Audiovisual Immersive Installation
2-Channel Video, 4-Channel Audio
Commissioned for the Austrian Pavilion at the Venice Art Biennial 2001
By Timothy Druckrey
"The visual and audiovisual apparatuses that we work with are all time machines. Their origins lie in the first founding era of the New Media in the nineteenth century-they are prostheses, artificial limbs, for dealing satisfactorily with the impossibleŠ" (Siegfried Zielinski)
.... Interrogating this boundary, between machine intelligence, signal processing, reproducibility, autonomy, the 'legitimation crisis' of post-modernity's inebriation with broken narratives, the artificial triumphs of digital cinema, the reinvention of montage in the cut-and-paste (sometimes slash-and-burn) technomusic scene, is what so clearly informs the work of Granular Synthesis. Over the past decade their works have evolved a critical algorithmic intelligence aimed less and less toward the fulfillment of grandiose phantasies of deathless electronic life, and more and more at examining the limits of perceptibility, the margins of representation, the micro-analysis of sound and feedback, the extension of the infinitesimal.
Kurt Hentschläger remarks that "we strongly relate to what comes from media-the world within our given world, which becomes more and more invasive." (Artbyte p.35) Indeed the 'invasive' approach of Granular Synthesis explodes the friendly atmosphere of normalized installations/performances and proposes an extended assessment of sensation in an on-going-yet strangely delinearized-inertial system that posits the 'uncertainty' of the link between entities and trajectories, between the machine and the flesh, between identification and possibility. Yet this temporal oscillation is, paradoxically, neither destructive nor excessive. As Marina Grzinic writes, "we find ourselves in all bodies and in all media, but this is not an innocent act." But rightly, Thomas Feuerstein suggests that "the synthesised images do not want to achieve identity, imitation and illusion, but their destruction. The image of the head is no longer a head, it is a machineŠ" This assessment is extended by Tom Sherman who suggests that "it is important that we step back from the intensity of the experience of the work to see these video and audio arrays as a kind of 'software' for 'programming' the audience, controlling their perception, experience, and ultimately the descriptive process (conscious reflection) of the audience itself." (Noisegate. P. 31) So instead of just fantastic projection, the works of Granular Synthesis propose post-corporeal, post-optical interfaces that work at sensorial limits unimagined in the brute sonic mechanisms of Futurism, the unattainable in the spatialized environment of Varèse's poème électronique, or the arbitrary visual montage of the techno-music scene.
Uncoupled from self-reflexivity the 'performances' of Modell 5, POL, Noisegate-M6, staged the body in an intricate sequence of transactions in which image and sound are conceptualized in non-linear arrays in which temporal orderings are radically transformed by a kind of intricate reverse engineering of causal flow. The digitally denaturalized face, for example, of Japanese performance artist Akemi Takeya in Modell 5.5 reverberates in extreme asynchronicities, the monumentalized micro-gestures are liberated from real-time, the insistent granularized sub-frequencies of sound emerging in ways that split the structures of kind in a fission of representation, Tom Sherman calls "explosive latency."
This electronic vivisection of the micro-temporalities of gesture, the micro-frequencies of sound developed in the granularization of signals continued in Noisegate and POL. Noisegate introduced small scale interactivity into the space with sensors that triggered sequences across the distributed screens. Not implemented in other works, this experiment was dropped in favor of the sheer presence unimpeded by other intentionalities. Christopher Philips described the experience of Noisegate as being "somehow inside the dream of an intelligent machine that was imagining the anguish of turning into flesh," a "choir of clones" as Hentschläger describes it. (AinA p. 113) In POL the slow abandonment of the recognizable image, not incidentally of the mesmerizing vocal performer Diamanda Galas, began to strip recognition of its familiarity, introducing a form of visual entropy into the system-Galas' otherworldy utterances finding a fitting correlate in the demolition of the specious affinity between apprehension and meaning. This derealization was fully realized in FELD in which the "field" of visibility relinquished its foothold in the corporeal and examines instead the intelligibility of sonic/visual atmospheres generating unanticipated luminous abstract renderings and sounds liberated from the monolithically realistic, electronically coerced into existence, palpable in 'the realm of the senses,' void of finality.
Norber Weiner once wrote: "Every instrument in the repertory of the scientific instrument maker is a possible sense organ." This remark from 1948 just preceded Turing's radical claim for computer intelligence (1950). It is by no means coincidental that in the same years that introduced cybernetics and the Turing Test, the first transistors and the Information Theory of Shannon and Weaver. The senses, intelligibility, microelectronics, signal to noise ratios Š this stunning transformation of applied technology into media technology is the premise of the ubiquitous electronic information infrastructure we inhabit. Quickly developing and infiltrating into image and sound processing, the short history of computing joined the long history of mechanical and electric technologies in a kind of rendezvous with virtualization. And it has largely come in fantastic illusions, startling systems-integration, in full-motion, in real-time, in omnipresent availability, in omnivorous accumulation, in synthetic intelligence, in artificial life. But rarely does it come, as it forcefully does in Granular Synthesis, with the intelligence of sensation .
"Š Processed/designed time has to be able to give us back time that life has taken from us (this is one of Jean-Luc Godard's finest thoughts on cinema). Otherwise, it is time wasted, time lost. We should not allow ourselves, time and again, to fall short of the capabilities of machines. Without a relationship to complexity, and without a relationship to time - both are inextricably bound up with each other - I cannot imagine that advanced praxis in art and thought are possible." (Siegfried Zielinski)