Le poulpe (the octopus) is an analogical and digital organism living in a network. Each branch constitutes a sonic installation which, out of a specific location, collects its own locally generated sound effects, transforms them via a digital automaton into a new arrangement of sounds. The outcome is then broadcast locally, through loud speakers, and on the Net, through streaming. Le Poulpe belongs in the city, where people live and make noise. It gives a virtual body to this city, expressing through sounds its invisible mouvements and its continuous flows. Over the Net, its tentacles collect and connect continuous sonic fluxes from ever changing contexts, to infiltrate and modify another environment.
Text published in the “Radio Territories” book, edited by Errant Bodies
Sitting in apo33's workshop, we manipulate electronic devices, we build microphones and make a loudspeaker out of a metal sheet adding a new sound device to the various sound conveying devices in the room. The speaker network is connected to the server, receiving sound transmitted from a private flat, at the other side of town. We hear the sounds coming from that distant environment, transformed by a series of analogical and digital processes and diffused into our workspace. Abruptly, the phone starts ringing, but ringing oddly: producing a melody of frequencies, extended over time. We listen and realize: the phone is ringing in the distant flat, not in the workshop. We reproduce the experiment and phone again, leaving a few messages on the flat’s answering machine; at the same time, we can hear the sounds that become a refrain and invade our space, creating a loop within the city, using the telephone and digital network to transform reality.
The diffusion of these flux of sound data in the acoustic space is effective after crossing the universe of telecommunication exchanges, the electro-acoustic chain (of capturing-mixing-amplifying-diffusing via loudspeakers) being over-extended (the mixing console becoming a multitude of virtual and connected mixing consoles). As if horizontal strata were inserted into the vertical hierarchical sequence, creating a network of chains, each linked to the others, each reaching towards the others. Following the same movement, the wires that carry the energy and feed the network emerged at the surface of our installations, between our bodies, generating a multi-layer web that materialised the various strata of links, connecting the real world with the virtual world of the net. This horizontal insertion marks the passage from the paradigm of radio diffusion to the paradigm of radio communication.
Through this article, I address the larger transformations of radio technology exemplified in “digital networks” by questioning the passage from radio diffusion to radio communication, while attending to how such transformations are played out in our own practice. Apo33's projects are not “pieces of art,” reproducible forms that can travel and be installed anywhere. Instead, we construct arrangements of concepts, operational processes and machinic agents, what we call “constellations.” Each installation or intervention corresponds to the actualization of a constellation. These constellations bring together the technical, artistic and theoretical aspects of a collective work. In this regard, our activity is “poietic” rather than “artistic,” casting us into the role of “tactical architects” or anarchitects, developing techniques and construction processes in a multiplicity of contexts. Each work then corresponds to the realization, in a given time and place, of an arrangement of conceptual, operative or machinic tactics, which presuppose a direct involvement with the collective and spatial potential of radio communications.
In his book Traité des objects musicaux (first published in 1966), Pierre Schaeffer theorizes a new way of making music: a new way of listening and a new sound form to listen to, which came to be called “concrete music.” This transformation in the mode of production and reception of music was determined by the emergence of a series of new techniques: vinyl and tape recording, electro-acoustic chain The electro-acoustic chain corresponds to the process of transformation of acoustic sound into electricity : microphone→amplifier→loudspeaker and importantly, radio diffusion. Or rather, if a technical instrument expresses a fixed power relationship in a network of changing power (social) relationships, then the development (diffusion) of these new techniques reveals a more general reorganisation of social relations and modes of production. Radio diffusion works as a kind of paradigm A norm for thinking and developing a model for action which becomes compulsory to any member of a group and not just a tool among others. As we analyze the way Schaeffer introduced these new techniques into the invention of concrete music, we can see how a creator turns a technical device into a machinic agent, an element of displacement and mutation of a social configuration, playing and turning the principles that underlay this paradigm Importantly, Schaeffer was a sound engineer, a fact that no doubt had a great influence on this musical revolution. For it is not so much as a musician (which he was too, but not in the context of his engineer work) that Schaeffer discovered the new musical opportunities, but as a technician, who also happened to be a “poet.” As a radio engineer, he did not approach sound in the same way as a classical musician, though still with a musician's ear. His creative inventiveness led him to modify and reverse the use of a technical device, thus producing a new form of musical poetics, based on sound experimentation. . Before it became the object of a theory, concrete music was the product of research conducted at the end of the 1950s by Schaeffer along with Pierre Henry, in the RTF (Radio Télévision Française) in Paris. This research sought to develop a series of technical alternatives based on his earlier experiments from the 1940s and early 1950s