music draws out the dark calm of Coil, in the guise a modern approach to noise, new age and ambient music. Under various aliases, including Lee Bannon and ¬ b (meaning “not Bannon”), Warmsley has released music on Ninja Tune and Hospital Productions, as well as Chino Amobi, Nkisi and Angel-Ho’s NON Worldwide label. Dedekind Cut’s music points to issues of race and community in the independent electronic-sphere. JAM CITY (LIVE) Jam City is the alias of British producer and DJ Jack Latham. Active since 2010, Jam City’s music takes cues from UK club culture while blurring lines between house, grime and art-pop. Debut album ‘Classical Curves’, released in 2012, received excellent critical reception for its glossy, alien-sounding club tropes, while 2015’s ‘Dream a Garden’, which was inspired by the 2011 England riots, continued to expand on Latham’s socio-political conscience. Jam City’s music engages with the effects of neoliberalism and the personal effects of living under capitalism. Latham has also produced music with others including American singer Kelela. JUHA (DJ) DJ and Viral Radio founder Juha plays internet dance music. Since 2014, Juha has been artistic director of Lighthouse in Brighton, uniting the worlds of culture and technology. In 2012, Juha won De Hallen Curatorial Scholarship for his proposal ‘DREAD - The Dizziness of Freedom’, resulting in an exhibition, festival and an accompanying book. As of 2016, Juha presents Viral Radio on ResonanceEXTRA, a monthly two-hour programme following new developments deep down the rabbit hole of internet music culture. KATE COOPER (TALK) Liverpool native Kate Cooper employs a visual language termed ‘hypercapitalism’ while addressing the politics of labour and digital imagery. Informed by feminism and an interest in labour and collaboration, Cooper posits the aesthetics of advertising, television, commercial photography and computer-generated imagery to question representations of femininity in an age of consumption and digital technology, as well as exploring alternative forms of labour-structures within art practices. Cooper is co-director of the artist-run collaborative Auto Italia South East (est. 2007) and was winner of the Ernst Schering Foundation Art Award 2014. PATTEN (live) patten is a future-facing experimental duo, known in underground circles for their live performances. They have toured widely with intense audiovisual shows. This autumn they released Ψ (Psi), their new album on Warp, melding ultra-modern deconstructed club music with post-punk industrial, multiple strains of pop & hi-tech electronics. For Progress Bar, they will present work from their new album with an incredible new live performance featuring hyper-programmed lasers, drum machine hardware, LEDs, heavy smoke, live vocals, strobing visuals, oceanic bass, & HD projections framing their famed tripped out stage presence. SKY H1 (live) The music of Belgian producer SKY H1 is the result of myriad influences and cultures colliding. Drawing upon everything from R&B and instrumental grime to ambient and electronica, her music is both brutal and sublime in equal measure. Having made her debut on the Berlin label Creamcake in 2015, SKY H1 signed to Codes in 2016. Her debut ‘Motion’ EP has been a critical success, fusing ambient and grime into moving productions based on renouncing personal turmoil and stepping into something new. SKY H1 has also collaborated with emergent London collective Bala Club and previously performed at Sonic Acts TTB (DJ) London DJ and NTS resident TTB (otherwise known as Tabitha Thorlu-Bangura) presents a monthly radio show of dreamlike dance music, with a focus on new offerings and weird invocations. Her shows have evolved from label showcases featuring the likes of Principe and 1080p to personal revelations of her obsession with colour and pattern in a haphazard listening experience. Whatever the genre, TTB’s favourite kind of club music makes clever use of silence and texture. For Progress Bar, TTB brings her eclectic blend of club callings; expect to hear anything from Terry Riley and Mica Levi to Progress Bar alumni like Yves Tumor and Endgame. Progress Bar S02E02 Date: Saturday 19 November 2016 Venue: Paradiso Noord, Tolhuistuin Amsterdam Times: 21:00–04:00 (doors open 20:30) Ticket sale starts Saturday 8 October €10,00 presale / €12,50 at the door (card only) - Free entrance before 21:00 HRS Free for Subbacultcha! members until midnight. Become a member: Attend on Facebook

Homage to Dick Raaijmakers at ICMC

After thirty years, the internationally renowned conference on computer music ICMC (International Computer Music Conference) is returning to the Netherlands. The conference is organised by Gaudeamus Muziekweek and HKU Music and Technology, and will be held in Utrecht from 12 to 16 September. On Tuesday September 13 ICMC invites Thomas Ankersmit & Tarik Barri for a special performance of 'Homage to Dick Raaijmakers' and 'Versum' at TivoliVredenburg in Utrecht. For this electronic music performance, sound artist and composer Thomas Ankersmit delves into the ideas and instruments of a Dutch titan of electronic music, Dick Raaijmakers (1930–2013). Ankersmit’s homage was commissioned for this edition of Sonic Acts Academy 2016 and premiered during the opening night at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. As a work of contemporary music in its own right, Ankersmit’s homage re-evaluates Raaijmakers’ concepts of sound, composition and spatial experience in a technologically more advanced era. Ankersmit mainly uses similar means as Raaijmakers: tone and noise generators, modulators, filters, mixers, amplifiers and speakers. However, instead of Raaijmakers’ usual method of editing with magnetic tape, Ankersmit uses computer software. Tarik Barri is an audiovisual composer based in Utrecht, the Netherlands. Reflecting his interests in programming, drawing and composing into a coherent multimedial discipline, he developed and uses software that merges audio and visuals into a new audiovisual reality. Together with Monolake, Tarik Barri was part of Sonic Acts XIII: The Poetics of Space and took place in 2010. Tonight Barri will presents his solo multimedia work Versum. More information and tickets Homage to Dick Raaijmakers is commissioned by Sonic Acts Academy 2016. It will go on tour in the Netherlands and Belgium. September 13 - International Computer Music Conference, Utrecht, Netherlands - solo, Homage to Dick Raaijmakers November 11 - November Music, Den Bosch, Netherlands - solo, Homage to Dick Raaijmakers November 12 - Ancienne Belgique, Brussels, Belgium - solo, Homage to Dick Raaijmakers

Into The Great Wide Open invites Joris Strijbos

Wednesday 31 August 11:16

Into The Great Wide Open 2016, the annual festival on the island of Vlieland, invited Rotterdam-based artist Joris Strijbos to present his kinetic sound-and-light installation IsoScope, commissioned by Sonic Acts for Dark Ecology. The festival starts tomorrow (1-7 September). IsoScope consists of multiple robotic wind objects that interact with each other and with the landscape to perform a generative composition manifesting itself through emergent behaviour. Strijbos wanted to create an outdoor man-made phenomenon – an abstract sound-and-light entity – which, like most natural phenomena, can only be experienced under specific weather conditions. The work can be seen as a proposition for a new kind of machinic and artificial life. Though Strijbos spent a lot of time on the technical and functional development of the work, IsoScope is foremost a sensorial experience in which the audience can wander through the rotating lights and a constantly changing sonic cloud. More information about IsoScope Into The Great Wide Open

Progress Bar 15 October

After a summer break Progress Bar returns to Amsterdam on October 15th with special talks, live performances and DJ-sets. You can expect futuristic club music performed live by Amnesia Scanner (new AV show), pop and ambient experimentalism by Bordeaux-based, Angola-raised artist Malibu and DJ sets by Staycore producers Toxe, young computer artist ALX9696 and Mechatok and resident Juha. Spatial design by Marco Broeders (Co2RO). There will be talks by Michael Oswell (art director and graphic designer), Toxe, Alx9696 and Mechatok (Staycore) and a lecture by Ash Sarkar about Brexit, the borders crisis, and Trump vs Clinton.

Buy Ticket
Amnesia Scanner creates futuristic club music that crosses boundaries. Their debut release AS LIVE [][][][][] blends fresh rapidly changing rhythm patterns found in bass music subgenres with dramatic outbursts of mangled samples. Amnesia Scanner will be performing a new live AV set during Progress Bar. “Amnesia Scanner are meanwhile likely to be one of the cornerstone acts in 2016’s electronic underground.” The Guardian If there are any barriers left between mainstream pop and ambient experimentalism, Malibu is passing through them like water. With a quiet, gauzy intensity that finds emotional power in angel choirs, rushing winds and Auto-tuned vertigo, Malibu’s productions (under that name as well as her side project DJ Lostboi) bask in an otherworldly sincerity that sidesteps nostalgic irony. Streamlining teen pop and video game soundtracks into the Brian Eno tradition has proven to be a rich vein of creativity for the Bordeaux-based, Angola-raised artist: A pair of early 2016 mixes, The Doomed Life of a Lie and The Magic Key, reveal a deep knowledge of aesthetics to play with and the promise of a wide star-field of genres to sink into. Toxe is a central figure within Staycore – a new ground-breaking label from Stockholm. The talented producer from Gothenburg crafts tracks sounding like the journey through a stone-cold cave as portrayed in the video for her track Determina. It’s scary and seductive at the same time. The Swedish artist has so far released just one EP on Staycore and a collection of mixes but their quality make you beg for more and there’s certainly more to come from Toxe in the following months. Her recent insane Slipknot edit shows that you can expect just about anything. Young computer artist, DJ and web intellectual, Alex Dabo aka ALX9696, who represents the upcoming Stockholm label Staycore alongside his peer Toxe, prefers ‘music that feels like running through a forest crying’, according to Stockholm-based alternative R&B podcast Jenny & Vänner. Rather than tying himself to one particular style, Alex ‘Killuminati Burnbabylon’ Dabo describes himself as ‘an individual in constant evolution, deconstructing myself, going through identity crises daily’. Timur Tokdemir aka Mechatok hails from Munich but now calls Berlin his home. This rising producer is a crucial member of Staycore – Stockholm’s groundbreaking crew disturbing the order of the music industry. Mechatok is also a regular at Bala Club – London's notorious club night and label run by Uli K and Kamixlo. Buy Tickets Attend on Facebook Progress Bar #5 Date: Saturday 15 October 2016 Venue: Paradiso Noord, Tolhuistuin Amsterdam Times: 21:00–04:00 (doors open 20:30) Tickets: €10,00 presale / €12,50 at the door (card only)

Looking back on Progress Bar in Amsterdam: More than Music

Monday 27 June 15:40

Looking back on the first four editions of Progress Bar in Amsterdam which took place at Paradiso Noord / Tolhuistuin between January and June of this year, resident interviewer Jo Kali recounts her experiences and positions these nights, which are characterised by the combination of talks and performances, within the contemporary (cultural) landscape. The packed Line-up included the likes of Abyss X, Aimee Cliff, Brood Ma, Crystallmess, Elysia Crampton, Endgame, False Witness, Fis, GAIKA, ITAL TEK, Juha, Kamixlo, King Midas Sound, Lafawndah, Ling, Nidia Minaj, Nkisi, PYUR, Sami Baha, Young Echo & Yves Tumor.

Progress Bar: More than Music Rewinding through Amsterdam’s first editions of Progress Bar is a little overwhelming. A stage in a small pocket of Amsterdam featured some of the most relevant, interesting and important acts of the day. Fader’s Aimee Cliff initiated the series with a sobering discussion about the future of London’s nightlife; how gentrification is slowly stampeding over the city’s cultural identity – a reality that resonates viscerally with many of us outside of London. Since that talk, there’s been physical, heart-breaking violence. An attack not just on the individual right to freedom in a club, but on targeted identities’ rights to even exist. The violence and injustice that happens outside makes everything that happened inside Progress Bar imminently more affecting. Progress Bar was a challenge to this age old, utopian design of music as a space in which we can all escape and find sanctity. The dance floor is a meeting ground where we are all equal – but only for a few hours, and only under the shelter of darkness. Progress Bar started a process that cast light on important questions rather than only providing us with temporary shelter from them. Creating a safe space for artists, and us as an audience, has been subsidiary to the weight Progress Bar has gained from actively provoking us all into discussing why these safe spaces need to exist in the first place, and the systems they feed on, both inside and outside a club. In order to do this, it focuses on the humanistic aspect of music, and invites the artists share their narratives. Music is all to often abstracted from the context from which it emerges. In the club environment we reduce music to a function, and we forget that music is always – ALWAYS – personal. For some, their music is reconciliation, a way of posing questions or seeking answers or imagining a future. Listening to their words as well as their music creates empathy but it’s also an important practice for ensuring their ideas survive through their work, rather than being co-opted and refigured into our own. In a time when lineups regularly feel stagnant and dull – reminders of their need to diversify – there’s an urging parallel thread that we don’t even have the language to do justice to the things we sometimes want to talk about – appropriation, culture, identity, nationality. Do we really still need to localise someone’s nationality and musical genre in order to understand them? How do these terms help us when online communities often appear to overtake the conversation? Can we still discuss the technical details of electronic music in such a dehumanising way without recognising them as an extension of the artist – is there a way of taking them in their context and re-humanising them? How can we identify that nexus within music that allows us to face up to matters we otherwise avoid – what in that space gives us the means to ask or imagine what we otherwise find difficult to put into words or pictures? There’s a vitality around Progress Bar in translating these issues from sounds to realisation and action and in the creation of a community that shares these interests. But, beyond the heavy words, the sounds themselves are enough to build a community – praising the multiple realms music is being projected into. There’s no way to sum up or bind the acts musically, apart from their tendency towards experimentation, innovation and careful composition. Progress Bar is a portal to a fascinating global music scene that is constantly refreshing our perceptions of what is possible/allowed in music. Jo Kali

Diary: Dark Ecology Journey 2016

Thursday 23 June 14:19

by Arie Altena Here are some initial impressions of the third Dark Ecology Journey, mostly written on the spot by Arie Altena, one of the curators of the project. The text is quite rough and at times personal, more diary-style than factual reporting.

Dark Ecology 2016 (Final HD) from Sonic Acts on Vimeo.

Wednesday 8 June I’m looking forward to the third Dark Ecology journey, especially because we’ll stay at the Svanhovd conference centre in Svanvik in the middle of Pasvik Valley. And I’m particularly keen about walking in the hills around Nikel, and visiting the ruins of the Kola Superdeep, which I’ve written about, but never seen with my own eyes. The weather in Kirkenes is bad. Our departure from Oslo is delayed, and it’s unclear if we will be able to land in Kirkenes. The alternative is the closest airport, plus a bus drive of six hours. But we’re lucky. The fog lifted for a moment. We land in Kirkenes on time. It’s raining, three degrees above zero with a strong wind. An earlier flight was diverted to an airport ’close by’, those of our group who were aboard that flight had to endure the six-hour bus ride in addition to their flight. That’s better than the plane that left from Tromsø: it was diverted to Oslo and five people spent the night there. In the bus we meet the participants who were already in Kirkenes. We head straight to Svanvik. After a hearty dinner we don our snowmobile suits. We didn’t really need them on our November trip, but we certainly need them now for our outdoors fireside welcome. Imagine 30 people in the rain wearing snowmobile suits around a fire, grilling sausages and drinking. The light is grey. The light is already playing tricks on us. It’s completely overcast. The light hardly changes. It could be late afternoon, early morning, or one o’clock at night. The light changes you, and changes how you connect to your own body and the world around you.
I’m particularly keen about walking in the hills around Nikel, and visiting the ruins of the Kola Superdeep, which I’ve written about, but never seen with my own eyes.
Thursday 9 June Get up. Overcast, clouds in various hues of grey and white. Breakfast with a view over the green Pasvik Valley. The morning lecture is by Heather Davis. While she talks about plastics, Timothy Morton types constantly. His quick summary and comments are already online when she ends. What I remember vividly from the lecture is the idea of a ‘geology’ of plastics, and the idea (which she derives from a First Nations anthropologist whose name escapes me now) that the First Nations already have lived through the Apocalypse. Thursday afternoon is for the ‘curated walks’. I’ve signed up for the ‘dark heritage’ tour. It’s the longest tour, and the furthest away. We travel about 70 kilometres by car, south along the Pasvik River almost to the Finnish border, to one of the spots where archaeologists have excavated ancient Sami fireplaces. They’ve been unearthed at three locations, and are dated to about 800 years ago. The location we visit has about ten fireplaces in a line, marked by stones arranged in a perfect rectangle. Our guide is a logger. He has lived at this spot in the valley since 1964; it’s just past Vaggatem, where he set up the campsite at the Pasvik River where we have coffee and waffles later on. He knows the area well, and hosted the archaeologists while they were doing the excavations. Here in the Pasvik Valley, there is no visible sign of pollution or industry, just nature everywhere. Soft mosses, lichen, birch trees with light green leaves, pines, all sorts of flowers, grasses, little ponds. I’m a bit concerned that this might create the contrast of ‘beautiful Norway’ versus ‘polluted Russia’. Here you don’t see the mines or the Nikel smelter. I hope the nature in the hills of Nikel, and around the Kola Superdeep will be equally impressive. Yet in Nikel one cannot escape the presence of mining, and the smelter will almost always be visible in the distance. The Russian side the Pasvik Valley is just as lovely, but because it’s the border zone it’s less accessible. Later on we hike 3 kilometres to the ruins of a prisoner-of-war camp in the woods, just a small barbed-wired plot where you can see the small circular wall that enclosed the tent where the POWs (Russians forced to work as loggers) slept. It’s surprising how present history is in the stories about this region. The other side of the river used to be Finnish. There was a ferry between Svanvik (Norway) and Salmijarvi (now Russia). Many people were forced to move after the Second World War and never returned to what they considered their home ground. Back in Svanhovd we enjoy Dmitry Morozov’s (aka :vtol:) installation Lessophon. Rolls of tape hang from the ceiling and slowly unroll. Contact mikes are attached to the rolls. The mics are connected to an FM transmitter which transmits the sounds mixed with sound created by an algorithm (generated using data from a camera that measures the height of the rolls of tape). Small radios are tuned to 99FM and transmit the sound. It sounds even better on an iPhone-FM radio, especially if you listen on headphones and there’s a bit of interference (what we used to call the sound of the ‘ether’). Jana Winderen’s Pasvikdalen, a work she composed for Dark Ecology, and which premiered live at Sonic Acts 2015, plays in a headphone version in a great space with large windows on three sides.
Here in the Pasvik Valley, there is no visible sign of pollution or industry, just nature everywhere.
Friday 10 June Wake up at 8. Breakfast. Overcast. Not too cold. Preparing for the Timothy Morton’s lecture. Timothy Morton’s lectures are really performances, even though every word is written out beforehand. Often he pushes his ideas just a little bit further than where you think they would still make sense. And I think he experiments a bit, to see if words, concepts, insights, lines of poetry, and ideas will stick together. Every time I hear him speak, there are things that I don’t get. But there are sentences that stay in your mind, like lines from a poem. Often they begin to make sense half a year later. This is also because he re-uses ideas, re-blending them in other ways for a new lecture. I now understand his concept of subsendence; I understand the ‘We never have been neolithic’-bit; I understand the idea of agrilogistics. He’s a great performer, and that makes him enjoyable to listen to even if you can’t follow the entire argument. I’m moderating, and as usual I’m stuck for questions afterwards, so I begin by relating the anecdote of R. (my almost 6-year-old daughter), who at some point claimed with great certainty that it’s bad to wash your hands because it kills all the little bacteria. This connects of course in various ways to the idea of coexisting with other beings. Interestingly the word solidarity pops up repeatedly in Timothy’s lecture – as does symbiosis. He’s writing a book for Penguin explaining all these things to people who don’t care. And a book for Verso, which will delve into Marxism. I can’t wait to read those. The bus is late, so we enjoy an extra hour of free time. The sun comes out. It begins to feel like summer. The border crossing to Russia seems to be easier every time we do it. Maybe it’s because we know the procedure now, and we’re comfortable chatting while waiting in line. At one point an alarm goes off for a few seconds. A red light flickers on a grey box. It happens just after Roger Norum goes past it. Two minutes later a border guard with a scanner asks him to pass through the grey thing again. Nothing happens. He asks Peter Meanwell to do the same. Nothing. He passes the instrument over our bags. Is it a Geiger counter? Nothing. It takes just 2 minutes and is done in a fairly relaxed way – or maybe it was because Roger didn’t get excited. We shrug our shoulders. That evening during dinner in Nikel one of our Russian friends who works in the Nikel administration tells us that a friend of his who works as a border guard phoned him earlier. The border guards had totally freaked out that afternoon because for the very first time ever the alarm that detects nuclear radiation had gone off. Nikel looks even better than it did a year ago, and so much better than four years ago. The Culture Palace is painted and so well maintained. We hear that someone is planning to open a hotel with a view of the smelter. Seventy locals turn up for the hike up the hill to Signe Lidén and Espen Sommer Eide’s work Altitude & History. That’s already moving in itself – such a large turnout from a city where you wouldn’t expect much interest in experimental art. Of course, the fact that Espen and Signe worked with the locals and collected the sound histories of Nikel’s old residents probably helped. But still. We walk almost an hour, 120 of us trudging up the hill outside Nikel. The view is glorious. There is absolutely no wind. It’s completely still. That’s actually not good for the piece, because Espen and Signe have built Aeolian instruments, played by the wind. They chose this hill because there is always wind there. On the way up Espen performs three short pieces: a voice recounting a sonic memory in Russian and English, accompanied by a self-made instrument. Their wind instruments, wooden speakers, a metal cap with a wire that amplifies the sound of the wind are spread out on the hilltop. And further down are four upright tubes (with little speakers underneath them). Espen and Signe play a metal stick, which makes a ringing sound, while the installation plays back field recordings. At the same time people from the audience swing the antenna-like wind instruments through the air. The piece is absolutely beautiful, and even better thanks to the initial ‘ritual’ of walking uphill, and because we’re free to play the instruments ourselves. Listening and looking across the valley, with the mountains in the distance, you just long to walk on straight through that landscape. You can do it; it won’t get dark. Many people stay on the hill for a while, many of the Russians play and interrogate Espen and Signe about how their instruments work. And Timothy Morton says: ‘it’s a masterpiece’. Peter Meanwell says: ‘playing these instruments is like inserting the wind into the landscape’. And Joost Rekveld says: ‘it’s so great to see the people, who would never think of going to an experimental music concert, play the instruments while Espen and Signe performed’.
Every time I hear him speak, there are things that I don’t get. But there are sentences that stay in your mind, like lines from a poem.
Saturday 11 June In the morning we go to the Kola Superdeep Borehole. I will get to see it at last. I’ve been asking if we can walk there and the answer is ‘no’. We expect a local audience of 100 people, which is a challenge for the production team, to say the least. (There are only 50 iPods for 150 visitors). The bus takes us up one of the unpaved industrial roads as far it can. From there Lada Niva’s will take us up further up the road to the Kola Superdeep site. The sun is shining. I’m not the only one who wanted to walk from where the bus dropped us. In the end we do walk the 4 remaining kilometres to the Kola Superdeep. First through a landscape of rubble, formed by what is dug out of the earth, then through a landscape that gradually becomes more beautiful, with little lakes, little rivers, some snow, moss, flowers. And then we see the ruins of the Kola Superdeep offices on Wolf Lake. It’s even more dilapidated than I expected. The area is breathtaking, with the lake and the small mountains. And all this wrecked Soviet science and engineering in the middle of it. Large office buildings, the carcases of electronic installations and rusting metal everywhere. It’s a sad place. High tech from the 1970s abandoned to dust. Once this was a place for avant-garde science and hi-tech experimental engineering. This major project was all about learning about the Earth, and it’s all gone to ruin. This is what is left if you choose to stop exploring and doing science. Maybe it was a typical Soviet-modernist scientific project with few qualms about nature and ecology – nonetheless, it’s still a moving sight. I walk around the building. I first want to take in my own observations, thoughts and emotions, before going through Justin Bennett’s narrative soundwalk. Yuri Smirnov – 87 now, and the former head of geology at Kola Superdeep – is also present. He’s happy and proud. Over a 100 Russians come by bus and car from Zapolyarny and Nikel (and even from further away). I see some faces that were also on the hill outside Nikel on Friday. Many people are taking photos, and I see Yuri Smirnov busily explaining things and telling stories. So many Russians come to see and hear Justin’s work that we run out of iPods with the Russian version. We end up putting the Russian version on the English-version iPods. Everywhere people walk around plugged into earphones, and head through the building towards the Borehole: the metal cap with 12.229 written on it. The hole once was over 12 kilometres deep. Afterwards people ask: ‘Where’s Victor?’ Victor is the (fictional) character in Justin’s narrative. But he’s not there. He doesn’t exist in this world. It so wonderful that we pulled this off – with the audience, and restoring respect for this scientific project as well. It shouldn’t be a ruin. There is nobleness in the drive to understand the Earth. (Though the methods might be crude.) On the way back I take a closer look at the location and the other hills and conclude that we’d been very close to this place on our first trip here, in 2012, when we couldn’t continue due to snow on the road. We were simply on the wrong side of the mountain. After lunch in Nikel, there’s only an hour left for ‘free research’. I walk down the ‘main’ path into Nikel. I want to see the small river. Forest fires have destroyed the landscape on the other side. The trees never re-grew, the moss stayed black, the barbed wire is from the Second World War. It’s a scarred landscape. Now I turn right, and it’s suddenly very green. A landscape with trees, a communal vegetable plot, green fields. The sun is warm. I have to take off my coats. It’s almost like a holiday, people on their Sunday walk. I have a look at the river before I have to turn around to get back. No time to walk all the way down to the lake.
So many Russians come to see and hear Justin’s work that we run out of iPods with the Russian version.
Sunday 12 June The last day of the third Dark Ecology Journey. Departing from Zapolyarny. The central square with the hotel and the Culture Palace, the colourful concrete boxes for plants and the little park. Full-on sunshine this morning. A car with open doors has been blasting Russian hip-hop and commercial pop since 8 o’clock. You think for a moment, what a way to start your free Sunday in the park. But these guys and girls are drunk; it’s a continuation of late night partying. Dmitry says: ‘A typical Russian day: someone is still drunk, someone is missing, someone has been beaten up.’ The weather is getting warmer. We cross the border without any problems. Indeed seems to go faster every time. Maybe they know us now? Peter and Mariaspot the Russian woman who was at History and Altitude with the Russian flag poking out of her bag, cycling from Nikel to the border, waving them goodbye. Coincidence? Russia is an intriguing country. We’ve met many great people, we have good friend in the Nikel administration. It’s peculiar to see that Nikel looks so much better now than it did 4 years ago. A new tourist centre for the Pasvik Valley in Nikel is being built. A hotel with 20 rooms will open in October: the rooms have a view of the smelter. Sure, we’re not the only ones to bring a new public to Nikel – there is mainstream tourism as well. But it’s still surprising to see these developments, as generally the economic circumstances in Russia aren’t improving (the same is true for Norway). People seem to be proud to be from Nikel. In the afternoon we walk up Langøra hill in Kirkenes, listening to Peter Meanwell’s specially commissioned podcast about Cecilia Jonsson’s Prospecting: A Geological Survey of Greys, the work we’re going to see. Further up the hill she drilled a 170-metre-deep hole with the help of geologists. The 170 metres of bore-cores are exhibited as a sculpture. Again, the whole experience is well designed: walking uphill in a scattered group of about 100 people, many of whom are listening to the podcast, to look at the sculpture and enjoy the landscape. Peter Meanwell’s podcast, with the voices of Cecilia and a geologist, focuses our thoughts and senses. I’m quite tired, the sun is agreeably warm, and the mosquitoes are inactive, so I lay down on the moss and have a rest. It’s quiet in Kirkenes. Literally. Until less than a year ago the hum of the separation plant (where they separate iron ore from the stone) was audible day and night. The hum was always there, as the plant ran 24 hours a day. But the company that exploited the mine and ran the plant was declared bankrupt in November 2015, one day before our second Dark Ecology Journey. All the personnel were let go. Only a handful of engineers stayed on for a few more days to take care of the machinery: after operating continuously for years it couldn’t be shut down just like that. It happened a few days later. Now there is only one caretaker on the premises. It is quite uncanny that our last event takes place inside this empty separation plant. It’s as if the workers have only temporarily left the building. The scaffolding full of machinery and spare parts, the lockers with work clothes, work boots left on the floor, refrigerators with notes stuck to the doors, cartoons on the wall, coffee mugs in the canteen. Nickel van Duijvenboden invites us to the canteen for his performance. He reads letters about his stay in Kirkenes, letters he wrote during the past week, the last one finished just an hour before the performance. The letters are about various subjects connected to the current situation in Kirkenes, our Journey, a visit to the Allthing in Iceland (location of the first parliament), philosophy, the theme of living together, connections, sociality, and the need to (sometimes) be alone. He takes the audience to the rooms where the workers changed their clothes. He narrates how he cycled all the way to the asylum centre near the airport. The guard didn’t want to let him in. ‘Who are you and why do you ask these questions?’ The reading of the letters is interspersed with drumming; he also plays some field recordings and a Moog. The piece is long, and sometimes awkward – in a good way. In the end he leads the audience to the enormous machine hall, where the drumming sounds phenomenal. Nickel’s performance is quite different from the other works in the Dark Ecology project because it is discursive, narrative, tries to weave different philosophies into the story, and because it is highly personal in a quite straightforward way: ‘Who are you and why do you ask these questions?’ (So we had two deserted locations for our events. Weird. The Kola Superdeep, once a pinnacle of Soviet hi-tech engineering and science; and the Kimek separation plant, once a hub of economic activity in Kirkenes. The first a memorial to Western – Soviet – science, the second symbolic of an economy in shambles.) The final performance is Mikro, a live improvised audiovisual piece by Justin Bennett and HC Gilje. Both have collected a lot of tiny objects during the Journey, bits of stone, moss, lichen – things connected to the places we visited. These are the material for the sounds and visuals that they generate with their set-up. HC Gilje uses a customised camera to photograph fragments, which he mixes together to become part of the projected abstract imagery, and Justin uses microphones and his laptop to create a cracking noise ‘soundtrack’. It feels like a good Sonic Acts evening in a (cold) industrial warehouse. As with our previous Journeys, our farewell party that evening is in the boathouse of the small boats harbour. We perform a vodka ritual to celebrate the ending, and hope for a continuation. But we can’t just leave yet.
Again, the whole experience is well designed: walking uphill in a scattered group of about 100 people, many of whom are listening to the podcast, to look at the sculpture and enjoy the landscape.
Wednesday 15 June Most of the participants leave on Monday. Some of us stay in Norway, because there is a joint Arctic Encounters & Dark Ecology Forum in Tromsø on Wednesday in collaboration with Fylkeskommune Tromsø. Annette Wolfsberger, Hilde Methi, Espen Sommer Eide and Margrethe Pettersen are on a Dark Ecology panel that I’m moderating, and we show Signe Lidén’s work Conflux – made for the first Dark Ecology Journey – in a film version. Berit Kristoffersen and Britt Kramvig, who were part of all three Dark Ecology Journeys, organised this conference and are present as well. The conference is in the beautiful Verdenstheatret and is well attended. Britt Kramvig quotes quite a bit from the interview with the Dark Ecology curatorial team, which is in the Living Earth book, to explain the project. We sell a lot of books. In the evening we close with an event at Kurant. This turns out to be the emotional finale to the Dark Ecology project. At 7 o’clock Jana Winderen gives a moving live performance of Pasvikdalen (another Dark Ecology commission), which leaves everyone in the audience – well, gasping for breath. In fact, it feels quite impossible to do anything after this concert. Just have a beer, stare into the distance, or go home to let it all sink in. But we’ve scheduled a lecture and Q&A with Timothy Morton for 8 o’clock. (Why we chose this order is a mystery to all of us). Timothy feels like Santana having to go on stage after the Mahavishnu Orchestra has blown the audience away. He has prepared a ‘love letter to dark Ecology/Sonic Acts’, and is quite emotional. The text is a 30 minutes mash-up of the e-mails we exchanged, interspersed with remarks about the Sixth Extinction event, and excerpts from texts he’s written for Dark Ecology. It’s a fitting finale – even after Jana’s breathtaking performance. He also says – I think it was during the introduction to the lecture – that he hardly understood himself what ‘dark ecology’ could be before we invited him, and that Dark Ecology has been life-changing for him. After Tim’s lecture, I – as a moderator – am confronted with the awkward task of initiating a Q&A. At first it stays quiet. The theme of the Q&A is very much ‘how to live together’, humans and non-humans. And maybe that’s the direction we should head towards with our Dark Ecology project.
The theme of the Q&A is very much ‘how to live together’, humans and non-humans. And maybe that’s the direction we should head towards with our Dark Ecology project.
Watch all video diaries about the Dark Ecology journey here

