Digital Dynamics in Nordic Contemporary Art visits Media Art Histories – Re:Sound – in Aalborg. A conversation with Ulla Angkjær Jørgensen, Budhaditya Chattopadhyay, and Jøran Rudi examines the topic of ‘Art’s New Environments’, while an artwork by Chattopadhyay makes such a ‘new’ environment felt.
Tuesday August 20, 2019, 13:00 – 14:00
Auditorium – CREATE AAU, Rendsburggade 14, 9000 Aalborg, Denmark
Art’s New Environments
Afforded by digital dynamics, current contemporary art evolves contingently with immersive technology and manifests in environments as much as in concepts or objects. From a survey of artist testimonials collected for the book Digital Dynamics in Nordic Contemporary Art (Intellect, 2019), it seems that artists explore a mode of subjectivity rooted in their own embeddedness in digital conditions of society. They formulate their artistic positions as participants of the contemporaneity that their practices deal with. Relying on immersion rather than narrative or conceptualized meaning constructions, they explore what it actually feels like to be present in our contemporary world and its temporal-sensorial conditions.
Following a trajectory of growing interest in affective experience across contemporary visual culture, the practical arts, and academia, perspectives in this panel will examine how contemporary art, afforded by digital technology, moves from a perspective on what is represented to us towards how we are present – and questions what conditions our sense of presence today. Our discussion will address human sensing as a both ontological and epistemological premise for art’s existence and experience: How do contemporary artists who engage digital culture and technology work with ideas of presence, affectivity, and immersion? What might artistic employment of digital tools and aesthetics implicate in ecological, digital-cultural, and technogenetic perspectives? What (if anything) is ‘new’ about artistic compositions of sense environments and experiences today, and how might art’s ‘new’ environments re-route art’s histories?
Representation, complexity and control
Modern sonic art is heavily influenced by digital technology, and we have seen major changes in composition, construction, performance and mediation of audio art since the digital watershed started in the mid-1990s. One can arguably say that sonic art depends on digital technology. When attempting to understand these changes, one must consider the materiality of the works, the tools used to create them, the technological affordances that make their creation possible, and the changes in the social contexts that facilitate public acceptance and reception. Technology is a social construct, not only a tool, but also an attitude, an adeptness and a craft for making meaning for artists and art users alike. The deep inclusion of digital technologies in nearly all aspects of modern western society has changed our self-understanding and behavior in everyday and art contexts, and a rich undergrowth of alternative distribution outside of the conventional hierarchies of good taste has developed over the last 25 years or so. The talk will attempt to describe some of the nuts and bolts of the digital technology that is at the base of this development, revolving around the keywords representation, complexity, control, new material, large and small data conversion, soundscape and ecological perspectives, and conceptualism.
An Aesthetics after Conceptualism
Ulla Angkjær Jørgensen
In her own wording, Norwegian sound artist Jana Winderen is describing the material body in a surrounding environment when she says that, “The sensory impression of sound is very physical. Depending on the materials around you, you can feel it in your bones, or as a sensation in your nostrils, or vibrating under your feet.” The combination of augmented reality and strangeness in her digital soundscape The Wanderer (2015) does precisely that, it moves you into sensing your presence in a specific environment in ways you couldn’t possibly have known before, yet it is a nowhere. It does not lean on the gallery to prove it is art; it can just as well be listened to anywhere you go with your iPod. Its place is the sensing body. Works like The Wanderer may help us formulate an aesthetics after conceptualism.
Post-immersion: Towards a discursive situation in sound and media art
Immersion is a much-used word in the domain of sound and media art. It is through immersion that the audiences are often made to engage with the media artworks, especially those involving multi-channel sound, and spatial practices. In these sound-works, immersion operates as a context for realizing the production of presence as an illusion of non-mediation (Reiter, Grimshaw et al). The main concern of this paper, and the corresponding exhibition and performance, is whether the audience tends to become a passive and non-acting guest within the immersive space often constructed by an authoritarian and technocratic consumer-corporate culture. I will argue in the paper that in this mode of non-activity the audience may lose the motivation to question the content and context of the work by falling into a sensual and indulgent mode of experience, therefore rendering the consumerist-corporate powers to take over the free will of the audience (Lukas et al). From the position of a sound/media artist-activist myself, in this paper I will argue for producing a discursive environment rather than an immersive one. I will examine the possibility to create sound artworks where the individuality of the audience is carefully considered and taken into account as a parameter for a fruitful dissemination of the work. I will discuss a number of recent works as well as conduct a self-reflective analysis of the exhibition to develop and substantiate my argument.
Exile and Other Syndromes (2019)
by Budhaditya Chattopadhyay
The generative composition Exile and Other Syndromes is part of an augmented book project that responds to the current indisposition of migration, mobility, placeless-ness and nomadism, which are the impulses of a contemporary condition that eventually blurs the boundaries between the local and the global, the digital and the corporeal, the private and the public, or the intimate and the dehumanizing spaces, instilling a sense of semantic fatigue. The composition aims to transmute the contemporary city’s volatile, oppressing and tensed environments to encourage the contemplation and poetic musing of the listener navigating the intercepting urban spaces. The work develops fluid sculptural form of sound in a closely mediated interaction with sound-generated text patterns framing the contemplation of a nomadic listener as an artifact using an AI algorithm to read and transform the book’s content into live visuals. The performance of the work incorporates multichannel live projection of the visuals on multiple screens augmented with multi-channel sound. This specific method of artistic intervention examines the way memory, imagination and subjectivity of an itinerant listener frames the character of sound in the context of intensified urban interaction, mobility and nomadism.