were utilized the manipulation of vinyl records. A vinyl record engraves air vibrations, fixing them on to a support medium. This enables musicians to produce loops, for example, and to create rhythms with raw sound material. He then experimented with tape recorders, which modified the way recorded sounds could be listened to and, above all, opened up possibilities for manipulating and modifying recorded material. Magnetic tape can support the inscription of temporal sequences that can be re-composed and manipulated by a system that cuts and pastes sound units. In this regard, “writing” music becomes a kind of montage (as in cinema). Recording is the determining phenomenon inherent in both these techniques and exposed by the radio context, and in relation to this phenomenon Schaeffer based his new “poetics”: on the possibility of fixing a vibration of the air on a support medium independent of the contingencies of time and space. This process significantly exposes musical possibilities: it leads to a new way of listening to sound by radically modifying the way sound is received, as the musical situation is no longer determined by a performing situation, lending further to an understanding of the very nature of sound itself. One specific feature of analogical recording is to generate sonic artefacts, that is, sounds that are not part of the original sound (acoustic vibrations), but parasitic imprints caused by the technical appliance, added to the original sound. Thus, the “purified” sounds of tonal music become potentially stained with artefact material, or interference, becoming mutant fragments of reality modified by the action of technical devices. In addition to these sonic artefacts, recording captures sounds coming from the performance environment and from the entire field of the sonic context. It is possible, with direct listening, to target and filter the specific sounds of the performance (to artificially separate the “musical” sounds from the environmental sounds), but when they are recorded onto audiotape, all sounds become equal. What the music industry, responding to the dominant taste in music matters, tried to repress by all means at hand (isolation studios, tools to reproduce more selectively the musical sounds, etc.), became essential components in Schaeffer's new way of listening to, and producing, music. The third factor (associated with recording) modifying the listening process is not so much determined by the technique of recording as by what recording makes possible: transporting data over a distance. Here the paradigmatic structure of radio diffusion and of recorded systems becomes evident: the “spectators” are not listening anymore in a spectacle hall, The artifice of spectacle was later to be re-introduced by composers of concrete music when they spatialised the old 'concert' hall into a new theatre for the ear, through the use of loud speakers as musical instruments. but in their home or some other, unknown location. The sounds they are listening to are not isolated in a soundproof room, but mixed with mundane noises from their own environments. All the efforts of the music industry to cancel common everyday sounds in favor of “pure” sounds of “music” are invalidated by the radio transmission process. Environmental sounds are recorded simultaneously with so-called “musical” sounds. Recording, radio transmission, and the diffusion of sound through loudspeakers, all transform auditive sensitivity and make it possible to hear musical qualities in everyday sounds. On this conclusion, Schaeffer and John Cage's paths met and from then on, always remained associated In is interesting to note that Cage does not so much refer to technical instruments to develop is conception of silence, but to architecture – which is another kind of technical device -, putting at the core of is work the relation to the environment, not space which remains an abstraction, but environment as a physical and social milieu (“milieu matériel”).. Fixing and manipulating recorded sounds reveal new sonic qualities, unheard before, like a photo zoom reveals a different materiality of the real. Montage, or extracting a sound from its context and confronting it with other sounds, makes it possible to play with musical qualities practically unknown before in any sonic performance. A sound object is the elementary unit of montage: an autonomous sound unit articulated with other units in order to create a narrative sequence (like a sequence of images in a film). Fixing a sound allows its de-contextualization. The acoustic vibration is transformed, via the electro-acoustic chain (capturing-amplifying-diffusing) into electrical energy then transformed back at the other end of the chain, by a system that interprets electrical pulsation. This sound vibration transformed into electricity can then be transported at will. Recording is an extension of this transport facility: it presupposes a transformation of sound into electricity. Radio diffusion means combining the electro-acoustic chain and a recording facility into a single device. As an instrument for de-contextualization, the radio diffusion process hijacks reality, a technical prosthesis is grafted onto a natural process (air vibration); it is inserted into the continuity of the natural process through a deviation, like the radio electro-acoustic chain is inserted between a human being and his/her environment (the human being is connected to this environment through a technical mediation: amplifying or recording), and between individuals: the composer (individual-subject isolated in the radio studio - the only producer of the information), and the public (a myriad of individuals, each of them isolated at home), who receive the information. The reversal of the radio diffusion process by Pierre Schaeffer, even though it has upset the modes of production and diffusion of music, has not managed to transform social relations in art, still based on the old trichotomy implicit in the black box device: author/work/spectator.