Dark Ecology Video Diaries

Friday 10 June 15:37

On Thursday June 9 the journey started with a lecture by Heather Davis on plastic geologies, followed by a programme of curated walks which explore different aspects of the Pasvik Valley: the pollution, the river, the brown bears, the archaeology, and the insect life. In the evening ::vtol:: presented his new installation Лесофон / Lesophon. Together with Fridaymilk​ we will publish a series of video diaries about Dark Ecology, including interviews with the artists and about the journey itself. All videos will be published on this website and at Produced by Fridaymilk Concept and idea by Sonic Acts and Hilde Methi Music by Noya View all video diaries here

Nikel and Nikel Materiality

Thursday 2 June 06:59

RESEARCH SERIES #25 Compiled by Arie Altena Nikel is a small Russian mining city near the border with Norway. It was founded in the 1930s after enormous quantities of nickel were found nearby. At the time the area was Finnish. An infrastructure for mining the nickel was built in the 1930s with help from Canadian companies. Mining operations began in 1940. In 1944 Nikel became part of the Soviet Union after the Red Army defeated Finland. Nowadays slightly more than 12,000 people live in Nikel. The Norilsk Nickel smelter dominates the city. It was responsible for wide-scale pollution in the 1980s that destroyed much the surrounding nature. Since then pollution levels are lower, though walking through Nikel when a Northern wind is blowing often leaves the taste the sulphur. On a first visit, Nikel – with its blocks of flats, vacant buildings, heavy industry, the smelter and the boiler house – looks like the perfect location for a post-apocalyptic film. But looking closer reveals many different, warmer and humane aspects as well. We have visited Nikel numerous times with the Dark Ecology project, and have grown fond of it. Two years ago we met the Russian architect Tatjana Gorbachewskaja in Amsterdam. She was born and raised in Nikel. Meeting her led to a Dark Ecology commission: the research project Nikel Materiality. In Nikel Materiality Tatjana Gorbachewskaja and Katya Larina – a Russian specialist on Soviet closed cities – meticulously investigate the materials and textures of Nikel. More precisely Nikel Materiality explores Nikel through the lens of its materials and textures. They developed a model which captures the interaction between the architecture of Nikel, the historical development, and the harsh environment – the Arctic climate. In Soviet times Nikel was a planned mono-industrial city. The infrastructures – both material (heating for instance) and immaterial (higher wages, longer holidays, good facilities) – were well cared for. It was a city protected by an invisible ‘dome’. The planning hardly took the environmental consequences into account. Gorbachewskaja and Larina argue in their research that Nikel became a prime example of a city that is alienated from its natural environment. They describe Nikel as ‘a city in a bubble, protected by and therefore isolated by top-down state control for many years. This Nikel is a structure which can be artificially and technologically reproduced anywhere, it’s a place which denies its environment and is no longer related to its geological or climate context’. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Nikel was very much left to its own devices, and the urban structures, now poorly maintained, interacted with the environment. Through this interaction new textures and materials became part of the city. During the second Dark Ecology Journey Tatjana Gorbachewskaja and Katya Larina presented their initial research and guided groups of people through the city, pointing out many interesting aspects in the architecture and urban structure. A booklet catalogued the materials and described the analytical model they developed. They consider the artefacts they collected as objects from a cabinet of curiosities, as samples of a unique ecology which emerged under the ‘protective dome’ and were transformed when the ‘dome’ 'collapsed. They classified about 2000 artefacts using the ecological theory of John T. Lyle, which he proposed in his book Design for Human Ecosystems. The artefacts and material samples are grouped according to four themes: The Slag, Self-Organising Boundaries, Energy Infrastructures, and Historical Clash. The Slag is a new material, a copper-nickel dust, a by-product of smelting nickel ore. It’s everywhere in Nikel. Self-Organising Boundaries is a group of artefacts that illustrates the boundaries of a ‘competing patterns of existing ecosystems’ within Nikel’s ecology. Under Energy Infrastructures they collected all the artefacts related to the life support mechanisms of Nikel. Historical Clash contains the artefacts related to Nikel’s history: the city was shaped by successive ideological paradigms of Soviet and the Post-Soviet times. This includes five periods: the Finnish Era of the city’s development (1930s), the post World War II Stalin Era, the Khrushchev Era, the Brezhnev Era and the Post-Soviet Era. Each of these periods can be identified in the city. But, they argue, these historical epochs do not exist separately in different city districts, as in most Russian cities. Nikel’s architecture incorporates structures and experiences from previous periods, thus creating ‘a sort of bizarre overlay of the historical layers, where in one building we can see the imprint of different epochs’. Through the catalogue of artefacts they presented Nikel as a ‘material system’, or as they state, as ‘a multi-scalar expression of the new materials which appeared and evolved in the city fabric.’ The research is now available on the Dark Ecology website, which contains their analytical model, a catalogue and an interactive map. Series of photos trace how different materials emerged in Nikel. On a micro scale these show the physical properties of the materials, and on a macro scale they indicate the socioeconomic processes in the city as well as environmental processes of the region. Through the exploration of the ‘materiality’ of Nickel, Gorbachewskaja and Larina reveal the emergent symbiosis in Nikel of the natural environment and alien materials brought in through human activity. Nikel definitely is an example of an extreme Anthropocene landscape. The latest Dark Ecology book Living Earth (2016) includes an interview by Mirna Belina with Tatjana Gorbachewskaja and Katya Larina about their research. Here is an excerpt from their conversation. Mirna Belina So we could see this city as a living system? Katya Larina Nikel was initially set up as a very artificial system, controlled top down by the state. But in time it started behaving and expressing itself as a real living organism. All of its components, including the materials from which it is built, are changing and evolving to adapt to the transforming conditions. All materials behave dynamically in Nikel. They degrade faster than elsewhere. Nature is quite aggressive. It’s all about the energy the city shares with nature and for which it competes with nature. Tatjana Gorbachewskaja This city is slowly opening up to its environment. And this process is a self-organising process. No one controls it! MB What about the pollution from the smelter? TG The main ecological damage happened in the 1980s, when the company started smelting a non-local material, the nickel ore imported from Norilsk (the mining city further to the East in Russia), with a high concentration of sulphur dioxide. It killed almost all the vegetation around the city within just a couple of years. Another cause of major damage was the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s. That had an even worse impact on Nikel. The city lost its source of social security and its future perspective. People started leaving the city. It’s still possible to trace the scars of these processes in the material tissue of Nikel. It’s a city fighting to survive. Nature is slowly recovering because the company now mostly processes local ore. The city is also starting to take on its proper size. So it is stabilising. Let’s hope! MB You said in your lecture in Nikel during the second Dark Ecology Journey that one of the most interesting parts of your research was the perception of the city as an infrastructural element. Could you elaborate on that? KL Infrastructures create comfortable spaces for people. An example is the heating infrastructure. Nikel needs such a comprehensive life-support infrastructure because it’s located in such a hostile environment. It was supported by an infrastructure for a long time but at some point in the 1990s, when it stopped functioning properly and had to interact with nature, it began falling apart, it transformed, and developed another life. In other cities these life-support infrastructures are not visible, they are hidden below the surface, but here their presence above the surface emphasises the city’s artificiality. TG In the Arctic, the most important thing is the artificial energy network. Nikel’s energy infrastructure requires very high maintenance; it is a high resource-consuming component of the city. For example, in Soviet times, buildings were regularly painted in bright colours so that the residents did not suffer from colour starvation. Now, because of the low maintenance financing and the harsh climatic conditions, all the layers of paint on the façades have cracked to expose the surface beneath them. Also, heating pipes are not underground in Nikel, they are built above the ground because of the permafrost. It’s like an exposed artificial organism. You see the flow, the veins. That’s how we set up our map of Nikel—we tried to show the infrastructure veins of the city. MB Did you present your insights about Nikel to locals? KL Yes, we had a presentation in Nikel for the local people. For us, the process of the environmental degradation indicates an evolutionary process of the city’s artificial system, revealing its qualities. For inhabitants, it’s mostly a personal tragedy. We were worried that we would be misunderstood, but surprisingly, we had quite a positive response. TG A teacher from the art school pointed out one more important energy resource in Nikel, another important resource of Nikel materiality: the people. And that is true: they really are the driving force of the city. Tatjana Gorbachewskaja (RU) is an architect and urbanist who grew up in Nikel, Russia. Before starting her own praxis in 2014, Gorbachewskaja worked as architect and leading designer at UNStudio in Amsterdam, under Van Berkel & Bos. She is currently a lecturer and PhD candidate at the Design School in Offenbach, Germany. Katya Larina (RU) is an architect and urban designer who received her MA in Landscape Urbanism from the Architectural Association, London. She is co-founder of the research and education project U:Lab.spb, which develops tools that are used in the fields of design and analytics of critical urban environments in Russian cities. U:Lab.spb focuses on socioeconomic strategies in combination with knowledge from urban planning and ecology to foster the redevelopment of Russian industrial cities and knowledge centres.

Living Earth Publication

Wednesday 25 May 14:37

Living Earth - Field Notes from the Dark Ecology Project 2014 - 2016 Price: 19,50 EUR Order here Living Earth is a new book filled with ideas, conversations, lectures, and documentation relating to commissioned installations, soundwalks, concerts and performances made for and during the Dark Ecology project. This three-year project, a collaboration between Sonic Acts and the Norwegian curator Hilde Methi, was held from 2014 to 2016 in different places in Norway and Russia and included three curated ‘Journeys’. Living Earth is a recreation of these research trips to the Barents Region, from Kirkenes and Svanvik in Norway to Nikel, Zapolyarny and Murmansk in Russia. The project was inspired by Timothy Morton’s concept of ‘dark ecology’ and his philosophy of ‘ecology without Nature’. Morton offers a radical criticism of the modernist way of thinking about nature as something outside of us, and instead proposes an interconnected ‘mesh’ of all living and non-living objects. He ruminates on this idea in his essay for Living Earth entitled ‘What Is Dark Ecology’, stating at the outset that ecological awareness is ‘weird weirdness’.

"Dark ecology is about how we get to exit from toxic modernity. It’s been very moving for me to watch the Sonic Acts artists working with a concept I’ve been shaping for a while. They have explored the Arctic realm with the greatest aesthetic skill, a skill that by no means excludes the political." – Timothy Morton
Living Earth is a 256-page trip with artists, thinkers, curators and other Dark Ecology participants into the dark space of rethinking nature and art, and it also contributes to the contemporary Anthropocene debate. The motivations behind the project and its impact are discussed in the interview with the curatorial team titled ‘Outside the Comfort Zone’, which opens the book. Besides Timothy Morton’s long essay the book contains contributions by Susan Schuppli (‘Dirty Pictures’), and Berit Kristofferson (‘The Workable Arctic of Ice and Oil’), which examine the consequences of the Anthropocene. There is an interview with Heather Davis (‘Queer Kinship’), and in her essay about Margrethe Pettersen’s soundwalk (Living Land – Below as Above), Britt Kramvig builds on the notion of ‘anthropo-not-seen’. Tatjana Gorbachewskaja and Katya Larina discuss their research into the interaction between the Arctic environment and the architecture of the Russian mining town Nikel (‘Nikel – The City as a Material’). Graham Harman embarks on an interesting rethinking of Jakob von Uexküll’s influential book A Foray Into the World of Animals and Humans and its notion of environment (‘Magic Uexküll’).
“What an amazing journey it was, through the Arctic regions of Norway and Russia! Now everyone can live or relive it through this feast of a collection.” – Graham Harman
Living Earth is a catalogue too, as it documents and presents in different formats the commissioned works created for Dark Ecology. There are works by HC Gilje (Barents – Mare Incognitum; The Crossing; Mikro with Justin Bennett), Joris Strijbos (‘Machine Synaesthetics’, an interview about his work IsoScope), Espen Sommer Eide (Material Vision – Silent Reading; ‘A Vertical Perspective’ – a text about his collaboration with Signe Lidén on Altitude and History). Some artists were already presented in more depth in a previous Sonic Acts book, The Geologic Imagination (2015), but are present in Living Earth as well: Raviv Ganchrow (Long Wave Synthesis), Karl Lemieux and BJ Nilsen (unearthed), Marijn de Jong (with a photo essay Grey Zone) and Femke Herregraven (Staring into the Ice). Other interesting commissions and chapters in Living Earth include: Signe Lidén (krysning/пересечение/conflux), Justin Bennett (Vilgiskoddeoayvinyarvi: Wolf Lake on the Mountains), Hilary Jeffery (Murmansk Spaceport), Cecilia Jonsson (Prospecting: a Geological Survey of Greys), Lucy Railton and Russell Haswell (Unknown) and the Secret Chambers I and II, two nights of live performances curated by Anya Kuts and Ivan Zoloto.
“Participating in the Dark Ecology journey was an extraordinary opportunity to witness the dark matters of environmental change firsthand through direct contact with the landscapes in which we travelled. This book reflects upon these encounters, entangling our proximate and local experiences with the global processes of accelerated climate change.” – Susan Schuppli
As a catalogue of texts and visual essays from the Dark Ecology project, Living Earth not only engages in a vibrant conversation with the previous Sonic Acts book The Geologic Imagination, but is also an introduction to the ongoing contemporary debates about the nature, ecology, art and ‘mesh’ that we live in. The third edition of the art, research and commissioning project Dark Ecology will take place between 8 and 12 June 2016 in the border zone between Norway and Russia, with events scheduled in the Pasvik Valley and Kirkenes (NO) as well as in the surroundings of Nikel (RU). Over the course of five days, a group of more than 50 artists, researchers, curators, writers and organisers, will travel from Northern Norway to North West Russia. While the previous Journey took place in the dark winter season, the third one will take place during the Arctic summer, with sunlight for most of the day and night. Living Earth - Field Notes from the Dark Ecology Project 2014 - 2016 Price: 19,50 EUR Order here

Young Echo Sound confirmed for Progress Bar on June 4

Monday 23 May 19:11

We've teamed up with Subbacultcha! and invited Bristol’s Young Echo collective to join Progress Bar on June 4! Currently made up of 11 young producers, vocalists and sonic provocateurs, Young Echo houses a number of aliases which venture between and beyond their roots of dub, bass, drone, grime and techno. We’re excited to be welcoming Ossia as well as Ishan Sound who’s been offering some of the finest dub influenced productions in recent years. Also set to join them from the collective will be Jabu, El Kid, Chester Giles, Amos, Manonmars and Rider Shafique. The night will will start with a series of lively talks with a selection of the artists performing, giving us insight into they creative process, before taking to the main hall for the big night. Line up: Elysia Crampton, Young Echo, Nidia Minaj, Sami Baha, False Witness, Yves Tumor, Kareem Lotfy and Juha. More artists means more hours – the night goes on until early next morning smile-emoticon Get your tickets for only 7,50 More information

Dark Ecology Programme Update - Commissioned works

Thursday 26 April 18:06

The third edition of the art, research and commissioning project Dark Ecology will take place between 8 and 12 June 2016 in the border zone between Norway and Russia, with events scheduled in the Pasvik Valley and Kirkenes (NO) as well as in the surroundings of Nikel (RU). Over the course of five days, a group of more than 50 artists, researchers, curators, writers and organisers, will travel from Northern Norway to North West Russia. While the previous Journey took place in the dark winter season, the third one will take place during the Arctic summer, with sunlight for most of the day and night. Researcher, writer, and editor Heather Davis starts this Journey with a keynote presentation. For Vilgiskoddeoayvinyarvi: Wolf Lake on the Mountains, Justin Bennett will take participants on a soundwalk exploring the area around the Kola Superdeep Borehole. Espen Sommer Eide and Signe Lidén will take participants on Altitude and History, a 3-hour evening trek in the mountains above Nikel, where they will investigate the acoustic phenomena in relation to the topography of the area while relating them to the local history. ::vtol:: a.k.a. Dmitry Morozov will be undertaking a residency in April in the Pasvik Valley to create a new audiovisual installation, and Dutch artist Nickel van Duijvenboden will conduct a performative reading. Cecilia Jonsson has been doing intensive research in the Kirkenes area to explore suitable drilling sites and is preparing an installation created by drilling deep into the Earth’s crust. Prospecting: A Geological Survey of Greys is an interdisciplinary, site-specific art project that appropriates the scientific geological methods of extracting, analysing and categorising mineral specimens. Mikro is a series of improvised collaborative performances between HC Gilje (video) and Justin Bennett (sound) that draws its raw material from the immediate surroundings. On the last day of the Dark Ecology Journey, Bennett and Gilje will perform the latest version of Mikro using material gathered over the course of the Journey. More about the upcoming Dark Ecology Journey programme will be announces on this website and via the newsletter.

Progress Bar on June 4 - Get your tickets now

Wednesday 4 May 13:57

The fouth edition of Progress Bar takes place on Saturday June 4 at Paradiso Noord, Tolhuistuin. Confirmed artists are Elysia Crampton, Young Echo, Nidia Minaj, Sami Baha, False Witness, Yves Tumor, Kareem Lotfy and Juha. Progress Bar is a new collaboration between Sonic Acts and Lighthouse. This event presents a lively mix of talks, screenings, live performances and a club night, all in one. Providing insight into the creative practice of contemporary culture's most exciting names, from vanguard music producers and filmmakers to trending artists and activists. Light Design by Marco Broeders (Co2RO). Attend on Facebook / Buy Ticket 7,50 EUR Elysia Crampton Elysia Crampton is a Bolivian-American producer, sound artist and conceptual collagist who performs and speaks around the world. Elysia’s music is an ambitious confluence of ideas, synthesising multiple underrepresented histories, geographies, musical genres and cultural signifiers into addictively colourful sonic material that packs contemporaneous dancefloor weight. Following last year’s American Drift EP on Blueberry Records, her newest work, Elysia Crampton presents: Demon City arrives on Break World this summer: a concept album that works as an epic poem with guest appearances from Chino Amobi, Why Be, Rabit and Lexxi, Demon City will be accompanied by a live performance entitled Dissolution of The Sovereign: A Time Slide Into The Future, an audio-visual play that unfolds as a DJ production and live performance, bridging Aymara oral history tradition/theater legacy with Elysia’s own trans-femme abolitionist grasp of futurity. Young Echo Currently made up of 11 young producers, vocalists and sonic provocateurs, Young Echo houses a number of aliases which venture between and beyond their roots of dub, bass, drone, grime and techno. We’re excited to be welcoming Ossia as well as Ishan Sound who’s been offering some of the finest dub influenced productions in recent years. Also set to join them from the collective will be Jabu, El Kid, Chester Giles, Amos, Manonmars and Rider Shafique. Nidia Minaj Nidia Minaj is a 19 year-old DJ based in Bordeaux, France, and one of very few female Kuduro producers. Her music is inspired by the Portugese speaking heritage of her Cape Verdean and Guinea Bissauan parents and by the ghetto of Vale de Amoreira, Portugal, where she spent most of her childhood. Prior to her solo career, Nidia was part of Kaninas Squad, an all-girl teenage Kuduro group. Her debut EP for Príncipe, Danger, was described by The Quietus as "dazzling in all senses, a trance-inducing tangle of boxy drums, vivid swirls of synthetic melody and buzzsaw grime bass, all corralled into tracks that feel less like functional dancefloor units and more like short, sharp shocks of adrenaline." Her first LP is in the works to come out on Lisbon's hottest independent label Príncipe later in 2016. Sami Baha A Turkish beatmaker inspired by Dirty South hip-hop producers like DJ Screw, Sami Baha crafts slow, moody tracks with miles-deep bass and explosive samples. Baha was born in Istanbul, and his music is heavily informed by the popular Turkish music (or arabesk) that he grew up with, even if it more closely resembles a spaced-out instrumental take on southern rap. After receiving attention from experimental grime producers like Why Be and M.E.S.H., he moved to london in 2015. His debut EP Mavericks was issued by Planet Mu in April of 2016. False Witness Affiliated with record labels and illustrious events like GHE20 G0TH1K, Bastard Brigade, and Lit City Trax, False Witness is an emerging fixture of New York City’s nightlife scene and an original founding member of the American artist collective, KUNQ. False Witness is also a multidisciplinary artist whose practice involves sound design, sound collage, and digital multimedia installation. As a DJ, False Witness combines the bombastic energy of urban Caribbean music with the uplifting or disorientating elements of American & European regional club music. Yves Tumor Yves Tumor (NON, PAN) is the solo moniker of Shan Ti, the enigmatic multi-instrumentalist and producer based in Northern Italy. Sonically, their body of work (including aliases Silkbless, Bekelé Berhanu) has been described variously as anxious, shimmering dreams to nightmarish, ambient hopelessness. Kareem Lotfy Kareem Lotfy is an artist and musician, born in cairo egypt, now based in amsterdam. His album Dirty Zeyda has been released on the 100copies label. He has been making beats with Fruity Loops since 2000. Juha DJ and Viral Radio founder Juha plays Internet dance music and is resident DJ for Progress Bar. As artistic director of Lighthouse in Brighton since 2014, he unites the worlds of culture and technology. In 2012, Juha won De Hallen Curatorial Scholarship for his proposal DREAD - The Dizziness of Freedom. As of 2016, Juha presents Viral Radio on ResonanceEXTRA, a monthly two-hour programme following new developments deep down the rabbit hole of Internet music culture. Light Design by Marco Broeders (Co2RO). Progress Bar #4 Date: Saturday 4 June 2016 Venue: Paradiso Noord, Tolhuistuin Amsterdam Times: 23:00–05:00 (doors open 20:00) Tickets: €7,50 presale. Purchase via Ticketmaster or at the door €10,- (card only) Attend on Facebook

Published on Vimeo: Research through Practice

Tuesday 3 May 20:26

If you missed the Sonic Acts Academy, or would like to refresh your memory, you are in luck. Many lectures and performances have been documented and Sonic Acts will be publishing a lot of material over the course of the coming months assembling videos that touch on related subjects into albums. The second of these albums is titled Research through Practice, and touches on a cornerstone of the Academy which aimed to highlight artistic engagement as vital to understanding the complexities of our contemporary world. Over the course of three days, artists presented works that challenge the sterile dichotomy of theory versus practice. On Saturday 27 February and Sunday 28 February, a selection of artists explained the ways in which they conduct research through practice. Included in the album are presentations by by Ana Vaz, Ewa Justka, Anton Kats and Louis Henderson who each do just this.

Louis Henderson: “Animism is the only sensible version of materialism” from Sonic Acts on Vimeo.

The title of Louis Henderson lecture on 27 February, ‘Animism is the only sensible version of materialism’, is inspired by a quote from anthropologist Eduardo Viveiros de Castro and forms a basis around which Henderson builds his video works. Henderson describes his practice as ‘archeological cinema’, through which he conducts a materialist reading of the digital and the space of the Internet as an archival/archaeological site, within which resistance to capitalism and social control can be excavated and engendered. A short reflection on Hendersons’ talk by Hannah Klaubert is on the Critical Writing blog

Ana Vaz: i prefer not to be but to Tupi: the age of the earth from Sonic Acts on Vimeo.

On Sunday 28 February, Brazilian artist and filmmaker Ana Vaz presented ‘i prefer not to be but to Tupi: the age of the earth’. In it she screened segments of her films and read excerpts from of her writing and performances, which speculate on the relationships between history and its representation. Vaz: ‘I want to disorganise, to dissociate through association – to bring things together in order to undo their normative state. A multiple becoming through film or otherwise, an untying of historical thinking and monolithic prose, a becoming that renders narration an art of trickery, of cheating and betraying both sight or sound only to permanently de-colonise our modes of thinking.

Ewa Justka: Odd DIY Spectacle from Sonic Acts on Vimeo.

During Odd DIY Spectacle, Polish artist Ewa Justka reflected on her current trajectory as a noise and performance artist, in academic research environments. One of her main topics is the exploration of the materiality of the hidden, which she investigates through quasi-direct perception in noise performance actions, interactive installations, DIY electronics, hardware hacking, plant-molesting, breaking, deconstructing and collaborating.

