Posts tagged FoAM
Seili, a tiny island in the Archipelago Sea. The island is a geologically young and interconnected ecosystem, historically laden with accounts of illness, death and isolation. It seems serene and benign yet harbours hidden disturbances, spectral hostilities. Plagues of ticks and microplastics overlaid with psychic memories of the oppressed and abandoned. Ecological monsters and anomalies hover on the edges of human perception, cunningly invasive even to a casual visitor. A haunted island covered by soft green mosses, lapped by gentle brackish waves. The sea is sparsely populated with dwindling biodiversity, beset with its own “ecological ghosts of oceans past.” The island bides in silence, weathering the changing weather. The landscape is on its way to becoming something else, without resistance. Things come, interfere for a while and eventually go. Sail away, disappear or die out. Other things remain, as ambivalent hosts or liminal lingerings…. Real but not necessarily physical, real but not always measurable. Whether invaded by crabs, humans or ticks, the island continues its slow and steady rise above the shallow waters, unperturbed.
We had arrived in the Sonoran desert. A place of desiccated time, layered time, geological, vegetal, human time. Time kneads the Earth’s crust into deep folds, cracks and canyons. Plants lay dormant through cycles of drought or grow slowly for centuries, bursting into blossom after the first rains. Humans come and go. Blown through the ages like tumbleweeds. Things don’t really decay here. They shrivel, dry up or slowly rust, yet remain present, as they gradually erode into dust. A thick, dusty atmosphere of things that were, things that are and things that might be. Densities and intensities coagulating on a larger than human scale, illuminated by stark light or lurking in the deep shadow.
At the intersections of culture, gardening and technology we can start to see how plants can become organisational principles for human society in the turbulent times of the 21st century. Although we may need to scavenge at the fringes of contemporary society, we can observe many healing effects that humans can have on their surroundings through a symbiotic collaboration with plants. Some fight desertification and remediate industrial wastelands through natural farming and permaculture. Others design whole lifecycle, closed-loop technological and architectural systems inspired by natural processes, based on the art and science of biomimicry. Yet, these are scattered examples. We still don’t have widespread methods to improve wasteful, often counter-productive human behaviours. How do we encourage broader, longer-term cultural changes? What varieties of culture would be capable of forging symbiotic relationships between postindustrial human societies and the rest of the earth? How do we compost bitterness to grow beauty?
If the creative process were to be seen as a syncopated beat in alternating Dionysian and Apollonian modes, we’d definitely reached a Bacchic ad libitum on Wednesday night. Fuelled in part by the cumulative effects of nearly three days’ commensality and countless glasses of wine, participants were in a riotous mood. Distinctions between work and play grew fine indeed. The mounting insanity, the atrocious DJ’ing, cabin fever induced by the overcast weather — I had to escape. I fled the loft to walk in the twilight and talk to yaks and, returning to an eerily silent downstairs by the fire, became absorbed in black elephant selfies. By the end of this evening (and I don’t exactly know when it ended) we had 34,111 words. Tomorrow, it seemed, the sober process of redaction would have to start all over again.
Stevie Wishart was FoAM’s “composer in transience” at the Brussels studio for most of 2015. Her residency emerged as a natural consequence of a long involvement with FoAM spanning several years and numerous projects, including most recently Wheel & Time(less), Candlemas Concerto, FutureFest, Smoke & Vapour, and Inner Garden. When I had the opportunity to talk with her in the spring of 2015 she was deeply immersed in a large composition that would be performed by the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in May. Our discussions therefore gravitated around the particular challenges and musical innovations she was imminently preoccupied with at the time — which made for some fascinating comparisons and contrasts between these and the very different contexts and approaches entailed in working on a musical project at FoAM.
Beyond the financial hurdles, the centre’s determination to fund offbeat projects such as the Foundation of Affordable Mysticism - an association of artists and technologists exploring new modes of artistic expression - has prompted some critics to question whether Starlab is a group of pranksters masquerading as serious scientists. Time machines and teleportation modules may have great implications in the deep future but few realistic applications in the here and now.
Akin to the psycho-geographical derive, we walked through electromagnetic and coding territory, to observe what we would find rather than seeking out. Our actions, a form of contemporary geomancy, concentrated on the interacting signals between the atmosphere, the ground, and ourselves – all potential sites of transmitting, receiving, disrupting, and originating signals. Unlike outright divination, the more general category of scrying is a system for asking questions without solutions.
Through exploratory field trips that focused our attention down into the earth, we opened a window into a world of telluric currents and fugitive radio waves that normally would remain unnoticed or inaudible. This was achieved through iterative, performative processes in the field: at one point, we plunged a circuit board into the soil to listen for what the earth (and a few worms we found there) might have to “say:” the currents thus detected were fed directly into a computer where they were “translated” via Python program into letters and spaces of the English alphabet. This process resulted in a “worm poetry.” This process quite literally returns circuitry to the earth from which it once came, in effect inducing the earth (and its intimate inhabitants, worms) code itself.