From the camera obscura to the mnemonic device If the electro-acoustic chain is still expressed in Schaeffer's work by the black box metaphor, it is because it still functions – though stretching to the limit – by following the poietic model of the camera obscura. The transformation of an acoustic vibration into electrical energy and back again, at the other end of the electro-acoustic chain, into an acoustic vibration (with the added imprints of the technical device artefacts), corresponds to the reversal of an image by a camera obscura. As it reproduces the world in pictures, the camera obscura introduces a division between human being and nature: our relationship with nature is necessarily mediated through this technical instrument. In the various representations of cameras obscuras that have proliferated since the end of the Renaissance, human beings are confronted with the image in the camera obscura rather than in the outside world. Through the camera obscura process, an image reproduces the movement of reality in a form that is analogous to its real form: a car on the move becomes the image of a car on the move. The image is only fixed after it has been transformed: it is the image that is fixed (a specific form that is artificially reproduced). At this level, digital technology causes a rupture and an important reversal, invalidating the camera obscura as metaphoric representation. At the heart of the electro-acoustic chain, recording can no longer fix an image at its end: recording only becomes an intermediary in the process of image production. It is not the image that is fixed, but the relationship between the variables of the electrical movement; these variables exist in a limited quantity, in a memory of 0’s and 1’s, that is: in a space where these relationships are stored/fixed, a stock of objectified energy. The amazing specificity of the digital lies in its ability to fix a potential rather than a form. Digital memory memorizes the movement of electrical energy in the form of 0's and 1's, before it can be represented in a specific form (image). This status of potentiality stored by the machine is called the virtual. Digitizing gives an objective existence to potentiality. From a philosophical point of view, going back to Aristotle’s analysis on the relation between potentiality and action, this is an absolute paradox. The relations between variables, end result of a series of transformations of real data (in the case of sound, transformation of an air vibration into an electrical signal), are memorized as sets of relations potentially containing all possible forms – that can be materialized into any form: sound can become text or image, at will. This explains the possibility to interchange media where digital technology is concerned. Thus a new “world,” rather than just a technical prosthesis, has been inserted between human beings and nature. A world that is potentially retained inside “memories”: a spectre of the real world that haunts reality. This world is simultaneously virtually present and actually absent. But this spectre is the “embodied” in a technical appliance spirit of a “dead” body - the body of reality caught by the machine, because it can be projected under any form that anyone cares to choose. This spectre, pure potentiality, works as a projection screen giving a possible “body” to the multitude of phantasms of the social and collective unconscious. In the form of computers, digital mnemonic systems are continually added to electro-acoustic chains, and each system is linked to the others so that, collectively, they form a unique body. Data transmission and traffic are then controlled by a network of servers connected to each other. Servers (which host the “memories”) replace transmitters. Radio becomes web-radio. Radio is no longer an instrument run by an individual but a multi-headed entity confronting a multitude of individuals, separating them from nature and from each other by upsetting the relationships that normally hold them together. Radio is now more than a transmitter confronting a multitude of receivers; anyone can become, successively or simultaneously, transmitter and/or receiver. This technical body or corpus takes the form of a network. And all the traffic that passes through this network can be controlled through automation by any of its heads, or servers. Thus the old paradigm that was radio diffusion is replaced by radio communication. This replacement points towards a new way of conceiving the organization of sounds in time, i.e. music. After concrete music was invented in the 1950s, opening a new era in the field of music and subsequently, sound art, this replacement marks the evolution towards new sound creation practices, transforming the ways we receive sound (how and where to listen, the performer/public relationship) as well as in the ways we produce it (how sound is to be processed, how sound forms are diffused into a space…).