Anton Kats: Radio Sound System from Sonic Acts on Vimeo.

Anton Kats ended Sonic Acts Academy on Sunday afternoon with his Radio Sound System. Kats’ history with radio is a long one, dating from his early memories of growing up in Ukraine to recent projects in Jamaica. Kats reflects and subverts the more established news and entertainment radio formats. During his presentation at Sonic Acts Academy, he introduced parts of this history through a performative narrative, while live broadcasting it through an ad hoc pirate radio transmission. There is more about the history of Anton Kats’ narrowcasting in this post by Katia Truijen on the Critical Writing blog. For the entire Sonic Acts Academy 2016: Research through Practice Vimeo Album click here.

Abyss X to perform at third edition of Progress Bar

20-04-2016 11:30

We're excited to announce that Abyss X will join this Saturday's Progress Bar line-up! It will be the first time the LA-based artist, who is known for her raw, savage sound, performs in the Netherlands. Others performing on the night are Nkisi, GAIKA, Crystallmess, Ling, Yon Eta and Juha. Buy your tickets here. Find more information about the event and the artists on Facebook.

Sonic Acts is Looking for Interns: Production & Online Communication

Sonic Acts has two vacancies for a Production Intern and an Online Communication Intern, starting from September 2016. We are looking for people with an affinity with Sonic Acts and its activities, who have a proactive and flexible personality and who are fluent in Dutch and English. We are a small, dedicated team, working from Paradiso in Amsterdam. You can find more information (in Dutch) here: Production Intern and Online Communication Intern. Are you interested or do you know someone who might be? The closing date for applications is 1 June 2016. Please help us spread the word!

#Additivism Workshop, Sonic Acts Academy 2016. Photo by Pieter Kers

Vertical Cinema at GEGENkino in Leipzig

06-04-2016 20:53

Sonic Acts is very pleased to announce that Vertical Cinema will make its German debut as part of the upcoming edition of GEGENkino with a screening at the Paul Gerhardt Church in Leipzig on 28 April. Commissioned, curated and produced by Sonic Acts, Vertical Cinema was premiered at the end of 2013 and has since traveled the world. Vertical Cinema tips the all-too-familiar cinemascope screen on its side, creating a vertical monolith on which ten commissioned works on 35 mm film are screened. These works by internationally renowned experimental filmmakers and artists consist of abstract imagery, formal experiments, found footage and live laser action, accompanied by immersive soundscapes. The featured works are by Tina Frank (AT), Björn Kämmerer (DE/AT), Manuel Knapp (AT), Johann Lurf (AT), Joost Rekveld (NL), Rosa Menkman (NL), Billy Roisz (AT) & Dieter Kovačič (AT), Makino Takashi (JP) & Telcosystems (NL), Esther Urlus (NL), Martijn van Boven (NL) & Gert-Jan Prins (NL). The simple act of turning a screen 90 degrees creates alternative experiences and poses interesting artistic challenges that are highly suitable for GEGENkino and especially this year’s theme: Space. The festival strives to challenge the conventions of cinema, explore what else is possible and move beyond boundaries. Space often goes unnoticed and is often taken as a given, but is in fact full of meaning. GEGENkino departs from conventional cinema spaces and illuminates other venues with the projected image. Vertical Cinema filmmaker Johann Lurf will attend the screening and give an introductory talk about Vertical Cinema and his Vertical Cinema work Pyramid Flare. »Johann Lurf (AT) studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, and the Slade School of Art in London, graduating from Harun Farocki’s film class. His films Vertigo Rush (2007), 12 Explosionen (2008), Kreis Wr.Neustadt/A to A (2011), to name but a few, have been screened and won awards at numerous international film festivals. For more information about the screening click here, tickets and the full GEGENkino programme, visit the festival website. Visit for more information about Vertical Cinema.

Published on Vimeo: Sonic Acts Academy Plastic Futures

If you missed (parts of) the Sonic Acts Academy conference or would like to refresh your memory, keep an eye on the Sonic Acts Vimeo channel. We will be publishing recordings of lectures, performances and interviews in the upcoming months. Videos will be published in thematically linked albums, offering in-depth exploration of the subjects covered during the Academy. The first of these albums is titled 'Plastic Futures'. On Sunday, 28 February, Sonic Acts Academy welcomed its visitors to the ‘Plastic Futures Block’. Plastic has become the anthropogenic substrate not only for a whole new ecology of viruses and bacteria, termed the plastisphere, but also for a new aesthetic regime, the capitalist economy, and for unfathomable changes to the geological conditions of the Earth. Theorist Heather Davis started the block stating that while the forecasts are certainly horrific, we should not avoid thinking about these toxic and infertile futures, but instead embrace the nonfilial progeny that plastic, and the plastisphere, might produce. Davis also elaborated on what queer theory, disability studies, and theoretical approaches to the notion of toxicity might teach us.  

Heather Davis: The Queer Futurity of Plastic from Sonic Acts on Vimeo.

Also included in the album is an impression of the opening performance of the ‘Sonic Acts at Paradiso’ club night by Katrina Burch (as Yoneda Lemma) together with Anna Mikkola.

Yoneda Lemma & Anna Mikkola from Sonic Acts on Vimeo.

Subsequently, #Additivism, which is shorthand for a larger research project by artists Morehshin Allahyari and Daniel Rourke, considered how 3D printing can become a tool for social change. They stated that: ‘#Additivism is a vision of horror – a future in which we fill our lives with ever more useless trinkets of 3D printed plastic’, but also proposed that via Accelerationist and Xenofeminist movements, there still is a potential for radical intervention in contemporary technocapitalism.

#Additivism: An Encounter with The Fluid Outside from Sonic Acts on Vimeo.

Katrina Burch closed the block with her presentation on Dust Synthesis. Her talk connected the techno-sapiens’ living body to sound and proposed that sound has a physicality that can be shaped by a listener. By embracing the plasticity of sound, she suggests that a listener can create fictions and conceptions of reality in the same way an archaeologist builds narratives from features and artefacts in his landscape.

Katrina Burch: Paradigm patching in the analogic cockpit — Presentation on Dust Synthesis with/by Yoneda Lemma from Sonic Acts on Vimeo.

The block closed with a 30-minute-long, Q&A session lead by Heather Davis.

Q&A with Heather Davis, #Additivism and Katrina Burch from Sonic Acts on Vimeo.

The 3.5-hour-long Plastic Futures Block presented visions already embedded within our current techno-capitalist society. Subjects such as queer futurities, fluid outsides, and xenoplot carriers shaped the excursion through the speculative, yet impending reality awaiting humanity, speckled with visions of horror and potential.   Watch all the lectures and the Q&A in this Vimeo Album Related writings Hannah Klaubert, a participant of the Critical Writing Workshop, which ran in tandem with the Academy, reflects on Davis’ talk on the Critical Writing Blog. During Sonic Acts Academy, Nastassja Simensky interviewed Morehshin Allahyari about her Material Speculation project. Read her text ‘Decolonialising The Archive’ here. Nastassja Simensky posted: Between the Empirical and the Poetic: Katrina Burch on the Critical Writing Blog. Read the article here.

Third Edition of Progress Bar Amsterdam ft. Nkisi, GAIKA, Crystallmess, Ling and Abyss X

05-04-2016 13:39

On Saturday 23 April the third edition of Progress Bar takes place at Tolhuistuin Amsterdam, with live performances and DJ sets by Nkisi, GAIKA, Crystallmess, Ling, Yon Eta, Juha and, the latest addition to the line-up, Abyss X. Progress Bar is a new collaboration between Sonic Acts, Lighthouse and Viral Radio. Described as a ‘forward-thinking arts festival’ by FACT Magazine, the event presents a lively mix of talks, live performances and DJ sets. From vanguard producers and filmmakers to trending artists and designers, Progress Bar provides insights into the creative practice of contemporary culture's most exciting names. For the first two editions Progress Bar invited highly acclaimed acts like King Midas Sound, Lafawndah and Ital Tek and new talents such as Endgame, Lexxi, Kamixlo, Fis and Pyur. For this edition, Progress Bar features live performances and DJ sets by Nkisi, GAIKA, Crystallmess, Ling and Yon Eta. They will be joined by Progress Bar resident Juha. There will also be a talks with Nkisi and GAIKA. Light design by Marco Broeders. Nkisi Nkisi is the alias of Melika Ngombe Kolongo, an artist raised in Belgium and now living in London. She's a producer, DJ and co-founder of NON Records, a collective of African artists and of the diaspora, using sound as their primary media, to articulate the visible and invisible structures that create binaries in society, and in turn distribute power. GAIKA Beatmaker, MC and artist Gaika was born and raised in Brixton. His singular, confrontational performance style reflects influences such as Basquiat, Tricky and The Weeknd. Chrystallmess “As a Paris born and raised writer, Christelle Oyiri regularly delves into fertile subcultures and corners of the past. But when she gets behind the decks as Crystallmess, she plays a combination of west african rhythms, bass music, french house music and french carribean dancehall/soca reshaping what french club music means beyond its colonial definition." (S.Renaldo) Abyss X Greek-born LA-based producer, singer and multi-disciplinary artist Abyss X released her debut EP "Echoes" on Extasis Records, Mexico City's label founded by NAAFI's member LAO. She is currently in the process of launching S H ❌ M E which has manifested itself as a platform for radio shows, events and hopefully, in the future as a label of raw sounding material. Her live shows are of raw and agressieve nature, described by some as "savage". Yon Eta Yon Eta has a maximalist approach regarding sound while consciously striving to limit the options in the production process of his music. This Amsterdam-based composer and DJ runs the DEVORM imprint, offering artists the opportunity to challenge their musical ideas. In recent years he has released audiovisual works in collaboration with FOAM, EYE Film Institute and Freeform Festival. Yon Eta has won major awards at De Grote Prijs van Nederland (2010) and the Berlin Music Video Awards (2013). Juha DJ and Viral Radio founder Juha plays Internet dance music. The artistic director of Lighthouse in Brighton since 2014, he unites the worlds of culture and technology. In 2012, Juha won De Hallen Curatorial Scholarship for his proposal DREAD - The Dizziness of Freedom. As of 2016, Juha presents Viral Radio on ResonanceEXTRA, a monthly two-hour programme following new developments deep down the rabbit hole of Internet music culture. Light design by Marco Broeders (Co2RO) Event Details Progress Bar ft. Nkisi, GAIKA, Crystallmess, Ling and Juha Date: 23 April 2016 Venue: Paradiso Noord, Tolhuistuin, IJpromenade 2, 1031 KT Amsterdam Times: 21:00–04:00 (doors open 20:30) Tickets: €12,50. Purchase via Ticketmaster or at the door (card only)

Second Edition of Progress Bar: Lafawndah, Brood Ma, ITAL TEK, Fis, PYUR

On 26 March, the second edition of Progress Bar, a new collaboration between Sonic Acts, Lighthouse and Viral Radio takes place at Paradiso Noord, Tolhuistuin in Amsterdam. Described as ‘cutting edge thinking and dancing’ by FACT Magazine, the event presents a lively mix of talks, screenings, live performances and a club night. From vanguard producers and filmmakers to trending artists and activists, Progress Bar gives insights into the creative practice of contemporary culture's most exciting names. For the second edition, Progress Bar presents live performances by Lafawndah (Warp, US), Brood Ma (Tri Angle, UK), ITAL TEK (Planet Mu, UK), Fis (Tri Angle, NZ), and PYUR (Unsigned, DE), and talks by James Stringer aka Brood Ma and co-founder of the London-based games and digital arts studio Werkflow and Lafawndah. They will be joined by Progress Bar resident and Viral Radio founder Juha. Spatial and light design by Marco Broeders (Co2RO). EVENT DETAILS Progress Bar ft. Lafawndah, Brood Ma, ITAL TEK, Fis, PYUR, Juha Date: 26 March 2016 Venue: Paradiso Noord, Tolhuistuin, IJpromenade 2, 1031 KT Amsterdam Times: 21:00–04:00 (doors open 20:30) Tickets: €12,50. Purchase via Ticketmaster or at the door (card only) Find more information and join the event on Facebook.

Progress Bar Amsterdam: Second Edition from Sonic Acts on Vimeo.

PROGRAMME Lafawndah ‘Fantastical, not exotic – the Egyptian-Iranian performer draws on her heritage to create pop from another planet.’ – Adam Bychawski, The Guardian Releasing her first self-titled EP in 2014 and her second, TAN, earlier this year, Lafwndah’s music is imbued with influences from Middle Eastern and Caribbean rhythms to those taken from her time working with producers such as Teengirl Fantasy and L-Vis 1990 in New York. Brood Ma / Werkflow Genre-spanning London-based producer Brood Ma, aka James B Stringer, is known for twisting staple club signifiers into otherworldly shapes. His latest album Daze, released by Tri Angle records in February, described by the label as ‘a dizzying, exhilarating and terrifying soundtrack to dystopia’, is his most deliberate dancefloor statement yet. Stringer will also give a talk about Werkflow, the games-engine-focused, digital arts studio based in London he co-founded. During his talk he will elaborate on the studio’s practice, some of its projects and how gaming technology shapes the way they do things. ITAL TEK Brighton-based music producer ITAL TEK (aka Alan Myson) will release his fifth album Hollowed in March. Whereas his previous album Nebula Dance was described by NME as ‘clusters of dizzying breakbeats and swooning, sad house chords’, Myson states that in Hollowed he is ‘moving away from dance music and letting sound inhabit a space without shoving everything at the listener in the first few bars.’ Fis Since 2012, New Zealand-born music producer FIS has released numerous singles, EPs and the album The Blue Quicksand Is Going Now (2015). Leaving his drum’n’bass beginnings behind, today he is described as an artist who ‘comes from dance music, but attempts to break free of its conventions to pursue something otherworldly’, producing work that ‘ranks among the most original electronic music in recent years.’ – Resident Advisor. PYUR Originally from Bavaria, emerging music producer and visual artist PYUR now lives in Berlin, the centre of Europe’s electronic music scene. Her yet-to-be released work is inspired by the natural world and human relationships. Juha DJ and Viral Radio founder Juha plays Internet dance music. The artistic director of Lighthouse in Brighton since 2014, he unites the worlds of culture and technology. Lighthouse organises Progress Bar, a political party for new art, music and technology. In 2012, Juha won De Hallen Curatorial Scholarship for his proposal DREAD - The Dizziness of Freedom. As of 2016, Juha presents Viral Radio on ResonanceEXTRA, a monthly two-hour programme following new developments deep down the rabbit hole of Internet music culture.

Save the date: Sonic Acts Festival 2017

We’ll be back next year with a festival edition, mark these dates in your calendar now: 23 - 26 February 2017. More information will follow in the coming months. Keep an eye on the Facebook event and this website.

Dark Ecology journey: apply before 18 March

Tatjana Gorbachewskaya & Katya Larina, Nikel Materiality, Dark Ecology Journey 2015. Photo by Michael Miller
After two extraordinary Dark Ecology Journeys in 2014 and 2015, we are excited to announce the third and final journey which will occur from 8–12 June 2016 in Northern Norway and Russia. While the previous journey took place as the Sun showed itself for the last time that year, this final journey will take place during the Arctic summer, during which the Sun will be up for most of the day and night. The programme includes presentations of new commissioned works by Justin Bennett, Dmitry Morozow, Signe Lidén and Espen Sommer Eide, and Cecila Jonsson, and others, as well as lectures, discussions, walks, and performances. More names will be announced soon.

Call for Participation

The Dark Ecology journey is for artists, theorists, designers, curators, scientists, writers, makers, and researchers who operate at the intersection of art, science and music, and who are interested in rethinking notions and concepts such as ‘nature’, ‘culture’, ‘ecology’ and ‘society’, and in exploring new descriptions of the current ‘state of affairs’. If you are interested in joining us, or have any questions about participation, please contact us at darkecology[@]sonicacts[.]com. To apply, send us your bio and a short explanation about why you would like to participate as soon as possible, as there are limited places available. The deadline for applications is 18 March 2016. More information can be found here. Dark Ecology is a three-year art, research and commissioning project, initiated by the Dutch organisation Sonic Acts and Kirkenes-based curator Hilde Methi, in collaboration with Norwegian, Russian and other European partners. Dark Ecology unfolds through research, the creation of new artworks, and a public programme in the zone on both sides of the Russian–Norwegian border. The programme includes lectures, presentations of commissioned artworks, curated local walks, a discursive programme, and concerts. If Dark Ecology is entirely new to you, this is the best introduction to the project. You can also connect with us on Facebook.

Sonic Acts Academy publication now for sale

In context of the Sonic Acts Academy, Sonic Acts published a 64-page ’zine’, which contains a beautifully designed and printed collection of short essays, manifestos, statements and visual contributions that provide invaluable insights into the exploration conducted and during the Academy. With contributions from Sonic Acts Academy participants: #Additivism, Thomas Ankersmit, Louis Henderson, Ewa Justka, Anton Kats, Okkyung Lee, Yoneda Lemma, Maryanne Amacher Archive, M.E.S.H., Anna Mikkola, BJ Nilsen, Sally-Jane Norman, Dick Raaijmakers, Daïchi Saïto, Susan Schuppli, Jos Smolders (WaSm), Raphael Vanoli, Ana Vaz and Frans de Waard (WaSm). Sonic Acts Academy Volume 1 is now available online via the Sonic Acts Shop.

Looking back on first edition Sonic Acts Academy

Okkyung Lee, Opening Sonic Acts Academy 2016 at Stedelijk
The first edition of Sonic Acts Academy has ended. We look back proudly on an opening night with performances at Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, five workshops and two days of presentations celebrating today’s artistic practices at de Brakke Grond, and an invigorating line-up at Paradiso that had visitors dancing into the early hours. We would like to thank everyone involved in making the Academy such a successful first edition. A big thank you to the artists, volunteers, partner organisations and their staff, funders, technicians, bloggers, photographers, film crews and everyone else involved. Last, but not least, a thank you to the audience – those who attended and those online – who joined us for the Sonic Acts Academy. It was amazing that so many of you actively participated in making it such a memorable event. Check out the photo stream on Flickr. If you missed the Academy or want to relive some of your favourite moments, keep an eye on the Sonic Acts website, audio recordings and videos will be shared in the coming weeks.

Invitation for feedback

Help us to evaluate the Sonic Acts Academy to improve future editions. If you attended the Academy, please participate in our online survey. This shouldn’t take longer than 10 minutes, and we’ll randomly distribute some fine rewards among participants. So please share your thoughts on the Academy while they’re still fresh!

Progress Bar: Brood Ma, Fis, ITAL TEK, Lafawndah & PYUR

If you enjoyed Sonic Acts Academy's Saturday programme at Paradiso, you’ll also enjoy the Progress Bar events we are organising in collaboration with Lighthouse and Viral Radio in the next few months. On 26 March, Progress Bar will bring you yet another evening filled with a lively mix of talks, performances and DJ sets. This edition will feature performances by Brood Ma (Tri Angle, UK), Fis (Tri Angle, NZ), ITAL TEK (Planet Mu, UK)Lafawndah(Warp, US) and PYUR (Unsigned, DE). Saturday 26 March 2016 Paradiso Noord, Tolhuistuin Start programme: 21.00 hrs Open: 20.30 hrs Admission: €12,50 Buy ticket(s) RSVP on Facebook Save the dates of the forthcoming editions of Progress Bar on 23 April and 4 June. Like the Progress Bar Facebook page and stay informed!

First names for Sonic Acts Academy 2016 & last chance to buy early bird tickets

Sonic Acts is pleased to announce the first names for the Academy: Morehshin Allahyari, Maryanne Amacher, Thomas Ankersmit, J. G. Biberkopf, Katrina Burch, Heather Davis, Bill Dietz, Yon Eta, Drill Folly, Louis Henderson, Ewa Justka, KABLAM, Anton Kats, Okkyung Lee, Yoneda lemma, Lotic, M.E.S.H., Anna Mikkola, Nkisi, Sally-Jane Norman, Daniel Rourke, Daïchi Saïto, Susan Schuppli, Jason Sharp, Sky H1, Soraya, Raphael Vanoli, Ana Vaz, WaSM, Why Be, Juha van 't Zelfde. The Sonic Acts Academy is a new platform that aims to grow, expand, sustain and disseminate stimulating discourse about artistic research. The academy is an initiative of Sonic Acts, which also organises the internationally renowned Sonic Acts Festival focusing on developments at the intersection of art, science and technology. The Sonic Acts Academy highlights artistic engagement as vital to understanding the complexities of our contemporary world. Over the course of three days, artists present work that challenges the sterile dichotomy of theory versus practice. Following an open and dynamic format, the Sonic Acts Academy will probe traditional notions of the academy with the aim of positioning art as a unique means of knowledge production, to be shared and expanded upon with future generations. Regular ticket sales will start on 17 January, so be fast if you want to get hold of one of the last early bird tickets.

Sonic Acts Academy: First Names Announced

Sonic Acts is pleased to announce the first names for the Academy: Morehshin Allahyari & Daniel Rourke, Maryanne Amacher Archive, Thomas Ankersmit, Louis Henderson, Ewa Justka, KABLAM, Okkyung Lee, Yoneda Lemma, Lotic, M.E.S.H., Anna Mikkola, Sally-Jane Norman, Daïchi Saïto & Jason Sharp, Susan Schuppli, Raphael Vanoli, Anna Vaz, WaSm and Why Be, with many more to follow shortly.

Call for Applicants: Critical Writing Workshop

Sonic Acts Critical Writing Academy 2015. Photo by Rosa Menkman
Following the success of the previous Critical Writing Workshops, another edition of Describing the Indescribable will take place from 26 to 28 February 2016 during the Sonic Acts Academy. ‘Describing the Indescribable’ will be a unique way to attend the Academy since it provides participants with space for group reflection and discussion, geared towards producing texts about the events that unfold within the academy. During the workshop, writers will share insights into specific aspects of their craft (language, style, focus) and provide feedback on the texts written by the workshop participants during the academy. Jennifer Lucy Allan will lead the Critical Writing Workshop. Allan, previously an editor for The Wire, now works as freelance journalist. She was also involved as an expert in the Critical Writing Workshop that took place during the Sonic Acts Geologic Imagination Festival in 2015. The workshop hosts a maximum of 7 emerging bloggers, journalists, critics and writers active or interested in the field of interdisciplinary arts (media arts, film, visual arts, performance). Applicants are asked to submit a short motivation and CV to write[@]sonicacts[.]com. The deadline for applications is 1 February 2016. For an impression, check out articles written by 2015 participants on the Sonic Acts blog. Participants pay a €40,- contribution. Lunches will be provided.

Field Recording Workshop with Jana Winderen & BJ Nilsen

From 10–13 February 2016, Sonic Acts hosts a four-day field-recording workshop by renowned sound artists Jana Winderen and BJ Nilsen. This workshop is aimed at artists, composers and musicians with a background in sound and field recording who would like to expand their understanding and awareness of sound, and enhance their recording skills and their use of environmental sound. The workshop is practice-oriented, and focuses on the methods and processes involved in artistic research. Winderen and Nilsen introduce the practise, listening exercises and the tools. Each day, the participants make sound recordings which they present for critical reflection first to each other, and finally in an informal setting to the public. The heart of the workshop consists of field trips to specific locations in and outside Amsterdam, and the exploration the (sound) ecologies of water environments. Participants are encouraged to bring their own recording equipment. Jana Winderen (NO) studied at Fine Art at Goldsmiths College in London, and has a background in mathematics, chemistry and fish ecology from the University in Oslo. She releases her audiovisual works on Touch. Amongst her activities are immersive multichannel installations and concerts. She has performed all over the world. Jana Winderen researches the hidden depths with the latest technology; her work reveals the complexity and strangeness of the unseen world below us. The audio topography of the oceans and ice crevasses are brought to the surface. She finds and reveals sounds from hidden sources, also those inaudible to humans, as well as those from places or made by creatures difficult to access. BJ Nilsen (SE) is a composer and sound artist based in Amsterdam. His work primarily focuses on the sounds of nature and how they affect humans. Recent work has explored the urban acoustic realm and industrial geography in the Arctic region of Norway and Russia. His original scores and soundtracks have featured in theatre, dance performances and film, in collaborations with Chris Watson, Gaspar Noé, Jóhann Jóhannsson, and others. He co-edited the book+CD publication The Acoustic City (2014), published by jovis. His two latest solo albums Eye Of The Microphone (2013) and The Invisible City (2010) were released by Touch. In 2014, Nilsen collaborated with filmmaker Karl Lemieux on the audiovisual work unearthed, which was presented along with the Sonic Acts publication The Geologic Imagination. Enrolement Only ten people can participate in this workshop. To apply please send a short biography, a motivation why you would like to attend, and your expectations to workshop[@]sonicacts[.]com. The deadline for application is 20 January 2016. Participants must attend the full programme. Late or incomplete applications will not be considered. If we receive more than ten applications, we will make a careful selection in consultation with Jana Winderen and BJ Nilsen. A detailed schedule and more information about how to prepare for the workshop will be sent to the selected participants. Fee Participants pay a €50,- contribution. Lunches will be provided. Participants will receive reduced admission to the Sonic Acts Academy on 26–28 February 2016.

Call for Applicants: #Additivism Workshop

3D printing promises to become a widespread material language, allowing anything that can be stored as a digital template to be realised – just as long as one has the necessary materials. In The 3D Additivist Manifesto, Morehshin Allahyari and Daniel Rourke call creators and thinkers to action around this technology filled with hope and promise: the 3D printer. By considering 3D printing as a potential force for good, bad, or otherwise, they aim to disrupt binary thinking entirely, bringing together makers and thinkers invested in the idea of real, radical, change. Through their #Additivism project, Allahyari and Rourke set out to blur the boundaries between art, engineering, science fiction, and digital aesthetics with poetic, revolutionary gusto to forcefully question the contradictions of living under technocapitalism. They explore the promises of Additivist technologies through the metaphors of crude oil, plastic and desertification, and talk about the Anthropocene and Chthulucene; about forms of embodiment, alterity, and activism still waiting to be unleashed through acts of material creativity. #Additivism calls for artists, activists, designers, scientists, and critical engineers to accelerate the 3D printer and other Additivist technologies to their absolute limits and beyond, into the realm of the speculative, the provocative and the weird. To get into the Additivism mood, watch the Additivism Manifesto. More information about Additivism can be found on Workshop The 2-day 3D Additivism workshop, which will take place immediately after the Sonic Acts Academy (29 February & 1 March), will be presented as an expanded lecture and as a workshop. During the workshop participants will be encouraged to reconsider the terms under which human-centric technologies affect the ongoing transformation of nature into ‘post-nature’, as well as the moral and philosophical implications of actively seeking to steer our technologies towards this end.  Participants will be guided through the processes of additive design with the aim of producing speculative ‘post-natural’ objects for possible inclusion in the forthcoming 3D Additivist Cookbook. Questions such as: "How do we imagine structures of knowledge and action that exist outside or beyond human beings and our technologies?" and: "Is it possible to 'write' into, to ‘design’ alternate futures, without limiting what they (and we) might become?" will form a red threat. Application The workshop is open to artists, theorists, designers, engineers, scientists, thinkers, doers and makers who are interested in alternative approaches to theory-led forms of practice. Participants are ideally filled with fears and enthusiasm for the future. To apply please send a short bio, a motivation why you would like to attend, and your expectations to workshop[@]sonicacts[.]com. The deadline for application is 1 February 2016. Participants must attend the full programme. Late or incomplete applications will not be considered. If we receive more than ten applications, we will make a careful selection in consultation with Allahyari and Rourke. A detailed schedule and more information about how to prepare for the workshop will be sent to the selected participants. Contribution Participants will pay a contribution of €30. Lunches will be provided. Participants will receive reduced admission to the Sonic Acts Academy on 26–28 February 2016.

Progress Bar in Amsterdam!

King Midas Sound & Fennesz 2015. Photo by Jimmy Mould
"The ground is rumbling beneath my feet. Bass and rotor chug collide in the air and throb like a migraine. Thick, suffocating clouds of dry ice billow through the space between bodies. Somewhere in the gloom, occasionally picked out by white strobe light, I can just about make out the figure of Kevin Martin, clad in his standard-issue hoodie, hat and jacket uniform. The space in between is filled with faceless silhouettes thrashing back and forth." - Rory Gibb, The Quietus We’re thrilled to announce that Sonic Acts, Viral Radio and Brighton-based Lighthouse will present a special season of Progress Bars in Amsterdam from January 2016 onwards. Progress Bar was initiated by Lighthouse as its regular night for cutting-edge thinking and dancing, and presents a lively mix of talks, screenings, performances and a club in a single night. In collaboration with Sonic Acts and Viral Radio, the Progress Bar will be raised to another level. Amsterdam’s first edition, which will take place on 16 January 2016 at Paradiso Noord/Tolhuistuin, celebrates artists from Trinidad, Japan, Chile and the UK. It will kick off with talks by music and culture journalist Aimee Cliff from The Fader and King Midas Sound co-founder Roger Robinson. Following this, King Midas Sound & Fennesz, the new collaboration between King Midas Sound and Austrian electronic music pioneer Christian Fennesz, will take over Paradiso Noord with a performance of their album Edition 1 which Resident Advisor described as ‘a slow-building, smoky crescendo of noise’. Progress Bar will continue into the early hours with a club night featuring Lexxi, Endgame & Kamixlo – London figureheads and co-founders of Endless, the subversive, genre-breaking club night that propagates London’s most exciting new producers. 20.00-22.00 hrs - Lecture programme Admission is free of charge, reservation required via 22.00-04.00 - concert & club programme Admission €12,50 (including membership) Tickets can be purchased on Ticketmaster and on the door. Please note that the Tolhuistuin is a bank card only venue. This edition of the Progress Bar is the start of a series that will see further editions throughout 2016 in Amsterdam. More details about Progress Bar Amsterdam in March, April and June will be announced on this website soon. Join the Facebook event and sign up to the Progress Bar newsletter for updates. Aimee Cliff Aimee Cliff is an Associate Editor of The FADER, based in their London office. Previously, she was a freelance music and culture journalist, writing for Dazed & Confused, Vice, The Quietus, Red Bull and more. She has interviewed innovative artists and musicians — from radical romantic Jam City to grime MC Stormzy to Metamodernist celebrity Shia LaBeouf — and her monthly column Popping Off interrogates pop cultural issues, from the presentation of sexuality in music videos to ageism in the media. She also co-hosts the monthly Radar Radio show Angel Food, with melodic grime producer E.M.M.A. Roger Robinson Trinidadian musician, writer and performer Roger Robinson has lived in London for 20 years. As a writer and workshop leader, Robinson’s major achievements include being chosen by Decibel magazine as one of 50 writers who have influenced the black-British writing canon; receiving commissions from London Opera House, National Portrait Gallery and the V&A, amongst others; and being shortlisted for The OCM Bocas Poetry Prize. His solo music album Illclectica, released in 2004, was chosen by Mojo magazine as one of their top ten electronic albums for that year. He is also a co-founder of King Midas Sound. King Midas Sound A musical crossover project, King Midas Sound is composed of The Bug, aka producer Kevin Martin, Roger Robinson and Japanese artist and singer Kiki Hitomi. The trio released their first album, Without You, in 2011. In 2013 they made a brief, but exciting return, with the single Aroo in which “drone, melancholy, and a sea of fuzz blisteringly collide.” This year sees them make a return with Edition 1, released through Ninja Tunes on 18 September 2015. Editions 2-4 will see King Midas Sound collaborate with a different artist: details to be announced later. Christian Fennesz Originally from Vienna, Christian Fennesz is now based in Paris. He uses guitar and computer to create shimmering, swirling electronic sound of enormous range and complex musicality. His lush and luminant compositions are anything but sterile computer experiments – they resemble sensitive, telescopic recordings of rainforest insect life or natural atmospheric occurrences, an inherent naturalism permeating each piece. While he releases solo material only every couple of years, over the past decades he has been a constant in the ears and minds of experimental music enthusiasts through a myriad of remixes, soundtracks, collaborations and other works. Endgame, Lexxi & Kamixlo “I want to start club culture from scratch and destroy homogenous and heteronormative 4/4 dance music – it’s dying a slow death and is beyond irrelevant.” – Endgame in Dazed and Confused Blending a mix of Angolan dance genre Kizola, Jamaican dancehall and British bass-laden dance music, the three South-London DJ's and producers Endgame, Lexxi and Kamixlo propel a worldwide sound akin to the diversity and novelty of online communities that are at once familiar, futurist and forward-moving.

Dark Ecology Journey: First Journey Report

We are back home from a successful second Dark Ecology Journey. Over the course of five days, we travelled with a group of more than 50 artists, researchers, curators, writers and organisers to Kirkenes in Northern Norway from where we took a bus to Murmansk in Russia, to Zapolyarny and Nikel, and back to Kirkenes. It was the time of the polar twilight, when the sun does not rise above the horizon. During these long periods of darkness, life slows down and offers room for introspection. Yet, for many of us who had never been this far north before, it was surprisingly bright, and we enjoyed as much as four or five hours of beautiful twilight, as well as a full moon. The core of the Dark Ecology project is about investigating new definitions and imaginings of ecology, the connection between humans, nature and technology, and overcoming the nature–culture divide, all in the context of the ongoing transformations to the planet and the ecological crisis. The Barents region – where Kirkenes, Nikel, Zapolyarny, and Murmansk are located – has already undergone changes due to climate change, which has affected the economic and geopolitical situation. The programme kicked off with an expanded lecture by the American philosopher Graham Harman. It was followed by a short report on the rapidly changing political and economic situation of Kirkenes, touching on the closure of the Norwegian border at Storskog to refugees, the bankruptcy of the mine, and the collapse of trade with Russia.

Joris Strijbos, IsoScope, Dark Ecology Journey 2015. Photo by the artist
Dutch artist Joris Strijbos installed a new kinetic sound-and-light installation IsoScope, with wind generating the energy to power the revolving lights and the sound, on top of a ‘mountain’ just outside Kirkenes. We visited the work in the early evening. At the same time Norwegian artist Margrethe Pettersen presented the soundwalk Living Land – Below but also Above on the frozen lake, illuminated by small lights and an almost full moon. It was a magical experience.
Margrethe Pettersen, Living Land - Below but also Above, Dark Ecology Journey 2015. Photo by Michael Miller
The next day we travelled to Murmansk, which, including the border crossing, took us most of the day. (There were no refugees; the only visible evidence of what had happened there in the past few weeks were two containers filled with bikes). The travel was scheduled perfectly. We drove through the Pasvik valley at twilight as the fading light gradually gave way to darkness on the road to Murmansk. En route, we listened to a selection of podcasts that approached the subject of Dark Ecology from numerous perspectives. In Murmansk the day ended with a public talkshow featuring the artists who had developed new works for Dark Ecology.
LYSN, Murmansk Spaceport, Dark Ecology Journey 2015. Photo by Michael Miller
The next morning, artist and researcher Susann Schuppli presented her views on ‘dark matter’ and ‘material witnesses’ during a lecture at the Aurora Kinoteater. Trombonist and composer Hilary Jeffery had already been in Murmansk for two weeks, working on his commission Murmansk Spaceport which was performed by a new formation of LYSN with local musicians from Murmansk and Bødo. They performed the piece twice at the Roxy cultural centre to an audience who reclined on beanbags and cushions while listening to and absorbing the sound of the drones with their bodies.
HC Gilje, The Crossing, Dark Ecology Journey 2015. Photo by Michael Miller
We explored Murmansk in groups the following morning and afternoon, diving into the architecture, the history, development, and culture of this extraordinary harbour city. In the late afternoon we travelled back on the bus, first to Nikel to see HC Gilje’s work Barents (Mare Incognitum) at the local sports stadium, and then to Zapolyarny to see The Crossing, a light installation that used an abandoned concrete structure just outside the town (we still don’t know what it’s function was, or who it belongs to).
Tatjana Gorbachewskaja and Katya Larina, Nikel Materiality, Dark Ecology Journey 2015. Photo by Rosa Menkman
After a night in Zapolyarny it was back to Nikel for the last commissioned work, an extensive mapping of the architectural development and materials of Nikel by Tatjana Gorbatsjevskaja and Katya Larina, presented in the form of a lecture and a guided walk through part of the town. For those who had never been to Nikel, this was perhaps one of the most impressive parts of the journey, as Nikel and its smelter are simply that: impressive. This industrial behemoth unleashed a discussion about what we do with the world, and how our lives are intimately attached to beautiful things as well as to pollution and dirt. Visit the Flickr Album for a photo's of the journey. Go to the Dark Ecology Facebook page for a day-to-day report. In June we will return for a third and final Dark Ecology Journey.

Save the Date: Progress Bar - 16 January 2016

We're happy to announce that a new series of events, brought to you by Brighton’s Lighthouse and Amsterdam’s Sonic Acts and Viral Radio, will launch in Amsterdam next year. Part talkshow, part clubnight, Progress Bar makes an exciting shift from the regular to the radical. Providing insight into the creative practice of contemporary culture's most exciting names, from vanguard music producers and filmmakers to trending artists and activists, Progress Bar is an ear-to-the-ground evening of new art, new thinking, new music and, hopefully, new friends. Amsterdam’s first edition will be held at Tolhuistuin. The line-up will include a performance by musical crossover project King Midas Sound consisting of The Bug, singer/poet Roger Robinson, and vocalist Kiki Hitomi, with Austrian guitarist and composer Christian Fennesz. Together, King Midas Sound & Fennesz recently released Edition 1, described as “a slow-building, smoky crescendo of noise” by Holly Dicker in Resident Advisor. The evening will furthermore see a club night featuring Lexxi, Endgame & Kamixlo. These London figureheads are perhaps best known from the infamous Endless club night, which is often cited in the context of giving a "middle finger to the shadowy forces that conspire to shut [UK's clublife] down" (Dazed & Confused). Please keep an eye on our Facebook page for more details and tickets.

Sonic Acts Academy: Early Bird Tickets Available

Get your early bird tickets for the Sonic Acts Academy which will take place from 26 till 28 February 2016 now. The Academy will take place every two years, alternating with the bi-annual Sonic Acts festival. The Academy is offering thought-provoking new perspectives on the research into art, the research needed for art and especially research through art. The Academy relates to topics that are connected to the ‘dark matter’ theme Sonic Acts is currently investigating with its projects such as Dark Ecology and The Geologic Imagination, informed by the realisation that we live in the Anthropocene, and questioning how this forces us to rethink concepts of nature, culture, technology, and ecology. In the weeks preceding and following the Academy, we will hold masterclasses and workshops for artists, curators, students, theorists and cultural practitioners. The opening of Sonic Acts Academy itself takes place on Friday, 26 February, at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, and is followed by a symposium; two days of lectures, presentations and films screenings at the Brakke Grond, a new location for Sonic Acts. On Saturday, 27 February, Sonic Acts will take over Paradiso’s main and small halls with concerts and performances, lasting until the small hours. A limited amount of early bird passe-partouts are for sale now for a discounted price of € 50,- There is also a discounted option for students and those 65 years and older for € 40,- Tickets are now available here. We also offer professional accreditation, please see this page to find out more.

Interview with John Tresch on cosmograms

SONIC ACTS RESEARCH SERIES #20 American society and nature, cosmograms and matter By Liesbeth Koot and Menno Grootveld Sonic Acts was very happy to welcome John Tresch to the 2015 festival The Geologic Imagination, where he presented a lecture Fiat Lux and Earth’s Answer. John Tresch is an historian of science and technology and is Associate Professor at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. In his lecture he elaborated on the notion of humans playing a role in nature’s creation as having roots that long precede discussions of the Anthropocene. Very compelling are the Romantic era’s personifications of a living, growing earth, whose latest blossoms are humans and their technologies. After his lecture Tresch talked to Sonic Acts' Liesbeth Koot and Menno Grootveld, publisher at Leesmagazijn. In the interview Tresch elaborates on the idea of cosmograms as examples of people making an effort to represent the totality of the universe in a concrete way. He also discusses examples of cosmograms and their implications when thinking about the Anthropocene. John Tresch, Sonic Acts Festival 2015 at Paradiso, Amsterdam, Photo by Julia ter Maten MENNO GROOTVELD (MG): In your lecture you spoke in detail about Brian Wilson and the music of The Beach Boys as an example of a cosmogram. What is the connection between Brian Wilson and the Anthropocene? JOHN TRESCH: The idea is that The Beach Boys are the incarnation of two episodes of thinking about American consumer and technological society and nature. The first episode involves a kind of confused innocence, like the innocence of the early Beach Boys – California Girls, Fun Fun Fun – which is this party at the edge of the world. But while The Beach Boys are supposed to be all about the sun, surf and sand, this ‘nature’ only exists because of the process of settlement and industrialisation, the process of seizing and transforming the land and the water, and the electricity that makes the eternal daylight of California. There is no real endless summer in California. The only reason that it is possible to live there – on the scale that people do – is because of this artificial industrial transformation of the land. So, although The Beach Boys had a very intoxicating vision of the California dream, which Brian Wilson actually helped to create, just a few years later we see the second episode of thinking about American society and nature, and the innocence of the early Beach Boys dissolves. That was when Wilson caught another side of that dream: its crash and closure. This crash happened partly because Wilson was trying to do too much. With his last album, Smile, he was competing with the Beatles, trying to outdo Sgt. Pepper’s. It was a really grandiose and fantastic plan, but he broke down trying to do it. He couldn’t complete it. Nevertheless, there are a few marvellous songs that were released in this sunset moment, the fading of the sixties, 1971. In my talk I played a couple of songs from the 1971 Beach Boys album Surf’s Up. In the earlier vision, that phrase meant: ‘Come on, let’s ride these waves’, but now it’s ironic, melancholic: Surf’s up, the dream is over, the waves have gone out and ‘we are adrift atop of a tidal wave’ – that’s a line that Brian Wilson uses in the title song. This album has a very different feel, a very different emotional tone in which the California dream is shot through with pessimism and disappointment. The album came out in 1971, and the pessimism includes the acknowledgement that the dreams of the sixties are being corrupted and co-opted. And this is where Thomas Pynchon comes in, because his book, Inherent Vice – and the new film by Paul Thomas Anderson captures this tone perfectly – is all about the setting of that sun. There is a sense of that dream having collapsed. But also, and this is no coincidence, it’s the moment of the birth of a widespread environmental consciousness. That is really the connection to the Anthropocene.

'There is a sense of that dream having collapsed. But also, and this is no coincidence, it’s the moment of the birth of a widespread environmental consciousness.’
The year 1971 is when people started to say: ‘All of this consumption and industrialisation, which makes it possible for us to live in this eternal festival, in this endless summer, is actually bringing waves of garbage back to the shore.’ We have oil spills and there aren’t any forests anymore – in California they’ve all been covered with freeways. I think at that later moment Brian Wilson, and especially the kind of allegory told by his own life, starting with innocent hope and then his devastating crash, captured some of where we are in the Anthropocene. There was an earlier dream of being closely tied to nature, and then the recognition that some of the nostalgic versions of that Romantic naturalism actually weren’t connected to nature at all. They were fantasies produced by high industrialisation, by the mass media. And there is a price to pay for the industrialisation that made that romantic fantasy possible. Confronting the way in which we are outside of nature, but also connected to it, we now have to deal with what we have done. That is the Anthropocene. And the song ’Til I Die by Brian Wilson, The Beach Boys, captures that sublimity of being a rock in a landslide, a leaf in the wind, or a cork on the ocean – he goes through all these identifications in the song, and the sound is this overwhelming ocean, a chorus that’s like an ocean. We are connected to this thing, which is much bigger than us and there is something quite beautiful and inspiring about that, but also something very menacing too. Because who we thought we were as humans and individuals, disconnected from nature, no longer stands. We are connected to it and in one way that’s inspiring, but it’s also something that’s very uncanny and difficult to deal with. And I think that where we are at in the Anthropocene, is likewise uncanny. MG: You know that Brian Wilson was actually afraid of the ocean? JT: Yes, I think partly why he wrote the song was because of his experience of being terrorised by the ocean wile swimming. LIESBETH KOOT (LK): In your lecture today you talked about your concept of the cosmogram, defined as ‘inscriptions of the cosmos as a whole’. How is the cosmogram connected to the concept of the Anthropocene? JT: Cosmogram is a neutral concept. It does not bring with it any specific metaphysics, or specific cosmology. It is just a general class of things that humans make: representations of the universe as a whole. And it has taken many, many different forms in history, and cross-culturally. All cultures have cosmograms, which are attempts to say: ‘This is how the world works, this is how everything fits together’ – humans, all the divisions of nature, all the divisions within human society, and then the divinities around it or above it, the metaphysics underlying it. In order to convey cultures and beliefs, to teach them, to re-inscribe them and make them true and activate them, they need some kind of form to embody them. And I call anything that takes that form a cosmogram. It can be a building, a painting, a poem, or a book like the Bible— or a song. It can apply to many, many different kinds of human products. LK: Today you elaborated on why we need to bring cosmograms from art, humanities and religion into debate with cosmograms from science. As you explained, it shows for example, how science not only brings facts into the world but also produces narratives, structures and feelings. JT: I think it is a useful term because it removes the obligation of saying: ‘This is what nature is actually like, and here are the representations of it’, which is this kind of modernist split, where we put nature on one side, and our interpretations of nature on the other. In the modern period, for much of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, we thought that the sciences would provide the answer to what nature really is. And the sciences do provide observations, tested proofs and facts, of what the world is. But by introducing the notion of the cosmogram and saying that it is not just religions and cultures and belief systems that produce cosmograms, but also the sciences, what I am actually trying to say is that everyone has always been caught in that same state of being in-between. We never escape the fact that we are in the world with other people, in an intersubjective or interobjective world, that we deal with inscrutable and unstable things and have to make some kind of sense of them with whatever methods we might use. Science is one way of capturing certain kinds of regularities in the natural world, but so are all the ways we have of structuring our relations to nature and to each other. Cosmograms are what realise that in a big picture.
'[...] ... which is this kind of modernist split, where we put nature on one side, and our interpretations of nature on the other’
The modernist cosmology was founded on the division between knowing subjects, and a stable world of objects that is outside of us. What people are saying with ‘the Anthropocene’, by focusing on this term, is that the natural world outside of us is actually not outside of us. This is why Latour – the first philosopher to get how important this is – is so obsessed with the Anthropocene, as it means the scientists themselves, the great modernisers, are finally realising that the constitutive split of modernity between nature and culture doesn’t hold anymore. Nature now bears the marks of human activity, permanently. People a million years from now will see on the surface of the globe the effects of what humans have done to it. And the evidence is extinctions, changes in the chemical makeup of the water, global warming and everything that follows from global warming. Nature is no longer this thing in an entirely different ontological category from us; it is now invested with our intentions, with our plans, our actions. Anything we chose to do has been realised and come back to us as an answer, in very unexpected ways, in the form of nature. We are living in a form of nature that is reactivated and unstable in a way that it was not before. So taken to its ultimate conclusion, thinking about the Anthropocene teaches us that the cosmology of modernism-active subjects confronting passive objects is now gone. And the question is, what comes to fill its place? – which is what I think this conference is trying to ask. How do we represent this new state of affairs? Because the way in which things were done before has produced these potential catastrophes and imbalances. We are trying to answer: What is the cosmos we are in now? And how do we represent it? And not just represent it, but how do we use that idea of the cosmos and that representation as a way to institute, to really put into place, a better way of living with each other and with the world that could be more sustainable, less destructive, less violent, less hurtling from catastrophe to catastrophe. A cosmogram for the Anthropocene is something that people are trying to realise. In my talk, the last example by Panda Bear, the song and video Boys Latin, is a musical attempt to do this, and we are going to hear and we have seen many, many versions of a cosmogram for the Anthropocene at this conference. LK: You also gave the example of William Blake’s work. JT: Yes, the second half of my lecture’s title, ‘Earth’s Answer’, is from Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience, from the transition between the ‘Innocence’ and the ‘Experience’ phases. Writing all the way back in the late eighteenth, early nineteenth century, he anticipated the shift from a narrow, innocent but deluded Romantic view of oneness with nature to one that is more experienced but pretty frightening, where we’re part of nature but where it’s both responsive to us and beyond our control. And in the history of Western cosmology and cosmograms, Romanticism plays a really important role. To better understand what kind of functions today’s cosmograms might have to fulfil, what I’m proposing in my research is to look at earlier cosmograms from the history of Western science, culture and religion and see how they carved up the world: how did they divide humans, nonhumans and divinities; how did they establish their relations; what kinds of objects did they have for doing that dividing, for doing that mapping – what kinds of buildings or artworks or rituals; how did they understand that work of representation? We have to try to track how modernist cosmology came into being and the different stages it went through and the different kinds of configurations that science itself has had. So I think that science does make cosmograms, but there isn’t a single, simple, scientific cosmogram. It consists of many, many different elements and the default common sense version of science as being materialist, mechanical, objective, took a long time to build from a lot of different elements. Looking at the history of cosmograms in Western culture and science shows how little by little those elements were put into place, but also – and this what I’m interested in – while that default, naturalist cosmology was built and instituted, alongside it were many minor natures, many minor cosmologies, which had very different views of what the world was like and where humans fit in that world. Romanticism, for instance, can be understood as one such minor cosmology. Studying how it tried to institute itself or how other minor cosmologies have emerged, and what they contributed, how they dialogue with the major cosmologies, is a subject of my research. The history of ‘dialogical cosmograms’, how they have interacted over time, is something that to me is fascinating as a history of ideas and practices, but it’s also interesting and useful for thinking about the cosmopolitics of the world we now live in. MG: For me, one of the most interesting things you talked about in your lecture was the Bridgewater Treatises. MG: I think the great irony of where we are now is that what we take as the clearheaded, rational view of the natural world is that it is made up of matter that is passive. And that the only kind of causality we can think of is efficient causality, or mechanical causality, particles interacting with each other. Something like final causality, teleological causality – if we go back to Aristotle – is seen as preposterous. The book Mind and Cosmos by the philosopher Thomas Nagel came out three years ago; in it he says that the idea that the world has come into being only by means of mechanical causality is totally implausible. And we need, in some way, to start thinking about other types of causalities such as teleology. He received the most violent reactions. Biologists and philosophers all said: ‘Oh, he’s lost his mind. How can he say something so scandalous and insane?’ It really showed that the common sense of philosophers, the people who see their job as defending what the rational world is and what the real world is and how we know it, says that any kind of causality that involves other elements besides stable particles that more or less mechanically interact, is an insane one. Many of the people making this argument also say that it is necessary to have that kind of vision of what the real, rational world is in order to preserve a rational, secular society, so that religion and individual idiosyncrasies don’t invade scientific knowledge, so that we can have neutral, objective science, and rational government. Another great irony that I noticed while studying the nineteenth century – and this is really following Simon Schaffer’s work on natural theology quite a bit – is that that notion of matter as passive, stable, mute, dead and only subject to mechanical causality was the invention of people like William Whewell, who was a philosopher and astronomer, but also a theologian, an Anglican minister. The Bridgewater Treatises of the 1830s, which were cosmological tracts and cosmograms, were written to ensure that despite all the new knowledge coming from geology, astronomy, physics, and biology, there would still be a need for free will, the human soul, and above all, an all-powerful God. Passive matter, dead matter and mechanical causality go hand in hand with an all-powerful God who, providentially, maintains those laws, and can, by his will, by fiat, suspend them if necessary, and bring other kinds of causes into nature. But only He can do that. In the Bridgewater Treatises, you saw that God’s role, first of all, was to sustain that world. If not, matter would just collapse, nothing would hold together, there would be no laws, there would be absolute decay. So it is God’s grace that preserves all of this. Also, if there were no God, life would not have been created from matter. All the different species had to have been made through God’s intervention, because no mechanical cause could explain them. Whether we’re talking about the first creation – the seven days – which is one example of God’s miraculous powers at work, or about what had just been discovered at that time in the stratographic record, in the geological record of extinctions – catastrophic extinctions followed by the appearance of new species – they can only be explained as coming into being through an act of God. We have the idea of natural selection; we have all kinds of arguments about geological change that don’t require miraculous intervention by God. And yet, our common sense idea of matter, which is now taken for granted, comes directly out of that theological conflict. That’s a fascinating irony: our secular, demystified, disenchanted common sense is the invention of a religious, conservative, defensive movement, from the fairly recent past, just 200 years ago. But, if we want to rethink matter and incorporate what all the scientists tell us matter is, it doesn’t actually match that view of matter as being passive and stable and dead. Matter as explained by quantum physicists is a very strange, quirky thing that shimmers and oscillates in and out of existence. It’s very hard to get one’s head around it; matter is not stable Lego building blocks. Science tells us that we have to discard that view of passive matter and somehow incorporate our new view into our understanding of the world we are in. And the Anthropocene is telling us that too. The world itself is reacting to us in a way that means it no longer makes sense to see it as this dead, inert architecture. If we want to rethink matter, it’s probably worth going back and realising how much we still borrow from this theology, which in terms of our public discussion at least, we claim to have abandoned. We are still trapped in this late eighteenth-century theology because we continue to believe in this late eighteenth-century concept of matter.
'That’s a fascinating irony: our secular, demystified, disenchanted common sense is the invention of a religious, conservative, defensive movement, from the fairly recent past, just 200 years ago.’
LK: In the political sense, in the societal discussion about the Anthropocene and climate change, would there be a fundamental change if we thought differently about matter? JT: Certainly. In changing the way we think about matter, we also change the way we think about science. It’s not as though there is this stable world out there and science comes in and tells us what it consists of. If we change our understanding of what the world is like and what matter is like, then we also change our understanding of what knowledge is like. And as we heard from geologist Mark Williams yesterday, he spends most of his time not originating facts about nature, but establishing what the limits of our knowledge are. He’s defining thresholds of plausibility and probability. Scientists could be more explicit about the fact that they deal with statistical phenomena, and that they depend quite a bit on chance, on relative likelihoods. If we recognise that science does not descibe the eternal stable structures with absolute certainty, then the politics of science and climate change and human intervention and our ability to make statements about what is true and what is good and where the society should go, changes. Because there isn’t this external scientific authority proclaiming: ‘We’ve got the answer once and for all’. There is no absolute authority for what the answer is. And this means that the work of creating good and stable facts is still very, very important, but we need to recognise how much that is an interaction and how much it already is a social process. Many actors who are involved in making a common world would then have to be involved in making decisions about what policy would be. I’m not studying the politics of climate change, but I absolutely believe that the way in which these kinds of debates occur now is reliant on a view of science, and a view – a kind of default understanding – of how science works and what the world is like that gets in the way of actually making a true politics of nature, a real cosmopolitics, as Isabelle Stengers calls it. That is why, in interrogating the history of this conception of matter, it is very important to see, first of all, where it comes from, what are the different elements that go into it – and analyse it and break it down into its historical parts. Isn’t it odd that it took theologians to insert and solidify this understanding of matter? But we also need to realise that within this tradition that we call science there have been many, many other ways of knowing, and methods{methodologies?}, and also conclusions about what the world is like and about how we know the world. Those conclusions can be resources that we can draw on for rethinking what the world is like now, and what role science has to play in it, and what roles people who aren’t scientists have to play in building a common world. And that is where history – and thinking about the history of cosmograms with a view to creating new cosmograms – can play a role; including helping us to escape from this restricting view of matter as this dead thing that we can do with as we will. LK: So that truly means ‘geologic imagination’. That’s great! JT: Yes, although I don’t think I knew that when I received the invitation to give a talk here. Another thing to add is that – alongside Whewell and the natural theologians and the cosmograms that they built – what I did in the talk and have done elsewhere, is point to the alternative cosmograms, and the other universes that are being built. Not by denying science and technology, but really rethinking it on the basis of a different cosmology. For instance, Romanticism, where there is usually an assumption of some kind of connection between the imagination and activity and growth of humans and the imagination and creativity and growth of the world. That is a real alternative to the early nineteenth-century concept of dead nature. Blake and Shelley imagined a world that is alive and that we are part of, and both we and the world have to awaken. But this isn’t expressed as propositions. It is expressed very much in a prophetic and imaginative mode. That doesn’t mean it’s just imaginary, though. In my book The Romantic Machine I wrote about the concept of matter a couple of decades later: a very different view of matter, matter that is alive, self-organising and can generate life and thought, those ideas that are there in Blake and Shelley were put to work in Paris in the 1830s and 1840s. They were incorporated into public action, arts, science, and politics. They were among the revolutionary demands to reorganise knowledge and society, to reorganise the benefits and products and conditions of labour. MG: If I’m not mistaken you even claim that in some measure they led up to the Revolutions of 1848? JT: Yes. They set the conditions for the idea that the people could redefine the social order themselves – which is how we usually think of revolutions. That absolutely applies to 1848. It’s what I call mechanical romanticism, a new way of thinking about machines and technology that is shaped by Romanticism, its organicism, aesthetics, its emphasis on imagination and novelty. Underlying that is the view that matter, and nature too, has its own intentions, activities and powers of organisation. The kind of republic that was imagined and planned in 1848 was one where nature’s interests, nature’s demands and nature’s activities would also be woven into a better, or changed, society. That’s a different take on the history of socialism, which played a role in the Revolutions of 1848 – the people deciding to make a society for themselves. When you look at the Saint-Simonians, or the Fourierists, or Auguste Comte, even the young Marx, the theorists of social transformation were also theorists of natural transformation and did not see the social and human on one side and nature on the other. A new conception of technology, or romantic machines, was what connected all the different concepts. So now, just like back then, the actions we do individually and collectively, the way we organise labour and consumption and waste, the tools we use to connect to the environment: all those have to be rethought to reorganise society. But rethinking nature— our relations to the earth, and what the earth itself is like— is also a factor in that transformation of thought and action. And that can happen through arguments, but also through the arts.