Since we first created Apo33's Intervention Cell (CIA), we have tried to explore these new fields, hesitantly at first, following our intuition and responding to the need to find new languages that would better express our experience of the general transformation of society under the increased presence of telecommunications. With the “Poulpe” (Octopus) project, we had the feeling that we could finally approach more concretely some of these issues. What we were looking for, at first unaware of what it was or could become, was beginning to take shape in practice. The “Poulpe” project came at the end of a period over which we experimented on various radio communication systems, from Internet radio to CB, via walkie-talkies, etc., and exploring the consequences of this passage to digital technology on sound and music creation. The practice of the GNU/Linux systems lies at the heart of these experiments, with all their reliance on networks (unlike proprietary systems such as Microsoft or Macintosh). While proprietary systems tend to favor the reproduction of the instrumental camera obscura scheme, comforting any isolated individual into the illusion that it can be controlled, GNU/Linux systems have been built from the start by incorporating the networking and co-operative dimensions implicit in the development of digital technology. As we moved on from proprietary systems to free systems, our creative practice took directions we had not imagined before, and social relationships within our collective slowly evolved towards more co-operative forms.
The Poulpe (Octopus): a project of experimental radio network The Poulpe is an analogical and digital organism within a network. It captures – with various kinds of sensors – the sounds’ effects provoked by the actions of the residents or users of a specific place, then sends them onto a digital automaton which transforms them by simultaneously diffusing them onto a system of loudspeakers set up in the same location, and onto the Internet, through streaming. Over the course of 2005, we gave the Poulpe the form of an experimental radio within a network by connecting four locations: three are set in different cities of the French “Centre” region (Labomedia in Orléans, the nUM workshop in the Tours Fine Art school, and “Bandits-mages” in Bourges), plus one in apo33's workshop in Nantes. We have installed all sorts of sensors in the corridors and halls of these locations. The collected sounds are continuously sent onto a server installed in each location, through a digital automaton that transforms them according to compositional parameters determined by the specificity of the output, respecting this output in its particular context. Transformed by the automaton, the collected sounds are then diffused into the space and, via various systems of loudspeakers, into the corridors and intersections of the building. At the same time, as radio transmissions, they are also sent onto the Internet. At the last stage of the installation, we install an automaton that can convey “sound flux” from one location to the next, so that it becomes impossible to guess where a specific sound is coming from. We initially built the first installation in and around our workshop, in Nantes. It soon became an architectural extension of the building, constructing a quasi-permanent sound environment that was simultaneously familiar and astonishing: the architecture is transformed into a living being, as if we were hosted by a gigantic beast. The key to this construction of a sound environment lies in its relationship with silence,that is in the spatialization of sound. As in architecture, the crux is the void around which a wall has been built, more than the wall itself. It is the void that generates the movement, and in the case of our installations, silence acts to partially define spatial coordinates in real-time.
A new sound unit: the flux
The Poulpe project was pre-dated by several radio experiments on the Internet aiming at exploring the usage of a digital appliance within a self-built network. These experiments became possible as soon as we could simultaneously transmit and receive within a co-operative network, producing and exchanging sounds after the installation of a server at the home of each member of apo33. Such experimentations enabled us to discover in what way networks may serve as components in a larger sound operation or construction. Not only were we building installations or networks, we were in turn inventing new methodologies. To better understand the various elements at play within the work, we developed a series of “experimental modules,” the first of which was the “Fluxbox.” The Fluxbox is a repertory of “unlimited” sound flux continuously diffused in real-time (streaming). Each sonic flux follows the same process: a microphone is turned on, in a particular place (usually on the windowsill of one of our homes or of apo33's workshop) – and a streaming server transmits the live audio data. The sound content works as an extension of our everyday environment, a mise en abyme through the audition of the particular “sound environment.” The sound collected by this microphone can be transformed by virtual or analogical mechanisms (for instance, pedal delay, water pipes, acoustical elements, etc.) and the resulting interpretation is to be played in an everyday environment, like a form of “background music.” At the origin of this process lies the search for the construction of a sonic path across different environmental strata; the listener can “wander,” with an ogg Digital format for sound recording. A free equivalent to MP3 reader, alongside this path and across these virtual realities, to participate in its design by proposing his/her own environment. These flux are not registered pieces, recorded or recordable: they must remain ephemeral; what we call “sound environment” must evolve according to what has been collected and to the various manipulations it has undergone. The way sounds are collected may vary with the mood or experience of the listener. This first experimental module introduced to us the understanding of a new basic sound unit: the flux. The flux leads back to a consideration of radio communication as opposed to radio diffusion and to what Schaeffer calls the “sound object.” Radio communication works as a kind of system for the circulation of flux. Each transmitting /collecting point makes up a knot in the network, an intermediary point - never at the beginning or the end of a line as in the radio diffusion process. A “sound object” as defined by Schaeffer in his Traité des objects musicaux, is the result of a recording/inscription on a material (tape, vinyl, etc.) of a segment of sound, determined in time. This can be associated with the radio diffusion process, which cuts and captures a fragment of reality to turn it into a storable and reproducible “image.” A sound object is the fixation /objectification of vibratory phenomena onto a lasting medium. It is a finished, determined object - transforming an undefined time-space (vibratory propagation) into a defined time-object (sonic image). Acoustic sound is the outcome of an action in a space; it cannot be dissociated from the instrument that produced it or from the space where it was generated. A sound object can be dissociated from the space where it was generated (the same sound can be heard out of loudspeakers or a headset). On the contrary, a sonic flux is an infinite object: a paradoxical object. It certainly is the result of an objectification, but not in terms of space-time becoming time-object. Rather, it doubles up the first objectification by transforming the time-object (image) into objective time (flux).
Processing flux : automatization
A sonic flux is “matter” in permanent motion. A radio device is installed in a physical environment, continuously capturing segments of sound from this environment (depending on the location, the potency and the nature of the sensors) then transforming them into digital data that can travel through the network: cutting a segment of a sound environment and transforming it into flux. The way sound is treated is now completely different: we no longer compose (cut and paste: montage) sounds (sound objects). Rather, sound can be processed in two ways: the first is phonographic – capturing a segment of sound environment and giving it back as a “point of view” on this environment. It is a contemplative perspective on the environment (and probably the reason why it is often practiced in relation with a natural environment), often using technology as a means to develop this contemplative relation. The second way is by introducing systems of automated constraints into the flux. Sound is worked on (composed) in the middle rather than at the end of the chain: acting directly on the flux movement by sculpting it. We experimented with this kind of composition in the course of an additional experimental module focused on “automata.” For this module, we asked some artists to compose pieces that would later be modified by automata built by a member of apo33. In September 2003, we launched the Automata Project with the continuous diffusion of a German artist's work (Ralf Wehowsky), transformed and performed via Automaton 1. The principle driving the automaton is as follows: at the beginning, the process is a void mechanism for sound transformation; to make the automaton work, it has to be fed with sound matter, but not just any sound matter: it has to function cogently with the digesting process. Automaton 1 was built in order to play or not according to what it was interpreting. This interpreting machine must become a digitized process of “musical” production. To achieve this, an audience is needed, a person who can judge the musical quality of the result diffused into the acoustic space. That is why we asked the artists to insist on composing music capable of being played/digested/interpreted by the automaton, then diffused and listened to by an audience. Such music should be conceived and constructed with a capacity to modify the transforming parameters of the machine and to play with the way this machine is going to manage repeating and filtering sounds. Ralf Wehowsky's piece was correspondingly built: developing strata where frequencies could acquire an autonomy as they slowly evolved, punctuated with vocal fragments and sudden bursts of undetermined sound clusters. The music proposed to Automaton 1 worked as a repetitive and elusive structure. The automaton could not “catch” or “fool” the piece and ended up gaining a volume of its own and exploring the most unusual by-ways. Ralf Wehowsky managed to poetize the rigid structures of the machine. Whereas in the Poulpe project, automation is articulated with sonic flux, in the first case, music was supposed to cast the automaton adrift, acting as a catalyst for the generative interfacing of “musical” material with mechanistic parameters. In contrast, the Poulpe project’s automaton The automatons are build with the free software PureData is built to act on sounds collected from the material environment of the installation context, operating as a machine to distribute and channel sound streams. Sound composition thus becomes construction of machinery to distribute, channel, redirect, deviate or filter movements of “matter” (or flux), acting like a dam on a river. Sound processing becomes tantamount to a series of operations to distribute/to channel flux (relaying, delaying, applying loops/feedback, filtering, etc.). And each of these operations leads to different reactions on the sound environment, either on the way sound flux are diffused in the physical environment or on the way this environment is perceived. Ultimately, we observe the encounter between a rationalized system (the automaton) and a moving and random physical reality (the context). The automaton plays with data that keep changing permanently and unpredictably. This leads to a situation of permanent musical discovery. And if the cogs of the automaton are invisible enough, the impression of surprise at hearing our environment differently is enduring.