Sonic Acts & EYE on Art: Weather Report

Following the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, on 15 December Sonic Acts and EYE on Art will host a Dark Ecology inspired evening on climate change. The programme explores the subject from the perspective of Dark Ecology. Included are works from EYE’s collection as well as contributions by artists who are part of the 2015 Dark Ecology Journey. HC Gilje will give a lecture about his commissioned works for the 2015 edition of the Dark Ecology Journey. His new video piece Barents (Mare Incognitum) will be screened between 8 and 15 December on the wall of EYE’s foyer. It presents a slowly rotating view of the Barents Sea, a disorienting perspective that blurs North and South, East and West. BJ Nilsen made a selection of 35 mm films from the EYE’s archive and will perform a live soundtrack to this selection. Nilsen contributed to Dark Ecology in 2014 with unearthed, a commission in collaboration with Karl Lemieux, and will be part of the 2015 journey. Please note that tickets are subject to availability, order them via the EYE website. For more information about the commissioned works by HC Gilje and BJ Nilsen, visit the Dark Ecology website.

Sonic Acts Commission Dolmen by Mario de Vega in Berlin

From 9 to 20 December 2015, Mario de Vega’s Dolmen will be presented by singuhr-projects at Meinblau Projektraum in Berlin. This installation was commissioned by Sonic Acts in collaboration with donaufestival and was first presented in the context of The Geologic Imagination, the 2015 edition of the Sonic Acts Festival. De Vega is known for his confrontational works, which, for instance, use infrasound or extremely high voltages. Dolmen is an intervention that explores the boundaries of human perception as well as the social, political and physical impact of telecommunications technology. It makes the public physically aware of the presence of wireless signals in space – the radio signals that are the carrier waves of our digital communications. The work evolved from interests in radio signals and in the possible negative influence of electromagnetic pollution on humans. For more information about the presentation of Dolmen and opening hours, go to the website of singuhr-projects. Click here for more information about commission by Sonic Acts and donaufestival. Watch an interview with Mario de Vega here, find an impression of the installation at Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ during the 2015 Sonic Acts Festival here.

Full Dark Ecology Journey Programme Announced

The second edition of the art and research project Dark Ecology will take place from 26 to 30 November 2015. The Dark Ecology Journey begins in Kirkenes in Norway’s northern extremes and travels via Nikel (Russia) to Murmansk, the largest Russian city above the polar circle. The programme includes lectures by UK-based artist and researcher Susan Schuppli and American philosopher Graham Harman, as well as presentations of new commissioned works by HC Gilje, Margrethe Pettersen, Joris Strijbos, Tatjana Gorbachewskaja and Hilary Jeffery. Susan Schuppli is Senior Lecturer and Deputy Director of the Centre for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths (UK). In her lecture ‘Material Evidence from Disputed Arctic Sunsets to Dark Snow’, Schuppli focuses specifically on the ways in which the transformations brought about by industrial pollutants and global warming are creating new material witnesses out of the chemistry of sunlight, ice and snow, and explores the ways in which these emergent toxic ecologies might operate as evidential agents that can testify to contested events. Graham Harman is Distinguished University Professor at the American University in Cairo, where he has worked since 2000. He is a founding member of the Speculative Realism movement and chief exponent of Object-Oriented Ontology. In his lecture ‘Morton's Hyperobjects and the Anthropocene’, Harman will compare Timothy Morton’s concept of ‘hyperobjects’, which refers to entities that exceed the usual dimensions of a human life, to ‘anthropocene objects’, which require human beings as one of their components, even if they are not exhausted by human access to them. The programme also presents new commissioned works by five international artists: Margrethe Pettersen (NO) created Living Land, a sound walk that will take participants above and below ground in Kirkenes; Joris Strijbos (NL) constructed IsoScope, a major kinetic light and sound installation that will interact with its environment. HC Gilje (NO) will present a video installation and a light intervention in public space in the Russian border zone. Hilary Jeffery (UK/DE) will develop Murmansk Spaceport, a new performance, with musicians from Murmansk and Bodø. Germany-based Tatjana Gorbachewskaja (RU/DE) returned to her former hometown of Nikel to work on a conceptual tour and an interactive map exploring the materiality of the town, in collaboration with Katya Larina. Visit the Dark Ecology website for the full journey programme. About Dark Ecology Dark Ecology is a three-year art, research and commissioning project in the Northern regions of Norway and Russia. It is initiated by the Amsterdam-based organisation Sonic Acts and Kirkenes-based curator Hilde Methi, in collaboration with Norwegian and Russian partners. Dark Ecology is informed by the idea that ecology is ‘dark’ (as the American theorist Timothy Morton has argued), because it invites – or demands – that we think about our intimate interconnections with, for instance, iron ore, snowflakes, plankton, and radiation. Ecology does not privilege the human, it is not something beautiful, and it has no real use for the old concept of Nature. What we now know about the impact of human beings on the planet has led to the need to rethink the concepts of nature and ecology, and exactly how humans are connected to the world. Though these issues are relevant anywhere in the world, they are especially pertinent in the Barents Region with its pristine nature, industrial pollution and open-pit mining. Speculation on global warming fuels local economic growth, as the prospects for both the exploitation of the oil and gas reserves below the Barents Sea and the trade through the Northern Sea route are rising. Disparate interests and approaches from both sides of the border have to negotiate. This interaction informs the Dark Ecology project and is a starting point to invite artists and theorists to develop new approaches and new works. For more information about Dark Ecology please visit the website.

Save the Date: Sonic Acts Academy

From 26 to 28 February 2016, Sonic Acts hosts a new programme at the intersection of art, music and science at several locations in Amsterdam. Over the course of three days, Sonic Acts Academy will invite artists, theorists, and scientists to expand on their research through lectures, concerts, film programmes, work presentations, masterclasses and workshops.

Michael Welland, Sonic Acts 2015. Photo by Pieter Kers
From 2016 onwards the Academy will be held every two years, alternating with the bi-annual festival, to create space for a more focused and research-oriented programme, offering thought-provoking new perspectives on the research into art, the research needed for art and especially research through art. The Academy relates to topics that are connected to the ‘dark matter’ theme Sonic Acts is currently investigating with its projects such as Dark Ecology and The Geologic Imagination, informed by the realisation that we live in the Anthropocene, and questioning how this forces us to rethink concepts of nature, culture, technology, and ecology. At the Academy you can expect science-fiction-like scenarios, innovative anthropological approaches, field recordings from extremely remote latitudes, the re-interpretation of groundbreaking experimental works, and also cutting-edge music and inspiring lectures. The opening of the event takes place on Friday, 26 February, at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, and is followed by two days of lectures, presentations and films screenings at the Brakke Grond, a new location for Sonic Acts. On Saturday, 27 February, Sonic Acts will take over Paradiso’s main and small halls with concerts and performances, lasting until the small hours. In the weeks preceding and following the Academy, there will be masterclasses and workshops for artists, curators, students, theorists and cultural practitioners. Programme updates, information and ticket information will be announced through this website soon. Sonic Acts Academy 2016 Friday 26 – Sunday 28 February 2016 Locations: Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Brakke Grond & Paradiso

The Geologic Imagination: Lectures, Interviews and Recordings

RESEARCH SERIES #19 At the end of November 2015 we will travel to the North of Norway and Russia for the second edition of Dark Ecology. There, we will explore diverse aspects of the notion of Dark Ecology in lectures, discussions and walks, and through the presentation of commissioned works in the Barents Region – more specifically in Kirkenes, Murmansk and Nikel. The Sonic Acts festival The Geologic Imagination, which took place last February, and the three-year Dark Ecology project, are thematically interconnected, and theorists and artists involved in the 2014 Journey and works commissioned for Dark Ecology were part of The Geologic Imagination. To get you in the mood for the upcoming Dark Ecology Journey, Research Series #19 is a viewing edition that includes recorded lectures, excerpts of live performances, sound recordings and interviews made during the festival with contributors such as Timothy Morton, Jana Winderen, Espen Sommer Eide, BJ Nilsen and Karl Lemieux, Raviv Ganchrow, Ele Carpenter and Graham Harman.

Jana Winderen presenting at Sonic Acts The Geologic Imagination. Photo by Pieter Kers
The term ‘dark ecology’ is borrowed from philosopher and theorist Timothy Morton. He is also the ‘inventor’ of the concept of the hyperobject, an idea that is probably as important to our research as ‘dark ecology’ is. Morton was the keynote speaker at the first Dark Ecology Journey, and gave a lecture at Sonic Acts 2015, when he spoke on the subject of subscendence – the inverse of transcendence. Subscendence happens when something shrinks into its component parts in such a way that the whole is always less than the sum of its parts. Morton explained why this new concept is very useful for thinking ecological beings, as in an ecological world, beings are necessarily fragile and incomplete, even the massive ones.

Timothy Morton: Subscendence from Sonic Acts on Vimeo.

The Norwegian sound artist Jana Winderen was also present at both the first Dark Ecology Journey and the 2015 Sonic Acts festival. She conducted research in the Pasvik Valley on the border between Norway and Russia for her new work Pasvikdalen, which premiered live at Sonic Acts 2015. In her presentation Listening without Getting Answers she talked about her methodology, work and motivations. She focused on how recording and presenting sounds we cannot hear or access – for instance, from fragile underwater ecosystems – communicates stories and issues that are of grave concern.

Jana Winderen: Listening without getting Answers from Sonic Acts on Vimeo.

Interview Jana Winderen from Sonic Acts on Vimeo.

The Norwegian artist Espen Sommer Eide is well acquainted with Kirkenes, and has spent quite some time up North. He gave a talk and performed in Nikel, Russia, as part of the first Dark Ecology Journey, and is currently working with Signe Lidén on a new work for the third Dark Ecology Journey. We invited him to the Sonic Acts festival to give a talk on his research project Material Vision – Silent Reading, which involves the creation of new musical instruments and a performance developed on the extremely remote Bear Island in the Barents Sea. In Material Vision – Silent Reading he investigates, through a combination of artistic and scientific performances, various ways of reading a landscape and how the viewer and the viewed relate to each other. He also performed at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. For his performance he played hybrid acoustic–electronic instruments that he had constructed himself for the purpose of tuning into and out of the present time and place. He uses several musical tuning systems, both old and new, from the eerie Norwegian ‘troll tuning’ for the Hardanger fiddle to Pythagorean pure mathematical intervals.

Espen Sommer Eide: Material Vision – Silent Reading from Sonic Acts on Vimeo.

Espen Sommer Eide: A Tuned Chord is like a Scientific Instrument Probing the Universe from Sonic Acts on Vimeo.

In 2014 sound artist BJ Nilsen and filmmaker Karl Lemieux visited the border area between Norway and Russia, where the sparse beauty of the Arctic landscape meets industrial decay and heavy pollution, to collect material for an audiovisual collaboration. The result was unearthed, which premiered live at Sonic Acts 2015, and used film and sound recordings of, amongst others, Nikel’s red and white chimneys that hiss and growl as they spew out clouds of smoke. unearthed was released on a USB device that was included with the publication The Geologic Imagination, which also has a text by Lemieux and Nilsen as well as a collection of images by Lemieux. The Geologic Imagination is on sale via the Sonic Acts Shop.

BJ Nilsen & Karl Lemieux: unearthed from Sonic Acts on Vimeo.

Sound artist and researcher Raviv Ganchrow embarked on an investigation of infrasound, and developed a new work-in-progress, Long Wave Synthesis, of which a first working prototype was presented during the first Dark Ecology Journey A first full-scale installation was presented in Amsterdam harbour as part of Sonic Acts 2016. On that occasion Ganchrow presented an overview of his research into infrasound, showing how infrasound – extremely long sound waves (up to 171 kilometres in length) below the threshold of human hearing – literally connect the solid Earth to oceans and weather as well as to industrial practices. In Ganchrow’s Long Wave Synthesis project, marine oscillations, streaking meteors, calving glaciers, gas flares and nuclear explosions coexist; sound becomes so heavy that it is affected by gravity, and oscillations slow down to such an extent that they spill over into weather…

Raviv Ganchrow: In the Company of Long Waves from Sonic Acts on Vimeo.

Interview Raviv Ganchrow from Sonic Acts on Vimeo.

Raviv Ganchrow: Long Wave Synthesis from Sonic Acts on Vimeo.

Curator and writer Ele Carpenter, whom, like Dark Ecology keynote speaker Susan Schuppli, has worked on curatorial projects about art, the atomic bomb, nuclear energy and waste, introduced her research into nuclear culture at The Geologic Imagination. Can you imagine a darker ecology than that of radioactive nuclear waste? Carpenter talks about her field trips to underground research laboratories for high-level radioactive waste storage at Horonobe, Japan, and Bure in Northern France and reflects on the evolution of this ‘hyperobject’ of nuclear waste from state (weapons), to private (energy), to the public sphere. As we adapt to living in a radioactive environment, we have to consider what the nuclear archive should contain for future generations…

Ele Carpenter: The Nuclear Anthropocene from Sonic Acts on Vimeo.

Interview Ele Carpenter from Sonic Acts on Vimeo.

The philosopher and one of the ‘founders’ of the Speculative Realism movement, Graham Harman gave a lecture titled Anthropocene Ontology at Sonic Acts 2015 in which he explained how the proposed Anthropocene Epoch is not an Anthropocentric Epoch, because it highlights the fragility of the human species rather than human supremacy. There is also a short video interview with him made by our Russian friends from Fridaymilk. Harman will also be a speaker at the upcoming, Dark Ecology Journey in November 2015.

Graham Harman: Anthropocene Ontology from Sonic Acts on Vimeo.

Interview Graham Harman from Sonic Acts on Vimeo.

Following his lecture, Graham Harman talked to Liesbeth Koot and Menno Grootveld on the Anthropocene. This interview was published as Sonic Acts Research Series .

Interview with Mark Williams on the geological record

SONIC ACTS RESEARCH SERIES #18 The cascade effect of humans on the biosphere By Liesbeth Koot and Menno Grootveld Sonic Acts was very happy to welcome Mark Williams to the 2015 festival ‘The Geologcic Imagination’. After his lecture on the fundamental changes in the earth systems, Williams talked to Sonic Acts' Liesbeth Koot and Menno Grootveld, publisher at Leesmagazijn. Mark Williams, Conference at Paradiso, Amsterdam, Photo by Pieter Kers Mark Williams is a professor of palaeobiology at the University of Leicester. Williams’ research focuses on understanding the evolution of life over nearly 4 thousand million years of biosphere evolution on this planet. He is particularly interested in how the biosphere interacts with the rest of the planet. From this his interest in the Anthropocene unfolded, because looking back at the geological record, major changes in the biosphere are visible. These changes have impacted greatly on other parts of the planet. Williams’ research has taken him from the tropics to the Antarctic and from the Cambrian to the recent. With Jan Zalasiewicz he is the author of the popular books 'The Goldilocks Planet’ and ‘Ocean Worlds: The story of seas on Earth and other planets’ (both Oxford University Press). LIESBETH KOOT:Thank you for being here. What is it you are specifically looking for in your work? What is it that you are aiming to find or explain? MARK WILLIAMS:At the Precambrian – Cambrian boundary, about 540 million years ago there is clear evidence for animals evolving that had a head and a tail end, and a clear directionality of movement, and that generated a whole series of processes that cascaded through the biosphere. Organisms started chasing other organisms, and because of this, many organisms started building skeletons to defend themselves. A kind of arm’s race unfolded, with the organisms doing the attacking beginning to make mouthparts to attack the ones with skeletons. At the beginning of this process it might have been quite difficult to see what was going to happen, what was going to unfold. But now, with hindsight we can see how this process happened, and how one event precipitated a change in another part of the system. I am interested in the Anthropocene from the perspective of the cascade effect that humans could potentially produce for the whole biosphere. We humans have been so influential and we have so fundamentally re-mastered the surface of the planet, I want to know what direction we going to go in. The way I can measure that as a palaeontologist is simply to look at past events where there has been fundamental change in the biosphere. There we can see what the cascade effect is. It gives us some way, I think, of measuring our potential impact. We are at the beginning. We cannot yet see where we are going to be in two or three hundred years. Although we have done a huge amount as a species, I still think we are actually probably, quite near the beginning of our technological impact. So I think the geological record helps us to, kind of, evaluate that, and gives us a sense of our place in the bigger picture. LK: In thinking about the anthropocene some theorists point out something that is seemingly a contradiction: we need to see that humans have had such a great impact and at the same time we need to decentre humans in the way we think the anthropocene, and climate; i.e. we are just a minor part of a very large system. MW: As a palaeontologist, I would never see that [kind of decentring ourselves from being the centre of the debate]. Yes, we are part of an evolutionary continuum that has evolved over such a long period of time. And we are clearly not the end of it because the planet is going to carry on for at least another billion years, being able to sustain the biosphere. There is no way the human species will survive that amount of time. No species in history has had that degree of longevity. So, we are just part of the evolution of the planet over a long period of time. But I do wonder where we are going. That is my big interest in this. More broadly, I think it is interesting from the perspective of quantifying the degree of human change and what we have done to the planet. And therefore, it helps us to conceptualise ways that we might be able to mitigate our effect on the planet. That is my broader interest in the Anthropocene. So there is the esoteric, but there is also the societal kind of interest there. LK:I think that when we say ‘decentring humans’, it has to do with the societal part where you need to change your mind set somewhat, as to not think: ‘But we are so important as humans, and we have to do what we have always been doing’. And instead to not think of ourselves as the utmost important in the world but, to put some of our old ways aside and then we can start to think about that maybe we can also do things very differently. We do not have to hold on to what we thought was the important thing. MW:I think, you are right, because well, we often talk of human and natural; we often divorce ourselves from nature. That is, there is the natural biosphere, and then we come along and we dominate it and we change it, but of course, we are also natural – we are part of the biosphere. We need to see ourselves in that sense. And we now need – because we are so influential as a species, we are more influential than any species has been in the history of this planet – we need to realise that we are fundamentally changing the biosphere. And that does sound a bit anthropocentric, but it means that we have to subsume ourselves within it, and actually, perhaps look after it a lot better than we do. We have almost been like a child in a sweetshop: ‘Ooh! We’ll have this, we’ll have that!’ And we do not think about the implications of what we are doing, but we have to. That is where I think the Anthropocene concept is so powerful, because then we realise: ‘Well, actually, our impact is now so huge, it is fundamental. And we are shifting the planet into a different state. And we have to manage that. We have to make sure it is to the benefit of everything on the planet – to humans, but also to nature as well, I think. And indeed we say ‘humans and nature’; we do it almost innately, I think. But instead we are all part of that one whole.

'... we often divorce ourselves from nature. That is, there is the natural biosphere, and then we come along and we dominate it and we change it, but of course, we are also natural – we are part of the biosphere.’
LK:And do we have a small window to mitigate? MW:If we want to preserve the diversity of the biosphere, than yes. I think we do have a small window. For example Tony Barnosky [of the University of California] is very influential in this debate, where many people are looking at the way in which humans have fragmented the global eco-system, and reduced the ranges of species. There have been five, probably six mass extinctions over the past 6 hundred million years on planet Earth, and up to the 75% of the species diversity has been decimated during these events, which is really terrifying from a human perspective. Although we are not yet at the stage where we are causing a mass extinction, we are potentially approaching that in the next hundred years or so, because of the impact we are having on the biosphere. As human population grows, we appropriate more of the primary productivity. We are squeezing those species into ever-smaller places where they can exist. So, yes, I would say we have to sort out our stewardship of the biosphere in the next 5 to 10 decades. Within 100 years, we will be causing a big extinction if we do not do that. And that would be very sad. Because, once it happens, the geological record shows us that where these extinctions have happened in the past, it takes several million years to recover the diversity. Which means our grandchildren, and our great-grandchildren will not be impressed with what we did at present. They will be very unimpressed with us ...
‘As human population grows, we appropriate more of the primary productivity. We are squeezing those species into ever-smaller places where they can exist.'
LK: After your lecture today, we listened to Douglas Kahn and Timothy Morton, who are operating in very different fields, but think about the same subject. Do they influence you; do you take something from their lectures, from their way of thinking? How can we think about exchanging scientific knowledge with media theory, with philosophy? MW:That is the great strength of this meeting. It is very eclectic and it has brought together so many people from different disciplines. One thing I picked up very clearly from Tim’s talk is the idea that we can conceptualize the extinction of a polar bear because it is something tangible that we can relate to. It is a big powerful animal, we all know what it is. But we cannot conceptualize the damage that we do to the biosphere, which of course is tens of millions of different species, all interacting in as a much bigger entity than a single species. So, what I really liked about Tim’s work was that he tried to get us to understand the biosphere as a living entity. And if we can perhaps do that, if people can walk around and realise that the biosphere is actually all around us, it is actually on us and within us, because we carry so many bacteria within our bodies as well. Then I think that would be a very, very powerful message that might get people to understand the human impact again. What I see with the subject of climate change is that people switch off from the debate because they look at the collapse of a large ice sheet in the Antarctic and think: ‘What can I do? That’s too big for me, I’ll ignore it’. I can see that happening. But, of course, if you can conceptualize it to the level where in fact you can make an impact on changing the rate of climate change and the things you do can influence this on an everyday basis. Then I think that is really powerful. And I got that very clearly from Tim’s talk, so I very much enjoyed that.
‘What I see with the subject of climate change is that people switch off from the debate because they look at the collapse of a large ice sheet in the Antarctic and think: ‘What can I do? That’s too big for me, I’ll ignore it’.’
LK: Dipesh Chakrabarty, who is a historian very involved in climate change, says we have to somehow try and stop the discussion in terms of blame. We have contributed so much to climate change, and now you can point the finger either way you wish, of course. But we have to move out of that. MW: We do, we have to get away from the blame culture. I am a geologist so I feel that very strongly. Geologists are the ones that go out and find the energy resources that keep the modern human systems going. But, I find it hard to blame my colleagues who do that because, actually, they are responsible for keeping the lights on, for this camera, for the hospitals that look after us, for the complex, diverse cultures that we live in, and the cities that we live in. The geologists are often literally at the ‘coalface’, actually trying to get utilise the available resources. More important now is how we transition from using fossil fuels to using more sustainable forms of energy supply. I think the way we can develop this is to actually engage with the people in the organisations that are involved for example in getting hydrocarbons out of the ground, rather than lambasting them. LK: We actually owe a lot to the use of fossil fuels. MW: We do, we would not be having this discussion about our impact without it. But it is also a problem; it is a major problem. And we have to deal with it. Mark Williams, Conference at Paradiso, Amsterdam, Photo by Pieter Kers MENNO GROOTVELD:You were talking about the geological record and it dates millions and millions of years back, so, in a sense it looks a little bit like an inverted pyramid, if you put the Anthropocene on top. It’s just a very thin layer. When the human race would become extinct, maybe even within a hundred or two hundred years or so, and eventually some space aliens would visit this Earth: what do they see in the geological record if it is such a small layer? MW: It would be a very distinctive layer there because the human impact on the planet is so widespread from the land into the oceans. The kind of things that you would see, or those aliens would see if they arrived here, would be a sedimentary horizon probably with the fossils of bricks, plastics and concrete, and fossilized metal objects that we have produced. There are now 3.6 billion mobile phones on the planet... And there are components of those mobile phones that would be preserved, that will have found their way into landfill sites, rivers, oceans. Plastics have found their way into the deep ocean. We have a signal from the land to the very deep ocean, with plastics – and they are very preservable from the perspective of fossilization into the future. So, it does not so much matter about the short amount of time – and it is short from a geological perspective – but the impact is colossal. The human impact in a very short space of time is absolutely colossal, and it would be preservable. MG: Some people think that we humans are actually on the way out because the technological evolution is going so fast that computers will be much smarter in ten years than they are now. And that combined with advances in robotics means that humans will just become obsolete. How long do you think the Anthropocene would actually last? MW: That is a really interesting question. And as our technology develops and it becomes more elaborate, I guess there is a possibility that in due course, human intelligence could be overtaken by machine-based intelligence. And for all we know, that may have happened on other worlds in the universe. Maybe that is a logical progression that happens on planets that develop sentience, and then the biological sentience gives way to machine based sentience... How would they look at us, well, hopefully, if they have a sense of geology, then they would also see that there is a distinctive geological signal generated by their immediate predecessors in terms of the dominant entity on the planet. In the same way we can look back from the geological record and see the dinosaurs, trilobites, and the earliest life. We have a sense of that and I would assume that they would have a sense of us, and that they would still see the Anthropocene as a distinctive phase in the evolution to whatever the next state is. I think the Anthropocene is there and would be visible to any entity that came that could contemplate the rock succession from an intelligent basis. MG:If we relate this question to the last remark of your talk? What does the future have in store for us, what is your personal idea about this technological advancement and the possible outcome of that? MW:I was being deliberately open in that final statement. I would like to think of a world in a future where technology and humans, and all of the other biological entities on this planet, actually function together for the benefit of all, so that we do not go to a kind of dystopian future where machines are in control. That is a very science-fiction kind of idea, but you could see that potentially develop. What I would really like is for all to develop in tandem to find a solution to the potential damage we are causing to the diversity of the biosphere. I am always an optimist in that sense. And although humans can be very destructive, humans can also be incredibly creative, so hopefully the creative side will come to the fore.

Interview with Morton Subotnick

RESEARCH SERIES #22 Interview with Morton Subotnick By Arie Altena Kontraste festival, 12 October 2013 Morton Subotnick (1933) is a pioneer in the development of electronic music and multi-media performance. He’s also an innovator in works combining instruments and other media, including interactive computer music systems. Most of his music calls for a computer part, or live electronics processing; and his oeuvre utilises many of the important technological breakthroughs in the history of the genre. In 1962 Ramon Sender and Subotnick commissioned Don Buchla to create an electronic instrument for live performance, which became the Buchla synthesiser. His work Silver Apples of the Moon, which uses the Buchla, has become a modern classic. In October 2013 we invited Morton Subotnick to the Kontraste festival in Krems (Austria), where he performed Silver Apples of the Moon, with visuals by Lillevan. After the concert Arie Altena sat down with Morton Subotnick to discuss his particular approach to electronic music.

Morton Subotnick, Silver Apples of the Moon, Kontraste festival 2013. Photo by Markus Gradwolh
ARIE ALTENA (AA): Tonight we heard your composition Silver Apples of the Moon that was originally released on LP in 1967. It's a classic of electronic music. How did you perform it? I saw that you used your Buchla synthesiser and a computer? MORTON SUBOTNICK (MS): I’ll explain what’s going on in my set-up. I have Ableton on my computer, and there’s a loop-like interface between the Buchla synthesizer and Ableton. A single oscillator goes out of the Buchla and into one channel of Ableton. I duplicate that channel several times, and send all of them out of Ableton and back into the Buchla. I mix them in various forms within this matrix into two or three voltage-controlled amplifiers. Each one is controlled by the same pulse, but each one is broken down into different rhythms. In each instance the oscillator can be altered in Ableton before going back to the Buchla; the pitch can be changed, it can be processed with a little reverb, and so forth. Each of the six exits from Ableton back into the Buchla is multiplied into two different sets of rhythms, each one has a fast and a half-speed thing, and I can move those around the room. By using the faders, I can choose from the six and decide in which combinations they go back into the Buchla. That gives you a tiny taste of the back and forth process. It is essentially the Buchla you’re listening to, but it’s being multiplied and altered in basic ways that don’t change the timbre. I use the timbral changes in the Buchla. Basically it’s a single patch that gives me huge flexibility. I had a much bigger Buchla for travelling when I was young, and this is something I could never have achieved with that. There is enormous variety and flexibility available now.
It is essentially the Buchla you’re listening to, but it’s being multiplied and altered in basic ways that don’t change the timbre.
AA: You don’t play within Ableton at all? MS: I use a midi keyboard through Ableton to control pitch when I need absolute tuning and I load and play samples in Ableton but these also go through the Buchla before going into the auditorium. AA: You started to explore this way of making music in the 1960s… MS: When I started in the 1960s there wasn’t anything like this. I didn’t do Silver Apples of the Moon until 1966. It came out in 1967, but I received the commission in 1966. It wasn’t like I stepped into a world where thousands of people were doing what I was doing. There weren’t even synthesizers yet. So when I started, I set a task for myself. I had decided that once I could create an electronic tool, that tool would become my painter’s pallet, and I could create music – perfect music, or at least perfect for me – for a recording. I decided on this general philosophy and goal in 1961. The antithesis to this is, of course, live performance. What do you do on stage? If you’re a composer you write on paper, and because you want the piece to be perfect, you throw things away. When you go on stage, you cannot be perfect. The ideal is to not be perfect, but to be spontaneous. Instead of cutting all the mistakes out, you live with the mistakes and you go with them. I decided to not throw anything away. I wanted to take everything I’d used and everything that I hadn't used, and somehow make all of it available for live performances. At the time I made little loops of tape to perform with. Now we have samples and Ableton is a great sample player.
The ideal is to not be perfect, but to be spontaneous.
AA: You’ve been touring again for a few years now, performing your electronic compositions from the 1960s and 1970s... MS: I’ve been back on the road with my pieces for six or seven years now. My goal was to take all the work that I’ve made, and put it in a form that I can improvise with on stage. As you just heard, I took the ending of Silver Apples, but I did a whole different thing with it. Everything is at my fingertips. I can recall samples and put them back together again. They are fed into the Buchla as well. Nowadays the idea of recalling samples is dominant in a lot of music. That’s the direction that music took. What didn’t happen though is the notion of picking up your whole life’s work, and bringing it forward. In the piece I just played, the beginning was made of samples from Silver Apples, but it sounded like all kinds of other stuff. That was because I had them going back into the Buchla, sampled them, and moved them around the room, and then I gradually brought Silver Apples through it. But it was Silver Apples all the time! That kind of flexibility is the result of four months of virtuoso instrument making. AA: Do you rehearse for your performances? MS: I don’t rehearse them from beginning to end; I only rehearse to get to what I want. I do improvise. It became doable with the small computer and software like Ableton. First I used Max, but now Ableton with Max is a better tool for me. The machine does most of the playing. I move my fingers in time with the machine. In instrumental music you’re making all the music. People still haven’t got that difference straight in their head. People still ask: how is someone else going to play this piece. Well, no one else is supposed to play it. This is my stuff – that’s what’s great about it. AA: Would someone else be able to play your instrument? MS: Well, they will, in a way, because I believe in finding out what you’re really good at, doing it the best you can, and then sharing it. So I’m working on a book that will contain all the patches I use, and everything else we’re talking about. So yes, they will be able to play my patch. But you have to be able to understand that patch with Ableton; it’s a really complicated patch, but it’s very logical as well. If I explained it to you, you would say, ‘of course, that’s obvious, that’s how it works’. AA: This particular notion of an electronic instrument was present in the development of the Buchla synthesiser from the beginning, wasn’t it? MS: Yes, it was all there, at the beginning, starting already in 1959. In 1961 the idea became clear to me. Ramon Sender and I had started a studio together. We worked together. We looked for equipment. We weren’t even sure if we were going to make something ourselves. We began by looking for things that existed, and it took us two years to realise nothing did. We got all kinds of little objects that could automate processes. We got a loop machine. There was a wonderful organ, the Chamberlin organ. It's real organ and it had tape and buckets at the bottom, and you hit the ‘flute’ button and a piece of tape with a recording of a flute ran through it. I think it was Ramon’s idea, he thought, ‘wow, suppose we could get that and each composer could make their own sounds and play with them’. We were trying to find something that existed to achieve this. It never occurred to us that we had to make our own machine. Once we understood that, we started working with Don Buchla to create an instrument for the live performance of electronic music. AA: So nothing remotely like it existed? MS: Looking back it makes sense that what we imagined didn’t exist. It’s because in the music world, people were making instruments. I was a good clarinettist. With the right mindset good musicians can play anything that is written for their instrument, because an instrument is designed to play any kind of music for that instrument. It seems crazy to make a musical instrument unless it can do that. Don Buchla and I had this discussion over and over again. He wanted to make a new instrument that people could learn to play. If you’ve never played an instrument, you don’t understand that you don’t just ‘learn to play’ one. It has to become part of your nervous system. You have to have scales, you have to have a regularity, you have to know what you’re doing all the time. The beauty of the computer is: every summer I turn it into a new instrument! But it isn’t a musical instrument like a clarinet or violin. It’s like a performer-composer-conductor tool. That’s how I feel about it. I’m making decisions all the time, I tell it ‘do this, play louder, now stop, now play.’ And they – the machines – are doing the playing. I’m sure I’m not the only one who uses this approach, but the general flow of recent music history hasn’t been in that direction. In this respect my development didn’t parallel the general development of electronic music. It’s not that I thought others should go down this path; it’s where I wanted to go. It’s fine if other people follow different tracks.
But it isn’t a musical instrument like a clarinet or violin. It’s like a performer-composer-conductor tool. That’s how I feel about it.
AA: Why did you get involved in creating such an instrument? MS: One of the reasons was that I knew that the people who make the instruments control to a large extent what they’re capable of. I wanted to impact the possibility of a machine that was designed to do something other than creating new old music. I wanted this machine to be able to produce a new kind of new music. I think I achieved that. Of course it isn’t perfect enough for everyone, but I made a little niche in history where it exists. I run into young people who understand, and who are even trying to do things that are comparable. But it isn’t the mainstream. AA: Those young people, are they, for instance, the ones who use Ableton? MS: They use Ableton. But they mostly use it for sampling to play tracks. People who use Max are closer to what I’m thinking of. But to do what I’m doing in Max is cumbersome, whereas it is a simple procedure: I’m just multiplying stuff out. You couldn’t do what I’m doing now in the early days. Early electronic music used to be very patch-based. The patch I use now with Ableton isn’t really a patch in the old sense, or in the Max sense, it’s the Buchla multiplied in a virtual world. There’s still a patch – it’s in the Buchla. Ableton expands that patch way beyond the memory settings. I can change the patch – that’s why I have all those sliders. It’s a very flexible matrix. AA: What would happen if you re-patched your Buchla – because you’re not doing that? MS: I would never re-patch the Buchla in a performance. Could you imagine that? AA: Well, there are people who do it. MS: Yes, people are doing that. AA: But they have a radically different approach to music making. MS: Not only that. They’re playing the patch. That is playing a really crazy instrument. You could do it with a violin too: you can take the strings off and put them back on. And that becomes the piece. That’s the difference. The patch is the playing. That’s not what I’m doing. I’m going over 50 years of my music and making decisions on how I want to put it together. There’s a strong argument for playing the patch. It’s a legitimate approach to a piece of technology, a legitimate approach to make it an instrument that you’re playing, that you’re patching while playing. It was the Tudor approach. That’s absolutely valid. But David Tudor’s approach wasn’t my approach. Mine was making a new kind of music. AA: What sort of new music? MS: Essentially Silver Apples from the Moon is a tone poem, it’s a kind of Mahler; it comes out of a nineteenth-century aesthetic. But it couldn’t be done in any shape or form without the technology. Also the heavy pulsing, the dynamics and the movement through space are impossible without the technology. I use space in a way that most musicians and composers don’t. I really take advantage of the machine in lots of ways. But it’s not machine music! My music isn’t about the machine. It is about something else. And that something else comes from my love for playing and making music. I connect to music from the nineteenth century; I wrote about that in the mid-1960s. There was no way I could have ever approached electronic equipment by making raw sine-tones. I wasn’t interested in that. Tudor is a really special case. He had the same training I had. He threw it away to go in his direction. I threw the clarinet away to go in my direction.
My music isn’t about the machine. It is about something else. And that something else comes from my love for playing and making music.
AA: How does the instrumental music you compose fit into this story? MS: The instrumental music I write is a whole other thing. I’m divided into so many parts you wouldn’t believe it! I also create children’s software: Pitch Painter. It’s for little kids. Everyone says it’s for making electronic music, but it isn’t. It’s to make children literate and then stimulate them to compose music. It’s an app for the iPad. That’s a whole other part of me. The same idea that you do what you can to the best of your abilities, applies here as well. I could throw away my clarinet, but I couldn’t throw away my musical background. I try to do the educational programmes as well as I do my writing for instruments.
Morton Subotnick, Silver Apples of the Moon, Kontraste Festival 2013. Photo by Markus Gradwolh

Vertical Cinema at Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF)

Vertical Cinema is in Melbourne for its Australian premiere at Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF). A special feature within the MIFF film programme, Vertical Cinema will be screened twice at Deakin Edge theatre in Melbourne on 14 August. On 11 August, Vertical Cinema filmmaker Joost Rekveld will take part in a panel discussion titled Cinema, Reimagined. For this panel on the development of vertical screens, expanded cinema and the future of film, Rekveld will be joined by artist Sally Golding, Vertical Cinema's technical producer Erwin van 't Hart and University of Melbourne film and cinema studies lecturers Wendy Haslem and Scott McQuire. Cinema, Reimagined is hosted by MIFF in collaboration with the University of Melbourne and part of Talking Pictures, MIFF's extensive series of talks and discussions exploring a broad array of cinematic subjects. Vertical Cinema screening Date: 14 August 2015 Start: 18.30 & 21.00 Location: Deakin Edge, Melbourne Tickets and information: Via the MIFF website Talking Pictures - Cinema, Reimagined Date: 11 August 2015 Start: 19.30 Location: ACMI Studio 1, Melbourne Tickets and more information: Via the MIFF website

Photo's The Proliferation of The Sun at Stedelijk Museum

On Friday 3 July the Stedelijk Museum and Sonic Acts presented three fully packed executions of the performance The Proliferation of The Sun (1967) by ZERO artist Otto Piene, in honor of the opening of the exhibition ZERO: Let Us Explore The Stars. The exhibition runs until 8 November 2015.

Copyright Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Photo: Ernst van Deursen
Copyright Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Photo: Ernst van Deursen
Copyright Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Photo: Ernst van Deursen
Copyright Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Photo: Ernst van Deursen
Copyright Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Photo: Ernst van Deursen
Credits photos: Kunsthalle Bremen - Der Kunstverein in Bremen With kind support of Sonic Act and ZERO Foundation

Interviews with Benjamin Bratton, Karl Lemieux & Lukas Marxt

Summer is usually a great opportunity to spend time reading and researching, so we have added three more dossiers to our Research Series. Film critic Julian Ross interviewed filmmakers Karl Lemieux and Lukas Marxt, both of whom presented their work in the 2015 Sonic Acts festival. The interviews provide insights into their ideas about filmmaking, aesthetics, and their methods. The third interview is with the theorist Benjamin Bratton, one of the speakers at the 2015 Sonic Acts festival. Klaas Kuitenbrouwer, curator of the exhibition The Garden of Machines at The New Institute in Rotterdam, interviewed him about his ideas relating to the Anthropocene, the Earth, and the ‘Stack’, and received some really clear and exciting answers. Benjamin Bratton, Research Series Karl Lemieux, Research Series Lukas Marxt, Research Series

We are looking for interns: production & online communication

Sonic Acts has two vacancies for a Production Intern and an Online Communication Intern, starting from September 2015. We are looking for people with an affinity with Sonic Acts and its activities, who have a proactive and flexible personality and who are fluent in Dutch and English. We are a small, dedicated team, working from Paradiso in Amsterdam. You can find more information (in Dutch) here: Production Intern and Online Communication Intern. Are you interested or do you know someone who might be? The closing date for applications is 30 August 2015.

Dark Ecology Critical Writing Academy

On 9 and 10 October 2015, Dark Ecology and Fridaymilk will organise a two-day Critical Writing Academy, in Murmansk, Russia. Dedicated to enhancing the art of critical writing and to creating a community of writers across the Barents Region, this workshop is aimed at emerging and mid-career writers, critics, bloggers, theorists and journalists in arts and culture from the Barents Region (which encompasses the northern parts of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and Northwest Russia). Programme Critical writing is a special and powerful form of documentation that can open up an artistic work, and shape, expand or re-contextualise it according to a particular opinion, perspective or discourse. During the Critical Writing Academy, a selection of renowned regional and international experts will share insights into the specific aspects of their craft (language, style, framework, focus), and provide feedback on texts written by the participants. The Academy will be facilitated by the media-collective Fridaymilk and Dutch artist and theorist Rosa Menkman. It will offer practical tools, perspectives, new ideas, and inspiration, but will also provide insights into the regional situation, and background to the concepts that drive the Dark Ecology project. The proceedings of the Academy will be published as a series of articles, interviews and reports. A selection of participants will be invited to take part in the follow-up to the Dark Ecology Critical Writing Academy during the Dark Ecology Journeys from 25-29 November 2015 and June 2016. Practicalities Applicants are invited to send a short motivation and biography to info[@]fridaymilk[.]com. We welcome applications in Russian, Norwegian and English; however, as the workshop itself will be presented in English, knowledge of the English language is an absolute necessity. The course is free of charge. Costs for travel and accommodation in Murmansk are covered by Dark Ecology, and the Troms County Council through Transfer North, funded by the Nordic Culture Fund, and through Norwegian-Russian Cultural Cooperation – Visual Art 2013–2015, funded by the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Culture. The deadline for applicants from outside Russia is 25 August (due to visa processing times). The deadline for Russian applicants is 10 September 2015. See here for more information about Dark Ecology and the second research trip.

Otto Piene's The Proliferation of the Sun at Stedelijk

After the impressive performance of The Proliferation of The Sun (1967) by ZERO artist Otto Piene during the Sonic Acts Festival 2015, the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and Sonic Acts present the performance again in honour of the opening of the exhibition ZERO: Let Us Explore The Stars on Friday 3 July. The Proliferation of the Sun is a 25-minute multimedia performance, using hundreds of painted slides, sound, and several projectors. Colorful shimmering shapes on hand-painted glass slides are projected onto a huge multi-screen array, creating what Piene called a “poetic journey through space.”

Otto Piene: Die Sonne kommt näher / The Proliferation of the Sun (1967) from Sonic Acts on Vimeo.

Friday 3 July 2015 Stedelijk Museum, Teijin Auditorium Time: 20:30-21:00 hrs and 22:00-22:30 hrs Free entrance (only limited seats available!) More information: From 4 July until 8 November 2015, the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam presents a historic survey of the innovative, international avant-garde artists’ group ZERO, with work by Otto Piene, Armando, Heinz Mack, Henk Peeters, Jan Schoonhoven, Günther Uecker, Lucio Fontana, Yves Klein, Piero Manzoni, Jean Tinguely, Yayoi Kusama, and others. Driven by the desire to seek radical new ways to make art, they shared an optimistic, experimental, and pioneering approach. More about the exhibition:
Otto Piene's The Proliferation of the Sun at Sonic Acts Festival 2015 (photo Ed Jansen)

Interview with Don Foresta

RESEARCH SERIES #14 ‘You go into a technology and just play with it’ By Arie Altena In June 2014 Sonic Acts invited research artist Don Foresta to give two presentations in the Netherlands. Before his lecture presentation at STEIM in Amsterdam, Arie Altena sat down with him to talk about his experiences, working with Nam June Paik, Woody and Steina Vasulka, and other pioneers of video art, and his involvement in the first experiments with network art. Don Foresta answered with what can be read as an insider’s view on the early history of video art and network art. Don Foresta is a research artist, a specialist in art and science and the artistic use of the very high bandwidth network. His career spans over 40 years. He has pioneered the use of new technologies as creative tools since the early 1970s, with recent attention to online creation and archiving. He was the director of the American Cultural Center in post-‘68 Paris from 1971 to 1976. There he exposed the French audience to works by Nam June Paik and the Vasulkas, and invited French artists to set-up collaborations between art and electronic technology. In 1976 he founded the video art department of ENSAD (École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs) in Paris, the first such department in Europe. He worked for Nam June Paik and collaborated for several years with a.o. Kit Galloway and Sherrie Rabinowitz. In 1981 he organised his first online image exchange by telephone between the Center for Advanced Visual Studies at MIT and the American Center in Paris. These exchanges were followed by experiments with telephone, fax, minitel and the internet. He was a commissioner (with Tom Sherman and Roy Ascott) to the 42nd Venice Biennale in 1986, building one of the first computer networks between artists. His work Mondes Multiples (1990) is recognised as a landmark in the fields of art and science. He has contributed to many publications and has written about philosophical parallels between art and science in a period of profound change. Foresta was also a Professor at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs in Paris and the Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Arts - Paris/Cergy. He is currently coordinating a permanent, very high bandwidth network for artistic, educational and cultural experimentation: MARCEL. MARCEL now has 150 members in 22 countries, 40 of whom are connected permanently over a multicasting platform. Arie Altena: In the 1970s you were an American diplomat in Paris. How did you get involved in video art and network art? Don Foresta: I was appointed director of the American Cultural Center in Paris in 1971. Before coming to Paris I was looking for things to bring from the States, things that were not that well known in France. I centered on three things: video art, experimental film and art photography. There were no photo galleries in France at the time. I was particularly interested in time-based image. And so as director of the center I had an ongoing programme of video art, experimental film and photography. Most of the films and video art I was getting at the time came from Woody and Steina Vasulka. They had opened The Kitchen the same year that I went to Paris, and we were in touch. We became quite good friends at the time and the friendship continues to this day. That’s how I got started. AA: You were also close to Nam June Paik? DF: Through him I got involved in video art. When I was in Washington, before coming to Paris, I saw an article on video art in The Washington Post. I thought I should go and see what it was. I walked into the gallery with my second son, who was seven years old at that time. Paik put him in a chair and he was colorised. It was a Nam June Paik piece. I thought wow, this is amazing, I’ve got to take this to Paris. That’s what I did, that’s how I got involved in video art. Paik was in and out the whole time I was director of the center for five years. He was very often there, speaking – as much as Nam June Paik would speak – he would usually fall asleep. It was nice and we kept in touch. At a certain point, I think it was in 1974, I was invited to the Knokke-Heist experimental film festival. The director came to Paris and said that he wanted the next festival to be on video art and could I help? I put him in touch with Gerry O’Grady, Kit Galloway and Sherrie Rabinowitz. During that time Paik kept saying to me we have to talk, we have to talk. Finally I told him I’m leaving in half an hour what do you want to talk about? He said write to the Rockefeller Foundation they’ll give you a grant. And I said why? And he said: ‘Oh, you make videotape, you make videotape’. It was very funny, and I said: I’m a career diplomat, I have a family’. But he said you should do it, so I did. And they said ‘Yes we have a cheque for you for 36.000 dollars.’ AA: That’s a great way of getting involved in art... DF: Nam June Paik had set the whole thing up. I took leave from the diplomatic service. They couldn’t give me the grant that year, it came the next year. So I asked for an extension in Paris, which I got happily. I left the diplomatic service in 1976, and went home on vacation. On the way back I went to New York and picked up my cheque from the Rockefeller Foundation. I bought a U-matic, two enormous suitcases full of equipment, came back to Paris and made a tape. Paik had started a series that he called Vista. He had asked different people to make tapes on different locations in the world. He called us peace correspondents. So we were all supposed to make documentaries that were a little bit in his style. I did one on Paris, which was called Paris à la carte, which was broadcasted by WNET in New York a year later. I started working with Kit Galloway and Sherrie Rabinowitz, and we did some early video’s. After they went back to the States, I continued on my own. I also worked with John Sanborn and Kit Fitzgerald. We made a documentary that was broadcast. At the same time, I was asked by the School of Decorative Arts to open a video art department. That became my day job. I had a good collection of video art, because people had been giving me tapes over the years. That’s what I used to start teaching. The school bought a deck and a monitor and I just started talking about video art. Little by little they bought equipment and we continued. It became my major income. I also went from the American Cultural Center, which was a government cultural centre, to the American Center, which was a private one. I opened a video art department in the American Center as well. It was run basically in a workshop format with artists both French and American. A lot of people came through in those days. We actually created a movement of French video art. While I was in the American Center, I also worked with Otto Piene and Aldo Tambellini from the Center for Advanced Visual Studies at MIT. We did a network event in 1981. It was the first one between Boston and Paris, between the American Center and MIT. And that’s what got me into the network… AA: What was your motivation at the time to go into telematic art and networking? DF: The artistic approach to technology became my main interest: how do artists ‘break in’ to new communications technologies and turn them into artistic tools? It was one of the recurring topics of conversation with Woody and Steina. Woody, Steina and I did a joint interview on tape and he said the job of our generation was to test communication technology for its artistic potential. That job is far from finished because technology is still in full evolution. For me to move from one technology to another was a very natural thing. It was 1981 when we did the first network event, with a very, very old technology. It was done with slow scan – so it was totally analogue. Slow scan transforms the image in a series of sound frequencies that are transmitted over phone. It was a machine called Robot, and it was invented to sent signatures on cheques between banks for verification. I don’t think it ever worked in that domain, but we picked it up real fast. I used it from 1981 to 1986. It moved from black and white to colour. I did three major events with it. One was the connection in 1981 between MIT and the American Center. Another one took place in 1982 at the Paris Biennial. Reagan had just been elected president, and he cancelled all international funding for culture. The director of the Paris Biennale, asked if I could invent an American show, and I said: we’ll do it all by phone. I got twelve American photographers from different cities around the States to sent images, and twelve French photographers to sent their images back. That was a relatively big network event. I did a lot of smaller events too, many of them with Kit Galloway and Sherrie Rabinowitz, who had not yet invented the Electronic Cafe, but they were in the process of doing that. Kit was actually my technician in my time of director of the American Center. Sherrie and he were beginning to design what later became their satellite transmissions. We were talking about communication and the artistic use of communication. When they left Paris and went to the States a year later, they did a satellite art project with dancers in two cities, dancing together over satellite. When I was doing the slow scan event with MIT, they were doing Hole in Space. I started collaborating with them later on. AA: When did you start using computer networks for artistic exploration? DF: In 1986 I was a commissioner to the Venice Biennale and with Tom Sherman and Roy Ascott, and we developed a lab. One of my contributions to that lab was slow scan – we had colour at that time. But then I also created a Macintosh network with just Macs and modems, with principally French cities. We had Venice, Nice, Paris, Toulouse, and Nantes. We were sending still images. From that point on I dropped slow scan and I used just computers. By the end of the 1980s we had probably done everything you could do with the exchange of still images over a network. Frankly, it was boring, it was the same thing over and over and over again. Then I started to move in the direction of the performing arts. That made much more sense because by nature the performing arts are interactive. We started working principally with musicians, because they were the people who understood it better than anyone. But we immediately hit the wall of not having enough bandwidth. We did a lot of events from around 1990 until 1996. Often we had disastrous events with delays that were absolutely horrendous. We did one, I think it was 1991, with a saxophonist playing with a musician in Paris. The saxophonist was in Nice, the musician in Paris, and the event was in Paris. We had rehearsed most of the afternoon and everything went perfectly, but then in the evening the whole network traffic pattern changed and the delay between Nice and Paris was four minutes. The guy finished playing the saxophone, put it down and walked offstage and the music was still coming in. It was hard, also because a lot of people just didn’t understand what we were talking about. It took a very, very long time before people could understand that the network could be a space for art. I think quite bluntly it took 15 years, before people would think it had a potential for art… AA: Were there any factors that contributed to your early start in exploring the network? DF: I was lucky enough to have e-mail very very early. I bought a Mac in 1982, and I had e-mail almost instantly. You know Norman White? Norman did an installation for an I.P. Sharpe-building. I.P. Sharpe worked for IBM, and quit IBM to set up an internet network communication system for the petroleum industry, and he made a lot of money from it. They built an office in Toronto and asked Norman White to do an installation for the entrance in the building. As partial payment Norman asked for 200 e-mail addresses. He passed those out to all his artists friends. So we had e-mail in 1981 or 1982. Tom, Roy and I organised our entire section of the Biennale, including installations by Bill Viola and David Rokeby – one of his first – by e-mail. Tom was in Ottawa, Roy was in England, and I was in Paris. It showed us the administrative force of that communication, but also showed us how it could be used an artistic space. After 1986 I stayed with IP technology, which meant I was a victim of its inability to respond to our imagination. By the end of the 1980s I was pretty much fed up with what we were doing, because I didn’t see it progressing. Were just doing the same thing over and over. But I knew that the network was was going to be extremely important and eventually would swallow all other means of communication. The network space would become our dominant communication space. Therefore I stayed with it. AA: And France had Minitel, was that of importance? DF: The French we’re pretty good at the time technologically. They had Minitel indeed. We did a Minitel event in the Venice Biennale. The French had also invented ISDN. So we were very lucky to have ISDN in 1987, which gave us more bandwidth. If you think of it now, it sounds totally absurd. They were also testing all kinds of videophones at the time. They were really crude but fun to play with. They were so bad, you could play with the faults. I remember one thing that I did with Kit and Sherrie. We used the Matra videophone which was very unstable. If you moved quickly, the whole image broke up into pixels. I would be talking to them wearing a certain hat, the image would break up, at which point I would change my hat and when the image would come back on I would be sitting there with a different hat on. That was typical of the 1970s mentality: you go into a technology and just play with it, particularly with its faults and defects. When we wanted to stop playing and get serious with the technology and see what it could really do, we hit a wall because the bandwidth to do what we imagined wasn’t there. AA: Was there ever a network event that pointed in the direction of what you were after? DF: Some of the events we did were historically important. A key one for us was the Saint Patrick’s day concert between New York, Dublin and Paris that Guinness asked us to do. Guinness sponsored it and I think it was in 1994 or 1995. It was supposed to be three concert thing, one in each town, no interactivity. We had set that up with a video connection. We had a very young looking girl as an MC, she was in Paris. I told her, when they finish the next number, ask them if they would play together. So very innocently she did. The musicians in the three locations started looking at each other and looking back and forth and finally somebody called the title of a song, and they played it. By the time they were finished everybody was crying. It worked, it really worked that time. For me that was an amazing event, because I realised that the emotion had passed over the network. If you communicate the emotion with the network, then you have mastered it in some bizarre way. Generally the technology was still bad, but I knew it was going to work. You began to see how the networking technology started to gobble up other technologies. Of course if I say to people now that the network is going to absorb everything else, everyone knows it, it’s already a fact today. AA: How did it progress from then on? DF: In 1996 I was back in the same routine where most of the energy was going to the technical set-up and little of it to anything creative. The only way we would be able to make any impact on the network was by having a permanent network. Since 1997 I have spent most of my energy trying to make a permanent network. That’s a ridiculously long, long time. We were always at the mercy of the technology. I set up a number of meetings in Southern France, in Soulliac, from 1997 to 2000, and invited people from Europe and North-America. We just talked about projects. The first thing we did was writing a manifesto. It was called The Soulliac Charter. It laid out the philosophy of artistic experimentation with communication technology. Little by little I started trying to put together a network, the network which is now called MARCEL. We made two major decisions: we would squat the academic network – because that was the only way we could get cheap bandwidth – the other one was to go for multicasting. AA: MARCEL is a network that runs on top of IP, if I understand correctly? DF: Yes, and it’s a totally different technology, that is very much misunderstood and under-utilised. It’s called Access Grid. The technology is now managed by Queensland University in Australia. Back in 2003 I realised it was chasing people away, because the technology was not good enough, and I didn’t want to only work with technical geeks. I wanted people who hated the technology, but wanted to have music online, or theatre online. Therefore we needed to build our own platform, and that is what I have been trying to do ever since. The solution I found in 2003 or 2004 was to interface the Access Grid with Pure Data. It has taken me ten years to convince people that it is the way to go. Now I have a consortium in Europe beginning to work on it. The idea is to build a system that would allow people to make there own tailor-made platforms according to their particular artistic needs. By interfacing network technology with the library of Pure Data tools, people could do that in relatively easy terms. AA: And this would become a platform for interactive theatre, interactive music and so forth? DF: That’s correct. My major interest is the network as a collaborative tool, not as a broadcast tool. What most people are doing still follows basically a broadcast model. Facebook is not interactive at all, it is people broadcasting themselves. I call it egos online. I’m interested in the real interactivity, where people are actually creating together. It’s not just musicians in the city playing with musicians in another city, it also involves an audience that can engage in different ways. But that platform is not there yet. This is what we are trying to build. AA: But how is this different from what people in a do-it-yourself way could achieve Skype and other tools we now have? DF: Well, some of it can be done with Skype, but it won’t be very good. If you want to get beyond the novelty part of it, you will recognise very quickly that the available technology isn’t up to it. It can’t give you what you want to do as a creator. It also means being a slave of an industry that provides the tools, and I think we have to turn that around. That was one of the premises of the Soulliac Charter. We wanted – and want – to have the artistic demands dictate the evolution of the technology, and not an industry which is guided by the impetus to make money. I try to imagine a situation that doesn’t have any limitations. I don’t want to see the potential limited. That just holds people down and pushes their imagination into a corner. I want to see technology that allows people to do anything they want to do, and see how far they can go with it. AA: That sounds quite idealistic... DF: My mentality comes from the analogue period, when it was very easy to interfere with the technology. With analogue technology you pick up a screwdriver and you can change something. When the technology became all digital and the cameras became sealed boxes, it became much harder to break into it, and begin to play with the image. I always carried that analogue approach with me, the idea that you can interfere with technologies at any level. And it is true, we can interfere at any level, but you have to develop the skills necessary to do that interference. Every time I look at a technology I say to myself ‘that could be better. That’s still limiting’. Because I’ve sensed those limitations for thirty years, they have always been a problem. I’m not saying that we can overcome them now, but we can do it better than ever before. Artists picked up every major communication invention in twentieth century too late. By the time artists started playing with it, they were already marginalised. Cinema started around 1900, the first art films are made in the 1920s when cinema had already been determined sociologically. Its role in society had been decided: it was there to amuse the crowd. Television is the worst example. Television has probably been the most dangerous communication tool we have ever developed, because it’s turning our population in a bunch of mindless idiots. The world wide web has been taken over by commerce. What is seen in the communication space of the web is decided by its advertising potential. In that sense we have lost the web too. AA: But hasn’t there always been this connection between technology and commerce? DF: Technology and particular communication technology has always been at the mercy of industry and at the mercy of a commercial world. Most of the decisions are taken to respond to commercial needs and not necessarily to artistic or cultural needs. Bu this is giving us a very dead communication space. One that I quite frankly think is culturally dangerous. The only way we’re going to change that is taking over the space ourself. That’s very idealistic. We’ll probably fail, but at least we will feel good about it. But who knows. I think it’s worth trying. The consortium that we have put together for MARCEL is a good mix of science, technology and art. Our idea of evolving the communication technology is to do it through artistic and educational events. We organise real time events that allow us to see what kind of tools are needed for that particular event and then make those tools. In the end we will have a toolbox that different people can use in different ways. AA: So it is of the utmost importance to question technologies, and open the ‘black boxes’... DF: It has become even more critical in the twenty-first century because of the importance of our communication tools. But artists have been marginalised. Fascist regimes and communist regimes did everything they possibly could to destroy art and didn’t succeed. Capitalism is succeeding. The market has turned everything into junk. This means we’re losing a very important field of investigation that belongs to humanity. It means we’re going to lose the power of art. AA: What is the power of art? DF: Art is another way of looking at the world and trying to understand reality, if it exists at all. In some respect it’s a communal way of doing it, and in another way it’s a very individualistic way of doing it. Some artistic explorations indicate to a degree where society is going, and I do believe that art is the consciousness of society. It fulfils the need to look beyond our material existence. We’re doing the exact opposite today. Society would like to turn all art into entertainment. But it is not entertainment. Once it becomes entertainment, I think we have lost an essential part of our humanity. We are the society that recognised that art is another way of looking at the world, we are also the society that is trying to erase it. One of the terms that I absolutely detest, is the so-called ‘creative industries’. Once you get away with calling art a creative industry, you turn it over to the accountants. And that just kills it.