Apo33's third experimental module was an attempt at co-operation with other artists, within the framework of what we call ZET (the French acronym for “Temporary Test Zones”). In these ZETs, artists are asked to enter their sound production and methods into a device that unsettles the way music is usually produced and received. One of our most illustrative experiences of this process can be found in the Doigt de Galilée ZET. In the course of this ZET, we proposed that the Doigt de Galilée musicians play their music on the web radio we were experimenting with. This meant connecting, via relays and the Internet, four remote locations in the city. The musicians would play in a private flat and have the sound transmitted to apo33's workshop (open to the public) via streaming. The music could be heard from headsets in the first space (flat) and from loudspeakers in apo33's workshop. From the workshop, the sound was transmitted to another private flat, where the public was received in a more personalised manner, and where listening to the performance alternated with discussion. From there, the sound was sent on to the DY10 Blockhaus (a music venue in the city) where it was diffused very loudly. The public was invited, in the course of one evening, to go around to the four different locations and discover different ways of listening to the single sound event. The relay, first experienced as a configuration in time and space able to modify the relationship with the public, demonstrated that it was an essential element in a technical network: when a machine (server) transmits, via the network, a sonic flux, this flux is received by the other machines (clients), but according to the time of response of the machine, to its power, to its internal clock, to the data transit time of the network… Depending on a complete series of parameters, the distribution of flux on the network tends to be at random, thus producing a peculiar sound effect - the relay. This gives the impression that the sound transmitted by the machine resonates in each knot of the network, at a different time. The resulting distribution expresses the peculiar temporality of this corpus of machines, of a network temporality. This temporality, parallel to the linear temporality of the real, constructs the sound environment of the context, eliciting another perception of space and time in the listener. The continuous delaying effect in the relays produces sonic concatenations that do not belong in the linearity of logical time: time becomes “spacing, a diastem, A diastem for Plato is an interval between 2 musical pitches
cf: http:/experiencefestival.com/a/Diasteme_Diastem/id/103258 a time becoming space.”
J. Derrida, 'Freud and the Scene of Writing', in Writing and Difference. The outcome is a composition of time and space, made of fragments, of pieces of a material reality filtered through an automated “memory.” Streams of ghosts haunting the sites. Spacing. Relays reveal a new architecture, behind the city walls: hyper-architecture.
What we have been articulating here are a series of discoveries and methodologies enacted by and in relation to the creation of work in correspondence with currents in social reality. This reality, to us (practitioners), appeared while operating a series of displacements in the use of network-oriented devices, resulting in a new relation to “music.” As we developed a way of working, we also built a set of relations (supported by arrangements of self-organization and co-operative sharing) that ultimately came to be seen and heard to transform sound into forms of anarchitectural arrangements. Network structures come to epitomize hyper-architecture. For hyper-architecture is “groundless” architecture articulating a multiplicity of strata (techniques). These strata come to form a general infrastructure out of nodal points that transmit data to each other, forming a horizontal level activated and regulated by a vertical level consisting of a series of operations organized in programs. These series, as concatenations of interconnected loops, open or close the various processes that condition the passage of flux. Sometimes the horizontal level – a network – closes on itself and the transmission of data is neutered by a tautological mechanism winding in on itself. In this case, the machine claims its absolute autonomy. In the Poulpe case, this phenomenon takes the form of a feedback. Feedback: sound created when a transducer such as a microphone picks up sound from a speaker connected to an amplifier and regenerates it back through the amplifier. A door opened on the site of the installation could, for example, prompt a feedback process that would lead the system into a boundless looping spiral. In the installation, any kind of feedback By moving away microphone and speaker from each other effect should be avoided, even if such an event is unpredictable because it confronts an analogical operation with the living and aleatory dimension of its architectural context. As we played with the division and the distribution of the various automaton inputs and outputs (mainly through sampling), the chase for feedback became a dissentient game of the machine against itself. Feedback appears and disappears, like a ghost. And the machine ghost mingles