Vertical Cinema's Australian premiere at MIFF

Sonic Acts is proud to announce the Australian premiere of Vertical Cinema at the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF), which runs from 30 July to 16 August 2015. A special feature within the MIFF film programme, Vertical Cinema will be presented at the Deakin Edge Theatre in Melbourne. The full MIFF programme will be announced on 7 July and tickets are on sale from 10 July 2015. For more information about MIFF and the Vertical Cinema screening, visit the MIFF website.

Interviews with Noam Elcott and Bart Rutten on Verticality

On the occasion of the Australian premiere of Vertical Cinema, we present two interviews with Noam M. Elcott and Bart Rutten as #12 and #13 in our Research Series. In February 2014 Sonic Acts’ Vertical Cinemaprogramme was screened four times at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. The programme was accompanied by four lectures by experts on cinema, video, new media, and contemporary art. The American scholar Noam M. Elcott gave an impressive presentation, which also sketched a possible genealogy of ‘vertical cinema’. Bart Rutten, Head of Collections at the Stedelijk Museum, gave a number of examples of the use of verticality in video art, such as Bill Viola and Stan VanderBeek, but also touched on the history of video games. After the screenings, Sonic Acts’ Arie Altena interviewed them both. You can find the full Research Series #12 and #13 with the interviews, including the videos of their presentations here: Noam Elcott - Research Series and Bart Rutten - Research Series .

Full programme announced for 25th anniversary ArtScience

On Saturday 27 June the ArtScience Interfaculty, a co-founder of Sonic Acts in 1994, will celebrate its 25th anniversary in Paradiso, Amsterdam. The full programme consisting of performances, lectures and an exhibition, is now published online. With: Mika Vainio (Pan Sonic), Joost Rekveld, Optical Machines, Mariska de Groot & Dieter Vandoren, Joris Strijbos & Matthijs Munnik, Telcosystems and many others.


Throughout the day and evening there are works and installations by ArtScience alumni. Daniel Berio exhibits his algorithmic graffiti installation GRAFFITIZER. With Jurema Action Plant, Ivan Henriques aims to empower plants by enabling them to use similar technologies as humans do, while he simultaneously explores new approaches to communication and co-relationships between humans, other living organisms and machines. Biophonic Garden by Sebastian Frisch uses an experimental laboratory setup to show the possibility of making a dialogue between young corn plants audible to human ears. Inspired by the ephemeral dynamics of liquid crystallinity, a new state of matter discovered over a century ago, artist Jet Smits collaborated with a soft matter physicist from the TU Delft to create the installation LC Environment. Marloes van Son's COLC – undrown takes you through an underwater vortex. It floods a space with whirling water, refracts light and stirs sounds, while searching for a fragile equilibrium between a natural phenomenon and technology. Angela de Weijer creates multidisciplinary experiences, which occur in the zone between audible and inaudible, perceivable or imperceptible.


In their lecture Edwin van der Heide and Taco Stolk focus on Dick Raaijmakers’ music theatre piece DÉPONS / DER FALL in which he stages his commentary on Pierre Boulez’s approach to live electronic music in Répons. Dick Raaijmakers was a co-founder of the ArtScience Interfaculty. Art historian Michael van Hoogenhuyze will talk about how the art of today has been enabled by key developments in science and technology, and as a result most artworks are installations in an open form that incorporate initiatives by the public, while presenting them with a poetic approach to technology.

Performances and films

Mika Vainio (the only non ArtScience alumnus) was one half of the minimal electronic duo Pan Sonic from Finland. His solo works, released under aliases such as Ø, are known for their analogue warmth and electronic harshness. Be it abstract drone works or minimal avant techno, Vainio is always creating unique, physical sounds. Erfan Abdi approaches the possibilities offered by technology with a DIY attitude, and Scatterflow - Repetition on Notesaaz is a good example of this. It is both a new physical interface for musical performance and a proposal for a process where a physical controller is used to navigate within a graphical score that in turn generates the sound. Mariska de Groot and Dieter Vandoren's Shadow Puppet? is an interplay of embodied performance and analogue machinery that gives rise to an engulfing play of light, shadow and raw optical sound. The Leslies, Horst Rickels and Robert Pravda, will perform Soundtrack for an Imaginary Film, no. 6 with multiple speaker-objects made by repurposing Leslie speakers from Hammond organs. In their third instalment of U-AV, Joris Strijbos and Matthijs Munnik build synaesthetic landscapes from electronic sound structures, generative video and stroboscopic light. While the performance relentlessly over-stimulates the audiovisual senses, the work opens up and transports the audience to a meditative and hypnotic zone where they can dream away in the transitory abstract worlds that are invoked. Optical Machines (Rikkert Brok and Maarten Halmans) invite the audience to their laboratory-like playground with an open set-up, which contains a variety of obscure modified equipment, pattern models, lamps, lenses, cameras and analogue synthesisers that they use to shape a hypnotic and fascinating performance. In his work, Joost Rekveld explores the sensory consequences of systems of his own design, often inspired by forgotten areas in the history of science and technology. Loudthings is an audiovisual account of an expedition into the the interior of a computer. Using a set of elementary instructions such as modulation, masking, and feedback, Telcosystems (Gideon Kiers, David Kiers and Lucas van der Velden) programmed a self-organising network of algorithmic processes that generate spatial image and sound. Loudthings was nominated for a Tiger Award for Short Films at IFFR 2008, and won the 2009 Gus Van Sant Award for Best Experimental Film, and the Grand Prix 2008. From the sideline, a special selection of books, magazines, records, films and gadgets will be presented by Underbelly during the whole programme. The programme for ArtScience’s 25th anniversary event was compiled by the ArtScience Interfaculty, Paradiso, Sonic Acts, and the Holland Festival. See the full programme > Saturday 27 June 2015 Paradiso, Weteringschans 6–8, Amsterdam 16.30–23.00 Entrance: 12.50 / students 7.50 Buy your tickets online >

Interview with Jon Hagstrum on migrating birds

SONIC ACTS RESEARCH SERIES #11 Infrasound and the navigating capacities of pigeons By Liesbeth Koot and Menno Grootveld Sonic Acts was very happy to welcome Jon Hagstrum to the 2015 festival ‘The Geologcic Imagination’. Before delivering his lecture on March 1st, Hagstrum talked to Sonic Acts' Liesbeth Koot and Menno Grootveld, publisher at Leesmagazijn. Jon Hagstrum at Sonic Acts Festival 2015. Photo by Mayke Haringhuizen In the interview Hagstrum elaborates on the amazing capacity of birds such as pigeons and the bar-tailed godwit to use infrasound to navigate and migrate. He talks about pressure waves from explosions in the atmosphere and the sources of seismic and infrasonic energy from standing waves in the deep ocean. Hagstrum provides inside into a fascinating part of the natural world and the way research develops in this scientific area. Jon Hagstrum is a research geophysicist in California with the U.S. Geological Survey. In his lecture at the Sonic Acts festival Hagstrum talked about birds and how they might be using infrasound to migrate, navigate, forage and home over very long distances. Infrasound is very low frequency sound, below our hearing level in the atmosphere. This research is something that is not Hagstrum’s day job ‘and a bit of moonlighting’ he says, although has recently recceived some funding from the U.S. Air Force. Hagstrum works on it part time. LIESBETH KOOT: Thank you for this interview. Can you start of by telling where your interest in the navigating of birds comes from? What has triggered you specifically? JON HAGSTRUM: I started out as biology major at Cornell University in Upstate New York, but I did not want to be a medical doctor, which the training was leading me toward. Instead I wanted to be some kind of naturalist. So I switched over to geology and got into geophysics. In my senior year in college, a professor named Bill Keeton came over to the geology department to teach the Friday afternoon seminar. He was researching homing pigeons - how they find their way back to their loft. He gave a talk about it and I was absolutely fascinated and I remember thinking that his work would have been the kind of biology I really would have loved to do. This was my senior year as an undergraduate, so I ended up having a career in geophysics after all. But my interest was triggered and about ten years ago, I started seriously thinking about birds again and working on it. LK: Where lies your fascination? JH: I love the natural world, and the depth of time and the complications of evolution. How deep it all goes fascinates me. It is so interesting. It is something almost spiritual that I really want to spend time trying to understand and working with it. It is what I want to do; it is what I want to be around. And I want to be around people who are also working on it.

‘I love the natural world, and the depth of time and the complications of evolution.’
LK: How does the subject fit in with your regular work as a geophysicist? JH: My background is in magnetics, and birds do use a magnetic compass as part of their navigational system. And the other thing is that there are some biologists who think they also use the geomagnetic field to find out where they are relative to where they want to go before they use their compass. As a geophysicist who knows quite a bit about the magnetic field, I realised that this cannot be right; it does not work that way. So it has to be something else, in my mind. That was one of the things that prompted me to start looking for another cue, another environmental factor they might be using. Infrasound is what I settled on and it is making a lot of sense, to me at least. Jon Hagstrum at Sonic Acts Festival 2015. Photo by Mayke Haringhuizen MENNO GROOTVELD: How did you come to think of infrasound? Did you stumble upon it somehow? JH: No, it had already been thought of. In the late 1960s, a man named William von Arx was at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. He was an atmospheric physicist and he suggested it to Donald Griffin who was studying the way bats and birds were using sound. Bats use ultrasound, echolocation, to image insects. So, the possible use of infrasound was suggested in the 1960s, and some students at Cornell, students of Bill Keeton actually, did some experiments and showed that pigeons could hear down to .05 Hz. And that is phenomenally low. We can hear down to about 15 to 20 Hz. The .05 Hz is almost unbelievable. And once I heard about that capacity of pigeons, I started thinking: they can hear earthquakes and they can hear this whole range of sounds that we know nothing about. Indeed we did not even know anything about this until Krakatoa erupted in 1883 and it sent a pressure wave that went all the way around the world several times. All the meteorological barometers were picking up this pressure wave. That was the first time and it was amazing! We did not even know it was there; we had no idea. I think birds have been using it all along. MG: Can you tell us something about the sources of this infrasound, you mentioned earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, but I imagine that there might be other sources as well? JH: There would have to be because birds do not migrate only when there are earthquakes or when there are volcanic eruptions. There are sources that we can pick up on our rather crude arrays. But pigeons are far more sensitive than anything we can build at this point. What they are probably picking up on is sound coming initially from the ocean. There are standing waves in the deep ocean that are continuously moving. These produce sound in the atmosphere and seismic energy because at the same time the wave goes all the way to the sea floor. That seismic energy moves through the solid earth, comes through to the surface of the earth and moves the surface of the earth, up and down, ever so slightly. So right now, we’re going up and down every six seconds. But we are only going up and down a few microns. We can’t sense it at all. But that movement, like the way a stereo speaker moves, oscillates over a large enough area that creates a loud enough sound that pigeons can probably hear it.
‘…[seismic energy] moves the surface of the earth, up and down, ever so slightly. So right now, we’re going up and down every six seconds’
MG: Do changes in the world’s climatologic system, change infrasound? We all know that there are strange things going on in the biosphere because of pollution and human activity. It affects the way the currents are directed in oceans. Does that mean that this might influence the infrasound signals that birds fly on... Is it conceivable that they will get lost because of that? JH: It will certainly change things. Sound moves through the atmosphere depending on the temperature structure and the wind fields of the atmosphere. If those factors change it could have really dramatic effects on migration patterns and whether a bird can actually make it on their normal migration route. If they have to fight a headwind the whole way they might not be able to make it, so that might be the end of that species. But another important issue is that we produce infrasound. We have noise pollution. One of the first things I started to look at when I started thinking about infrasound, and birds using it... How do I prove this? How do I even test it? I do not have any pigeons. I do not have an experimental setup to do any of this. Then I just happened to read the newspaper about some pigeon races that were being disrupted and nobody could explain it. I thought of the possibility of some sort of acoustic disruption that was occurring. I actually told a friend who is a real internet surfer and he found a bunch of races in the U.S. and Europe where this was happening. Nobody could explain it. I started looking into it, and it took a while, but I finally figured out that it was the sonic boom of the Concorde. Sonic booms, shock waves, military jets... It is occasionally in the paper... A year or two ago there were some problems in Northern Scotland where the pigeons were all having problems. I thought of the British military flying jets and producing sonic booms off the coast. The thing about infrasound is that it travels very far in the atmosphere. Sonic booms could be generated off shore somewhere to then come on shore. The atmosphere absorbs all the higher frequencies, so we wouldn’t hear it. But this big infrasonic wave would come in and could disrupt the pigeons. You can measure it with a low frequency microphone. There are many ways to test it. Model of acoustic propagation based on actual meteorological data between the Cornell loft in Ithaca, NY, USA (right edge of plot) and the Jersey Hill experimental release site (left edge of plot) on the one day that Cornell pigeons were well oriented there (inset circular diagram) and returned normally to the loft. Usually, Jersey Hill is in an acoustic shadow zone relative to the loft, but on this day infrasonic signals were transmitted directly from the loft area to this release site due to abnormal atmospheric conditions. MN: What kind of research tools do you have or do you use? JH: Well, this first study, finding out that it was the sonic boom off the Concorde, I published in 2000. But then it took me thirteen years until I published my next paper. Again, I am doing this not full time. But I found out that actually, Bill Keeton, the man who had introduced this to me at Cornell had died prematurely and his students and his colleagues took all of his data that he had not published, and put it online, so anybody could use it. All of a sudden, I had all this data to use. And I downloaded the program [HARPA: Hamiltonian Acoustic Ray-tracing Program for the Atmosphere] that modelled how sound moved through the atmosphere. In addition, I got the weather data to feed into that program so I could model exactly how the sound was moving on the days Bill Keeton had released his pigeons around Upstate New York. I could show that where there were the sound shadows the birds could not navigate... So it started to work out in a way that I could really demonstrate numerically that this might be happening. LK: The theme of the festival is the Anthropocene. Are there connections between the theme and your work? JH: Yes, many. But I am really directly focused on how the sound is moving through the atmosphere and how birds might be exploiting that. I think if it works for birds it may work for many, many other animals. Nobody has ever really shown what other animals are doing – sea turtles, whales, all of the animals that travel very far distances on Earth.... We do not understand it. But this is what they are using, this noise in the atmosphere. It is what they use to navigate with.
‘Nobody has ever really shown what other animals are doing – sea turtles, whales, all of the animals that travel very far distances on Earth.... We do not understand it.’
LK: Is that also the case with the arctic tern? JH: The artic tern each year migrates from the Arctic to the Antarctic and back. So, it has a record for the farthest migration. LK: Probably also because it does not always fly in a straight line. JH: And it follows coast, and it lands, but – and this is going to be my first slide at the presentation – there is a bird called the bar-tailed godwit, and it flies from Alaska to New Zealand. Non-stop. In five days it flies in a straight line and the other thing that is absolutely amazing about it is it does not leave Alaska until the weather conditions along the entire route, from Alaska to New Zealand, are optimal. That bird in Alaska can tell what is going on in the Southern Hemisphere. It is almost miraculous. Before it even leaves, it knows what the weather is like along the entire route. And it flies in a straight line, non-stop. It is unbelievable. You need to think about acoustics. Sound depends on wind and temperature, so sound basically depends on weather. If the bird is listening to a signal, it has evolved an ability to listen to that signal and also interpret that signal to tell it what the weather is. Because if it had to fight a headwind for any significant portion of that route, it is over, it is not going to make it. It has to know what the weather is, and it does. That sort of thing for me is just incredible. That is why it is really so fascinating. I know I am a geologist; it is just that the natural world is so fabulous that I love learning that kind of thing. When I get some sort of insight, it is really exciting to figure something out, to understand it. Jon Hagstrum out in the field along the Columbia River in Washington State explaining his sampling technique for paleomagnetism to a group of local students. The enormous lava flows that he is sampling can be seen cropping out across the river in the background LK: What is the length that infrasound waves can be at the maximum? JH: That is the thing, the lower the frequency, the longer the wave length. The sound that I was talking about, coming off the ocean, that is about .2 Hz. Birds, pigeons can easily hear that. The length of such a wave is 1.7 kilometres. It is very long, and if you are a physicist, you will wonder immediately: ‘The bird has ears only this far apart, and you are telling me it can localise where a sound is coming from with a wave length of 1.7 km? It is not possible’. And it is not. It is like when you buy a stereo, and you have a separate subwoofer unit. They will tell you to put that anywhere in the room because our ears cannot locate where it is, the wave lengths are too long. Our ears only tell immediately where the tweeters are, the short wave lengths. What pigeons do when you release them is to fly around in a circle and Doppler-shift that signal. When they fly toward the signal, the frequency goes up, when they fly away from it, the frequency goes down. Just like the sirens of an ambulance or a police car as it goes by you, you hear that drop as it moves away from you. Just turn it around: it is actually you moving and the source is stationary. If you moved toward it, the frequency would go up; the moment you moved away it would go down. Pigeons can tell where that sound is by moving. So they solved that problem. Actually it is a very standard process with people that are trying to have a small antenna and need to detect a large wavelength: they move around. Pigeons evolved to do that. It is amazing. People did not understand what pigeons were doing: were they looking around, gaining altitude? No they are not. I am in California and there is NASA Ames research center nearby. I told some people there, some friends of mine. They work with UAVs - unmanned aerial vehicles. And they said: ‘of course that’s what the birds are doing!’ Now it is so obvious to them. Because that is what they do with the UAVs, you do it with your iPhone, you move it around when you use the magnetic compass, and so it is exactly the same thing. It is just so cool.
‘Birds, pigeons can easily hear [.2 Hz]. The length of such a wave is 1.7 kilometres.’
LK: Where are you heading with your work; to do more of this? JH: Oh, absolutely, I would love to do it full time. I would like to get rid of my day job and just do this. It is that much fun. And that is what it is all about; you do your best work when you are having fun.

The Geologic Imagination Book

The book The Geologic Imagination (336 pp.) is truly a guide to the festival theme. The publication is a richly illustrated collection of essays, visual contributions and interviews, and is accompanied by unearthed, a new sound work by BJ Nilsen. You can order the book here. The Geologic Imagination is also distributed internationally by Idea Books and is available at selected international bookshops. This new publication by Sonic Acts is inspired by geosciences and zooms in on planet Earth. Fundamental to The Geologic Imagination is the idea that we live in a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene. Human activity has irreversibly changed the composition of the atmosphere, the oceans, and even the Earth’s crust. Humanity has become a geological force. Consequently, the perspective has shifted from humans at the centre of the world to the forces that act on timescales beyond the conceivable. These ideas challenge us to rethink our attachments to the world, and our concepts of nature, culture and ecology.

This valuable collection will soon become one of the first essential go-to texts for artists and scholars who want to think about the Anthropocene, global warming and ecological issues in general. A treasure trove of original thoughts and creativity. - Timothy Morton
With this book Sonic Acts examines how art and science map and document new insights, and how the changes and transformations that occur on a geological scale can become something humans can feel, touch, and experience. The Geologic Imagination features new essays by Timothy Morton, Douglas Kahn, Paul Bogard, Michael Welland, and Raviv Ganchrow; there are interviews with Dipesh Chakrabarty, Matthew Coolidge, Liam Young, Noortje Marres, Kodwo Eshun, Kurt Hentschläger, and Mario de Vega; and visual contributions by Femke Herregraven, Mirna Belina, Ellsworth & Kruse, the Center of Land Use Interpretation, Marijn de Jong, and BJ Nilsen & Karl Lemieux.
„Yet any qualms I had […] dissolved when I explored the Sonic Acts book The Geologic Imagination. This fascinating tome represents an act of radical imagination, an attempt to wrench our thinking out of the same tired old tracks. There’s heft to the book, and perhaps the juxtaposition of cutting edge content with solid, sturdy precision in the object reassures as well. Things that matter in the world have weight. Is that too human a reaction in these post-human times? I don’t know. I don’t care. But I do care about how the book and festival made me directly confront themes and issues that had previously come out organically in my fiction. When that happens, the way forward changes irrevocably.” - Jeff VanderMeer
The publication accompanies the Sonic Acts festival 2015. A major part of contributions is connected to the Dark Ecology project that started in October 2014. The book also contains unearthed, a new soundwork BJ Nilsen made during the Dark Ecology explorations of the border zone between Kirkenes (Norway) and Nikel (Russia).

Interview with Graham Harman on the Anthropocene

SONIC ACTS RESEARCH SERIES #10 Anthropocene Objects, Art and Politics By Liesbeth Koot and Menno Grootveld Sonic Acts was delighted to welcome Graham Harman to the 2015 festival ‘The Geologcic Imagination’. Harman led a full day masterclass, presented a lecture and participated in a round table discussion. Afterwards he talked to Sonic Acts' Liesbeth Koot and Menno Grootveld, publisher at Leesmagazijn. Graham Harman at Sonic Acts Festival 2015. Photo by Pieter Kers | In his lecture Harman explained how the proposed Anthropocene Epoch is not an Anthropocentric Epoch, because it highlights the fragility of the human species rather than human supremacy. This split between the Anthropocene and the Anthropocentric compels us to recognise an important philosophical distinction that is seldom acknowledged. Namely, the fact that humans are involved as ingredients in the creation of some entity does not entail that the entity has no autonomous reality apart from humans. The Anthropocene climate is generated by humans and independently mysterious to us, and the same holds for other fields that have been ‘anthropocene’ from the start: human society, art, economics. In the interview Harman elaborates on both art and politics. He explains his idea of why art should not be understood as autonomous from its surroundings, but instead should always be understood in relation to humans. Moreover, Harman explains how thinking about art in this way, leads to thinking about the Anthropocene. In discussing politics Harman talks about Bruno Latour, Hobbes and Carl Schmitt and about how the distinction between left and right is by now less important than the distinction between truth politics and power politics, and while doing this he highlights the importance of Noortje Marres’ dissertation ‘No Issue, No Public’. LIESBETH KOOT: Today, in your lecture, you talked about Object-Oriented Ontology and the Anthropocene. Towards the end you said a little bit about the relation of these two topics to art. Can you elaborate on that? GRAHAM HARMAN: Sure. For me art has to do with the separation between the real object and its sensual qualities. The art object itself ‘withdraws‘, to use Heidegger's term. It is not directly accessible to us, and cannot be explained either in terms of its pieces or in terms of its effects. The problem is that most human cognition involves reducing a thing to one of those two roots: if someone asks you what something is, you tell them what it is made of or you tell them what it does. Those are the two basic kinds of answers we can give to any question. But art doesn't give answers. It is not a form of knowledge. When you make an artwork, you're not going to tell somebody that the point of the work is what it's made of, unless this is some sort of contrived Dadaist project in which you're engaged. But you're also not just going to go in the opposite direction and speak of an artwork’s effects: 'this is how it makes me feel' or 'these are the socio-political impacts it has had: Picasso's Guernica is identical with the effect it had on public views on the Spanish Civil War'. Instead, there's something aesthetic in the painting that's unmasterable or unparaphraseable, that keeps challenging us. The better the artwork, the more it challenges us to keep coming back to it, to write more reviews of it, to interpret it in endlessly various ways.

‘Art doesn't give answers. It is not a form of knowledge.’
Since an object-oriented approach likes to speak of the non-relational autonomy of artworks, some readers might conclude that we’re calling for an old-fashioned high formalist criticism, of the sort that accompanied modern art from the late 1940s to some point in the 1960s when most artists and critics turned against it. We could talk about Clement Greenberg in this connection, but let’s speak instead of Michael Fried and zero in on the difference between his position and my own. Among other things, Fried adheres to one of the pillars of formalist criticism, as do I: an artwork is autonomous from (though not untouched by) its components and its surroundings. The aesthetic character of a work of art, in any genre, cannot be parphrased in any set of prose explanations, whether they be historical, political, semiotic, psychoanalytic, or anything else. In Fried’s landmark essay Art and Objecthood in 1967, he says the problem with minimalist art is that it's both literal and theatrical, and he sees these as roughly the same rather than as two different aspects of minimalism. A minimalist work is literal for Fried because there's no aesthetic depth to it: it's just a block, a pyramid, or a rod sitting right there in front of us: a mere obstacle in our path with no deeper meaning. And as he sees it, since minimalist art has no meaning of its own its only avenue of functioning as art is through its appeal to us as observers its way of getting some sort of rection out of us. Yet it seems to me that the literal and the theatrical are polar opposites, and this makes it possible to oppose literalness in the arts (as I do) while insisting on rather than rejecting the theatrical character of aesthetics. This is my position, and to some extent it seems to have been Greenberg’s as well, judging from one interview where he distanced himself rather bluntly from Fried’s rejection of the theatrical. In any case, I agree that the art object is not literal, that it has some depth that cannot be exhaustively paraphrased in terms of some paraphraseable content, such as ‘Picasso’s Guernica is an impassioned statement agaisnt the brutalities of fascism’ (or even some tepid relativist banality such as ‘Picasso’s Guernica is whatever each person makes of it’). These aren’t exactly wrong, of course, but Guernica is also an artwork and not just a political statement or a personal experience. Otherwise Picasso simply could have written a flat prose denunciation of Franco, Hitler, and the Luftwaffe and printed it as a newspaper editorial. For this reason, I share the formalist aversion to literalism in any of the arts. I’m also opposed to every form of literalism in philosophy, and happen to think that Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle are primarily opponents of literalism, but that’s a different topic. But along with attacking literalism in the arts, Fried also attacks theatricality, meaning art whose aesthetic character hinges on our human response to it. One of the implications if we reject theatricality is that artworks should be artworks even in the absence of any appeal to humans, and by implication should even remain artworks even if all human beings are exterminated. This is no straw man: one of my favorite philosophers of the younger generation, Tristan Garcia, defends this position in his book Form and Object. Indeed, some readers of my own work have assumed that since I think artworks exist independently of any number of human beholders, then I must also think that art is most art when no humans interact with it in any way at all. But this is not my position. For me, an artwork is not an artwork when humans are not there, any more than salt is salt when chlorine isn't there. I use this metaphor seriously: what we call art is like a ‘chemical compound’ made up of the artwork and the human. Both sodium and chlorine are needed for salt to exist, and they also exist independently of one another. We could easily demand ‘sodium with chlorine’ or ‘chlorine without sodium’, but it would be bizarre to ask for ‘salt without chlorine’ or ‘salt without sodium.’ Each of these component elements pre-exist their combination in salt, just as art object and the human exist outside the artwork, but there is no artwork if either of these components is missing. Often the artwork is not there even if humans are present. Consider the case of a two-year old child running through an art gallery, or of Joseph Beuys’s coyote doing the same. It is probable that neither the toddler nor the coyote is encountering artworks, though they may be aware of colored surfaces hung from the wall. Or imagine a cultivated adult walking through a gallery while heavily distracted by severe personal problems, not really mentally present. For these reasons, we must say that there is a split between the literal and the theatrical. I'm in favour of the non-literal art that is theatrical, which means that humans have to be involved as one component. and this is why I spoke today about the Anthropocene in connection with art. Let’s start with a question: ‘Is the Anthropocene era anthropocentric or not?' In one sense the answer seems to be ‘yes’, because humans played a central role in bringing about this probable new geological era. But in another sense the Anthropocene is clearly independent of humans, since we cannot wish climate change away or understand its mechanisms completely. We have various suggestive models of what’s going on with the climate, but can’t know exactly what's going on with any certainty. This is why I find the term ‘Anthropocene’ to be of use well beyond the sphere of climate studies, since there are all kinds of objects that need humans as components without being reducible to what the human gaze discovers in them. In other words, Anthropocene objects are those in which humans play a dual role as both beholder and ingredient. Both of you are Dutch, and thus you are both ingredients in the Netherlands without either of you being able to know exactly what Dutch culture really is, which no one can ever really know completely. Yet as Dutch citizens you presumably take great interest in the possibilities and deficiencies of the Netherlands as currently constituted. In short, your participation in the Netherlands is certainly theatrical (your attention and interest are absorbed in this object) but by no means literal (the Netherlands is much more than the two of you or anyone else can grasp). This is the situation that occurs whenever humans are a component of an object without fully understanding it. Among other things, his counters Giambattista Vico’s claim in the New Science that we should focus on culture and language, because we made these and thus we can understand them, unlike nature which we did not create. By no means is it clear that we understand cultural issues better than natural ones. The fact that we make something doesn't entail that we understand it. Just look at children, for instance. Children have human parents, but these parents do not have the slightest idea what they’re going to get when the child is born, nor will they ever reach an adequate understanding of the child’s personality. Being an ingredient of something does not mean that you are a privileged observer of it. Graham Harman and Mark Williams at Sonic Acts Festival 2015. Photo by Pieter Kers | LK: Today you were in a round table discussion with Mark Williams, who is a geologist, Douglas Kahn, a media theorist, and Timothy Morton, a philosopher. Also, you were in the audience for the session with Kurt Hentschläger, who is an artist... What do you get from being around people working in different fields at the Festival? Of course, the content of your work already moves in different directions, but I'm curious to know how this works for you. GH: My work has received a hearing in numerous different fields, and has even received a fairer hearing so far in these other areas than in philosophy. The probable reason that object-oriented philosophy has travelled well across the disciplines is that every field in some way needs to negotiate the difference between objects and relations. The same thing has happened with most recent influential continental philosophers: Derrida, Žižek, Latour... they're more liked at the periphery of the philosophy than at the centre, initially more liked by students than by professors. The centre of philosophy moves slowly, it's always a hundred years behind schedule. This seems especially true in the United States, where both the analytic and continental traditions are institionally somewhat rigid, though for different reasons in each case. As for how the contact with other disciplines affects me personally, it is highly stimulating. Each field grants itself licence on certain topics but engages in masochistic self-denial on others. When I speak with architects, for example, there are areas where I can help because there are certain possibilities they might not have seen, but there are also vast areas where I find that architects are rolling the dice while I am being too cautious. In this way, it remolds your brain when you enter the conversations of another discipline and try to run at the same speed that they are running. As philosophers we tend to favor very slow-moving arguments. Other fields do not have this luxury— there are urgent problems to which they are trying to respond. Philosophy is the least urgent discipline because we're dealing with long-term, subtle, slow conceptual changes that might not have much impact for a long time. For example, Leibniz's relativistic interpretation of time and space didn't reach its full glory among scientists until Einstein, which took approximately two hundred years. This is what makes it so absurd when some people try to limit the speculative bounds of philosophy to the most recent findings of relativity, quantum theory, or even the latest findings at the CERN accelerator. Instead of limping behind the sciences and explaining what they have already done, we ought to be inventing the conceptual playground that the Einstein of the year 2215 may wish to inhabit.
‘Philosophy is the least urgent discipline because we're dealing with long-term, subtle, slow conceptual changes…’
Menno Grootveld: During the round table discussion this afternoon, there was a gentleman who was quite angry because, as far as I understood, he thought that particularly you, and Timothy Morton, were trying to get away from the real problem, actually throwing up some kind of smoke screen. How do you react to that? GH: I’m familiar with this gentleman, because he asked a similar angry question of me in Vancouver a year ago. But today he was angry at Morton, I think. The gentleman’s enthusiasm and sincerity are wonderful, but it’s just not an effective discussion strategy to shout at people in a public forum, especially since he kept boasting about how ‘generous’ he was being, but without showing evidence of generosity at all. He is not a lone wolf, but belongs to a well-developed anti-object-oriented group. In fact, the new types of continental philosophy have matured to the point that we now see various well-defined camps or schools. There is a camp that generally opposes everything done by me, Morton, Ian Bogost, and others working in a similar vein. Their orientation is rationalist, mathematico-scientific, and is atmospherically and sometimes conceptually indebted to the former Warwick University professor Nick Land and his “dark” interpretation of Deleuze. They have held at least one meeting in London to counter the “cultural faddishness” of object-oriented philosophy— in other words, they realize that we’ve had a wide influence, and have tried to convince themselves that it’s of no durable importance. They have published (even paid to advertise on Google) a lengthy book denouncing me as both a thinker and a person, and held a celebratory launch for this book somewhere near Newcastle; I’m told it was sparsely attended. Soon they will publish a book that apparently tries to portray both object-oriented philosophy and contemporary art as regrettable symptoms of capitalism— a project that does not sound intellectually promising, though it will provide more juicy red meat for those who dislike us already. In short, a good old-fashioned feud has been underway, and I don’t think it’s been entirely unproductive. There are always moralizers on the scene who are quick to call intellectual fights ‘petty’, but this shows no realization of how harsh polemical life has been among intellectuals at various historical periods. Try reading a bit of Martin Luther or Giordano Bruno, or re-reading parts of Nietzsche. As for the gentleman who went after Morton today (I know his name, but he can announce it himself if he wants) he was proclaiming himself both a Sellarsian and an Accelerationist, and defending these intellectual trends from Morton’s supposed insults. Allow me to explain these terms briefly for readers unfamiliar with them. The adjective ‘Sellarsian’ refers to the late American philosopher Wilfred Sellars, who was a major influence on important analytic philosophers such as Robert Brandom, Paul Churchland, and John McDowell. More recently Sellars has come into vogue among the aforementioned breed of anti-object-oriented philosophers. As for Accelerationism, it refers to a political doctrine spelled out in a manifesto published a few years ago by Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams, the gist of which is that the best way to destroy capitalism is not to resist it, but to speed it up so fast that it self-destructs. Panel discussion at Sonic Acts Festival 2015. Photo by Pieter Kers | Both Sellars (certainly) and Accelerationism (we’ll see) may have their merits, but neither is of especial interest to me. The short version of my critique of Sellars is that he boils everything down to either a manifest image (the sun seems to rise every morning) or a scientific image (we have determined that the sun does not rise, but rather the earth rotates on its axis). We use various words to refer to our moods and motivations, but many Sellarsians dismiss this as a manifest image or ‘folk psychology’ that will someday be replaced by a better description of our mental life: a description stemming from –surprise, surprise!– the natural sciences. We still call people ‘melancholic’ or ‘depressed,’ but perhaps science will teach us it’s just a matter of a chemical imbalance in the brain. Paul Churchland gives a nice example of how we can actually teach ourselves to experience the night sky differently in terms of what astronomy has learned about the sun, moon and planets moving along the ecliptic. By replacing manifest images with scientific ones, we are supposed to continue the work of Enlightenment, and thus philosophy is primarily about destroying naïve manifest images, even if we can never get rid of them entirely. This is one reason why the new Sellarsian camp has such unremitting contempt for phenomenology, which I take to be the most important development in the past hundred or so years of philosophy. Whereas Husserl’s phenomenology asks us to begin by suspending all judgment on the reality or non-reality of what appears to the mind, the new Sellarsians become quite angry when we speak of unicorns or Popeye as if there were anything for philosophy to say about these creatures: ‘Off with their heads, instantly!’ Indeed, I’ve compared this sort of philosophy to a unicorn slaughterhouse. But the real problem with the distinction between manifest image and scientific image is that both are images. If you confess as these people do that science only give us another kind of image, and that philosophy is all about establishing epistemological criteria for distinguishing between good and bad images, then you’re leaving realism behind and replacing it with a crypto-idealist position in which images are all we ever need. But there is a reality there that's not reducible to the images: that's what an object is. They are sticking with the famous two tables of A.S. Eddington, the scientific and manifest tables, whereas I’ve argued in print that a third table in between these two is the real table.
‘There is a reality there that's not reducible to the images, that's what an object is.’
As for Accelerationism, its proponents are young and just getting started, so let’s see where they end up. But my lack of interest in this new orientation stems primarily from the authors’ excessive certitude about contemporary politics. They write more like activists than philosophers, and unfortunately we are starting to forget the important difference between these two professions— one person might do both, such as Sartre or Foucault, but they are two very different hats. The authors seem confident in what the problems are with ‘neo-liberalism’, ‘capitalism’, ‘climate’, and so forth, and they also speak in terms of ‘cataclysms’ and ‘annihilations’. The philosophical element missing from this picture is any sense of Socratic ignorance. As I tried to show last year in my book Bruno Latour: Reassembling the Political, politics is not primarily about truth and not primarily about power, but about uncertainty. By contrast, the Accelerationists continue in the basically idealist line of the modern Left start out by assuming that the political truth is basically known and it’s time to strategize about how to implement it in some suitably radical way. The general assumption on the Left is that there are certain corrupt, greedy, ignorant, alienated, or evil interest groups that are preventing an already known ideal political order from being implemented, and hence there is no time to waste on piddling, fruitless, navel-gazing speculation. There are crisis moments when this attitude makes sense, and perhaps we’re in one now. Yet this is still the attitude of the activist, not of the philosopher, who deals with much longer stretches of time than the modern period of philosophical idealism in which the Left was born and raised. Another way of saying it is that the Left misreads politics as being primarily about the implementation of justice, when politics is really about the conflict over what justice is. This is not simply a class struggle or any kind of power struggle (though it’s partly that) because humans are genuinely mystified about what truth and justice are. You can’t make a science out of these; rationalism is even more dead as a political doctrine than it is as an ontological one. Politics is neither primarily about truth and justice (Rousseau, Marx) nor primarily about conflict and victory (Hobbes, Schmitt). Let’s give the Accelerationists some time to see what they come up. But so far they are mostly just preaching to the converted, not getting down to some rock bottom that would offer something to those who are not already on the hard Left— which I for one am not, despite the immense leftward pressures in intellectual life today. As philosophers, we're not supposed to be swept along with the Zeitgeist, we’re supposed to be resisting it. Even if ‘neoliberalism’ has the political Zeitgeist in Western countries since Thatcher and Reagan, the Zeitgeist among intellectuals has been something quite different, and that’s a bigger danger for us.
‘As philosophers, we're not supposed to be swept along with the Zeitgeist, we're supposed to be resisting it.’
Since I mentioned it in passing, let me say a bit more about the political theory of Bruno Latour, which is neither apocalyptic and dramatic, nor even visible in his works on a first read-through. I started preparing my book by asking: ‘Is Latour a leftist or a rightist? Where do you put him on the familiar left-right spectrum? From the Left you'll hear that Latour is a bourgeois neoliberal, but that’s what they call everybody. I knew that wasn't quite the case. And I know Latour personally, and know that his political views are surprising sometimes. You can't put him down as a centrist French social democrat with occasionally conservative leanings. That’s not what he is. Eventually I decided that the reason you can’t classify Latour as Left or Right is that these orientations go back to differing views on the so-called State of Nature. If you think humans are naturally good, as Rousseau does, then you will see human inequality as unnatural, outrageous, and in need of constant moral condemnation and possibly societal overthrow. If you think humans are naturally inclined towards evil, like Machiavelli, Hobbes, or Schmitt, then you will place a premium on order, you will view conflict as a necessary part of life, and you will prefer cautious stability to any attempts at an egalitarian utopia. The problem with imposing this schema on Latour is that he doesn’t really have a theory of human nature, and moreover, he sees humans as only a part of the political sphere. As Peer Schouten so helpfully noticed, you can follow the birth of Latour’s original political thinking in the work he did on baboons with the primatologist Shirley Strum. As they put it, the problem with baboons is that they are too social. Baboons are constantly trying to figure out who's higher on the pecking order. The poor baboon must always wonder: ‘Have I slipped in the hierarchy? Is someone stealing my mate? Who is getting the best food recently?’ Baboons are constantly worried about this unstable situation they face. But we humans don't really have to worry about this most of the time. You wake up, you know what your job is, you know who your spouse is, you know your bank account, your job title, your name, your passport number, your citizenship,... Except in times of personal crisis, these things are known to us, so we don't have to renegotiate our position every day. Latour's interesting idea is that inanimate objects are what usually perform the stabilizing function for us. So we have wedding rings, passports, bank accounts, mailing addresses, a social security number, driver's licences,... This is what makes me who I am. It's inanimate objects. If we were just a bunch of naked people standing together in a field, it would be hard to have any kind of hierarchy or even any kind of identity. You’d hardly be able to recognize the same person twice. Especially if there is no language , which is another important inanimate object. This is where we see that Latour doesn't really have a Left or Right theory of the State of Nature.
‘…we don't have to renegotiate our position every day. Latour's interesting idea is that inanimate objects are what usually perform the stabilizing function for us.’
But while Latour has nothing to do with the Left/Right spectrum, he is very much concerned with what I regard as the more important modern political dualism of Truth vs. Power. Most people we meet are primarily truth politicians or power politicians, even if everyone's a mixture of both. Truth politics, which comes in both Left flavors (Rousseau, Marx) and Right flavors (Leo Strauss) is the idea that we basically already know what the political truth is. Let's say that I think know the political truth is egalitarianism. By nature we're all equal, yet we're not equal now. Therefore, something must have gone wrong: somebody must be exploiting us, or some privileged social class has an interest in suppressing us. Latour doesn't like this sort of talk, because he thinks it short-circuits political discussion. It's like someone bringing in science to trump political discussion and say 'I know the facts about global warming'. But the interesting thing about the climate debate is that nobody really knows all the facts; we’re still trying to figure out the facts, even if a consensus has developed. But there is also a Truth Politics of the Right, more common in America than in Europe. There is Ayn Rand, of course, a very influential if widely derided author, who is quite certain that laissez faire capitalism is the political truth. Perhaps more interesting to mainstream intellectual life are the Straussians, the disciples of Leo Strauss, who fled Hitler’s Germany and set up shop at the University of Chicago, and has long had a deep influence on American conservative thought. If you spend some time reading and listening to Straussians, what you’ll find is that they think Socrates and Plato basically had it right. And what they think Socrates and Plato knew —though I regard this as a complete misreading– is that there’s an eternal hierarchy of human types. There’s no equality between humans. But roughly the same mixture of wise people and fools existing in every historical era. Historicism is wrong. It doesn't matter what we learn, or what technology we develop, since there is a durable pecking order in terms of the inherent value of certain types of people. Philosophers, of course, are placed at the top. The problem is that philosophers are badly outnumbered by the masses, and the masses might easily kill the philosophers— just look at Socrates. The Straussians think this is a real danger, and their paramount political concern is how philosophers can survive in cities ruled by so many vain fools. The lesson seems to be that philosophers should conceal their true danger from the city, go along with its patriotic and religious rituals, and writing their most difficult truths in coded esoteric ways. This also governs their relation to intellectual history, where they try to detect ‘the real views’ of the author in footnotes and deliberately absurd arguments. I know one Straussian who held up a picture of Descartes in class and said roughly: ‘Descartes claims to believe in God, but just look at his face. He's obviously an atheist, he's so sneaky looking’. In individual cases this can be a powerful technique, since there are many cases of coded writing during authoritarian historical periods, and perhaps even now. The problem is that Straussians really think there are certain authoritative teachers who have wisdom, have knowledge that is better than the mere opinion of others. It’s a right-wing version of Truth Politics, and it is strange that Socrates is their hero, since Socrates never claimed to know the truth about politics or anything else.
‘nobody really knows all the facts; we’re still trying to figure out the facts...’
Power politics, the other side of the dispute, is the notion that there isn't really any truth. Crudely put, whoever wins decides what the truth is: ‘history is written by the winners’. This side of the debate is initially Latour’s home. He starts out as a proud Hobbesian, even a brash one, though Latour always adds inanimate objects to the political picture in a manner foreign to Hobbes. Schmitt is also a piece of the Latourian puzzle, especially later. Despite being a Nazi, Schmitt is very popular these days even on the Left due to his opposition to bourgeois liberalism, which Schmitt defines in Hegel’s sense as the standpoint of those who do not want to risk life and limb in politics, but merely have a political stability that allows for material gain. Despite his ostensibly hardball vision of politics, Hobbes is sometimes regarded as the founder of liberalism because his goal is to stop the ubiquitous warfare found in the State of Nature. This is why he wants the state to have not just a monopoly on violence, but on truth itself: no religion, no science can claim to transcend the state. Schmitt doesn't like this because he views this as something less than a full human life. Human life is about struggling for the essence of who you are, and this happens most vividly in the famous ‘state of exception’, when the sovereign proclaims an existential struggle with the enemy. Mind you, it is not a morally evil enemy that needs to be eradicated in a police action, which is what Schmitt claims the liberals always do. And certainly this is true of United States foreign policy: we have a hard time viewing someone as simply an enemy who needs to be defeated, and generally depict our enemies as moral evils who need to be utterly eradicated. Instead of trying to remove violence from the political sphere, like Hobbes, Schmitt is trying to bring it back. The Left likes this, of course, because they think there’s so much class antagonism at work that is simply being repressed or ignored by liberalism. But there are also power politicians on the Left, the sort who are skeptical about ‘truth’ of any sort: numerous postmodern theorists come to mind who see themselves as beyond any naïve belief in truth or reality, but who struggle nonetheless for their preferred groups to gain more ‘power’.
‘Instead of trying to remove violence from the political sphere, like Hobbes, Schmitt is trying to bring it back.’
The young Latour is a remorseless power politician. He says numerous different things in the spirit of 'I'm the Machiavelli of inanimate objects’, or ‘Hobbes is right’. But then he suddenly changes his tune in We Have Never Been Modern (1991), which is perhaps his most famous book. He begins the book by talking about Steven Shapin and Simon Schaffer’s famous discussion of the conflict between Boyle and Hobbes. Boyle is of course one of the great early modern scientists, and very much a pursuer of truth. He sets up his experiments with worthy witnesses who affirm a demonstrable truth about the use of a pump to create a vacuum. But then there is Hobbes, who not only thinks that religion needs to be monopolised by the state in order to avoid appeals to higher truths and hence the onset of civil war. More than this, Hobbes also thinks that science should not contradict the state by direct appeals to transcendent truth. The state needs to be the final authority on everything, since otherwise there is going to be a war of all against all, just as in the state of nature. Hobbes even reports Boyle to the English government because this guy Boyle is very dangerous: he thinks he's doing experiments to tell us the truth, and we can't have that because science will then claim a higher truth than the state. Shapin and Schaffer conclude that Hobbes was more right than Boyle, because the definition of what constitutes good science is decided by society. Therefore society trumps both science and nature. And this is a turning point for Latour, because he realizes that he doesn’t agree that Hobbes was right. Despite his fifteen or more years as an explicit Hobbesian, in 1991 he concludes that Hobbes was wrong. Politics is not privileged. Politics does not have direct access to the truth any more than science does. In politics we don't know what the truth is any more than we do in science.
‘[Hobbes] thinks [Boyle is] doing experiments to tell us the truth, and we can't have that because science will then claim a higher truth than the state.’
This is the key point where Latour realises that the polis is not purely immanent, not just self-contained. There has to be an outside that we must keep an eye on, that the polis has not yet recognised. In Politics of Nature (1999), this becomes the task of two basic groups: scientists and moralists. The scientist’s job is to detect inanimate objects that the political sphere has not yet taken account of. Climate change would be a very good example of that. The other group is the moralists. The early Latour thought the moralists were pathetic because they're just whining about everyone being oppressed and defeated, and the early Latour thinks it’s your responsibility to struggle to win, since there’s no point in being right without having the might to back it up. But in Politics of Nature Latour finds himself suddenly enamored of the moralists, because they are able to detect a still unincorporated exterior of the polis. The next stage of Latour’s political trajectory owes a great deal to Noortje Marres; her doctoral dissertation here in Amsterdam really influenced his political philosophy. If memory serves, Marres’ dissertation was entitled No Issue, No Public, and was completed in 2006. Marres offers a re-reading of the Lippmann-Dewey debate, which is known to academics but not the general public in the United States, the home country of both authors. Obviously, John Dewey is famous as one of the most important American philosophers, and for his international influence in the field of education. By contrast, Walter Lippmann has been somewhat forgotten, though he was a major journalist in the 1920s and 1930s. He was a widely familiar author at the time, and wrote some cynical things about American democracy. The story America tells itself politically is that since we're a democracy in which the citizens rule themselves, there is a paramount need for an excellent public education so that the citizens can vote wisely. We ourselves are the leaders. But of course it doesn't work that way in practice. We actually have a surplus of ignorant and uninformed people who pay no attention to the nuances of policy, and who vote based on the workings of demagoguery and short-sighted self-interest. Any number of foolish decisions have been made by the American public. This leads Lippmann to take the somewhat cynical line that America is destined to be ruled by technocrats. We need experts to run things; the people are too clueless to rule themselves. We’ll pretend we have a democracy, but we actually don’t. Now, Dewey reads this, and he is temperamentally more optimistic, and he thinks: ‘This is a really stimulating book, but Lippmann is wrong. He is setting the bar too high for the people. People were never supposed to be educated in depth about every issue, which is an impossible demand. Even Lippmann doesn’t have the time to master every issue, and he covers politics for a living. Instead, Dewey says, political issues generate their own publics in each case. I might care deeply about seven political issues. I might care about national health insurance, but I don’t care about gay marriage, or vice versa. So I get involved in one debate and not the other. I take the trouble of becoming informed about issues that interest me. And this is how Dewey and Marres see politics as working. Latour calls this an ‘object-oriented politics’. There’s a political object that creates a public, and for that public the object is never directly accessible. There are debates about it; there are compromises about it. And people aren’t just in power struggles with each other over what to do. They are also trying to figure out what the truth is. Humans can never get to the truth, as Socrates teaches us, but we can get closer to it. This is where Latour seemed to be headed, towards this sort of ontologically realist politics, against Hobbes, holding that there is an outside that infringes on politics and we need collectively to work out what that is. Anyone who wants to do so is welcome, but not everybody has to get involved in every issue.
‘There’s a political object that creates a public, and for that public the object is not directly accessible. There are debates about it; there are compromises about it.’
But then Latour seems to shift again when he raises the theme of the Anthropocene, as he does in his Gifford Lectures about Gaia two years ago. Here Latour switches back to his old power politics line, but in a Schmittian rather than a Hobbesian form. This comes up in the form of Latour saying ‘We have a problem with the climate change sceptics. We can’t convince them no matter what we do, but we pretty much know that we’re right. The future of the planet is at stake, even though we can’t quite prove it as scientists could in the past, because climate modelling is a lot harder than rolling balls down an inclined plane’. So Latour says: ‘We need Schmitt here. We need to defeat these sceptics; they’re the enemy. Maybe we can’t persuade them to change sides on the basis of evidence. We’re sick of dealing with these people, it’s time to beat them’. He doesn’t say with violence, but he does say roughly: ‘Defeat them, they’re the enemy’. Like Schmitt, he’s not saying that they are morally evil. He’s just saying that they are endangering all of us, and so they just have to be defeated. We must declare war, in the Schmittian sense. LK: Somewhere in line with Chantal Mouffe and Bonnie Honig who write about the defeat and antagonism … GH: I think there ought to be more discussion about the relation between the ideas of Mouffe and Latour. I don’t know if there’s anything detailed that’s been written on those two specifically. It would be interesting. Clearly they both have an interesting relation to the political theory of Schmitt. Latour ends up with I think too much of a power politics as a way to deal with the Anthropocene, when I think there might be another path to take, which was the one he was already taking, in which reality and its surprises constitutes an outside that belongs to the political sphere, which can never be purely immanent.

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