with ghosts from reality. Feedback expresses through sound the duality of hyper-architecture, combining a process of centrifugal scattering across the network with an automated centripetal displacement towards autonomy. The concatenate and multifarious features developed by hyper-architecture tend to mask its totalizing and totalitarian nature. Hyper-architecture is the basis for the formation and maintenance of the “environment,” emerging out of the accumulation of various energy-carrying systems. It is a collection of routes engraved in material reality with the “force” of nature captured by technical prosthesis. It is astonishing to notice the similarity of the digital process in electronic machines and the process in the psychic apparatus, pointed out by Freud, as analysed by Derrida in his article 'Freud and the Scene of Writing'. In this way, the environment relation with nature (or what is left of it) is antithetic to the role normally ascribed to the “landscape.” A landscape is the picture of nature, Anne Cauquelin, 'The invention of the landscape', 2002 the city looking down on the countryside, a part of nature that must be conquered and controlled, first of all through representation. In contrast, the “environment” is a nature that has been humbled and rebuilt after pictorial subjugation, the outcome of a production line, a “natural” material that is circumscribed, and dependent on the technical infrastructure that models it. The environment is only the ghost of nature: an urbanized nature. Re-constructing nature under the guise of the “environment” has something to do with digitization. Both processes are associated with the construction of a virtual world. The laws and protocols that regulate the parallel digital world are also relevant in the real, material world. Their implementation presupposes that nature has been envisioned as a virtual structure, a kind of modelling paste made of energy and matter. The resulting form has been sculpted by the application of the technical apparatus on the corpus of this “energetic material.” The reconstruction of nature implies that every dimension of reality is integrated into a process of artificial reconstruction, that the whole spectrum of reality follows the laws and protocols of this reconstruction. But this re-construction is confronted, somewhere, with a kind of resistance or interference that surges from within the process and causes a kind of chaos. Once it has been installed in a space, the tentacle of the Octopus is related to another tentacle in some other city. The sounds from one context are mixed with the sounds of another context by the automaton, producing flux that penetrate between the strata constituting hyper-architecture. These flux exchanges don't produce new strata, but rather a “moving field” or “mutant territory” in between strata, linking distant bodies active in their environments.
Listening to flux: moving environments
Unlike in radio diffusion, which followed the rules of the camera obscura, in this kind of work listening does not have to occur in an abstract location (such as a studio or concert hall) but can take place anywhere. Listening thus acquires a new, larger meaning. It is the outcome of an action on the space through bodies and on bodies through space. Listening does not just involve sound but the complete context of this sound, transformed by the action of the machinic agents, into a living entity, a mutant organism made of the articulation and the mixture of “original” and modified sound. Sound is thus the expression of this organism activity, the environment becoming alive as a processional construction. The stratified and fixed environment thus participates in a process of mutation thanks to anarchitectural intervention. The function of the intervention (i.e. to come between), of an action that crosses the barriers installed by the rationalized organization of the urban machine, is to introduce heterogeneity into the fixed sub-structure. In this configuration, the automaton works as a machinic agent, pushing the sub-structure away from itself, as if the dam of the urban machine was inverted by another dam, a contradictory dam grafted on it. Scrambling the sonic identity of place, constructing mutant sound environments, garbling time by introducing repetition and feedbacks, delays, interferences between real-time sonic flux, diffusing sound in space reveals the existence of other communicational modalities. Diffusion not only lets the sub-structure's ghosts be heard, those ghosts that hide behind the machines, the pipes, the electrical wires, waking the sleeping bodies of the real that stands locked in a repressive machine, but in turn allows such elements to come into a larger communicational network. And these ghosts crossing the cities, through the telecommunication wires, will then modify all the environments they appear in, interfering in the spaces of foreign environments. So that, at one end of this chain of chains, the stream listener will experience the mutation of the daily environment.
Translated into English by Hervé Gosselin
Aristote, Métaphysique, livre IX, éditions Librairie Philosophique J. Vrin, 1991.
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Le Poulpe, book and CD edited by apo33, 2005.