Transduction is a generative, site specific sound installation conceived for the facade of the space for artistic experiments Reagenz in Graz. The work is installed in a small window niche next to the entrance door and connects a physical setup - consisting of three thin glass surfaces, one pick-up microphone and two transducers - with a sound synthesis program. The transducers excite the glass, creating two oscillating membranes that project sound outside, and simultaneously the microphone feeds vibrations back into the software to initiate sound processes.
Segmentation is a core principle of analysis in many different disciplines, such as biology (literally to disassemble organisms, but also the sequencing of DNA), in music and phonology (to structure the stream of sound), or in informatics (to formulate and implement an algorithm). It is also an artistic operation, ranging from film cut to the sampling of sounds and other existing smaterials. What we are interested in this project is to understand the segmentary, not as an expression of isolation or fragmentation, but on the contrary, as a decentralised surface of "fitting pieces" whose meaning emerges through assembly by the audience.
Through Segments is a sound installation in an unusual interstitial space—the staircase of the Kunsthaus’ Iron House that connects to the “Friendly Alien”. Four artists listen into the storeys using real-time computer algorithms, taking an acoustical image of the visitors’ movements, forming four individual reactions. It is a poetic attempt to think about the distributed, the fragmented, the parallel. During the development phase, the artists work independently, but at the same time they observe and interrogate each other, performing the gesture of a “simultaneous arrival” (Sara Ahmed). They enact a human algorithm, informed by reiteration and duplication but never being identical. The aim is not one “of all converging towards the same, but circulating, making common relaying, relaying back, being relayed” (Isabelle Stengers).
The ALMAT 2020 Symposium is interested in the genealogical, processual aspects of algorithms and their transformative potential. We seek critical approaches that avoid both mystification and commodification, that aim at opening the black box of "wonder" that is often presented to the public when utilising algorithms. We depart from the assumption that algorithms possess an inherent material agency that emerges from the intra-action between human and machine (K. Barad). In these exchange processes, we experience gaps, breaks and bends in the flow, the reconfigurative nature of the algorithmic which bounces back and reconfigures our thinking and approach to artistic work. When algorithms are inserted in the creative process, they actively shape this process and spread outside the boundaries of a particular medium or artefact. The symposium looks to rethink the relation between humans and algorithms (N.K. Hayles) in terms of an organic or ecological perspective (Y. Hui) in which actors are entangled and co-generative.
The foundation for the symposium is given by the eponymous artistic research project ALMAT - Algorithms that Matter, funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF AR 403-GBL) and hosted at the Institute of Electronic Music and Acoustics (IEM) at the University of Music and Performing Arts Graz.
ALMAT 2020 was originally planned to take place (06–07 July) adjoining the 8th Conference on Computation, Communication, Aesthetics & X – xCoAx (08–10 July). xCoAx is an exploration of the intersection where computational tools and media meet art and culture, in the form of a multi-disciplinary enquiry on aesthetics, computation, communication and the elusive X factor that connects them all. Due to the Coronavirus crisis, xCoAx is going into an online-only mode, and the ALMAT symposium has been replaced by an online assemblage of the submitted proposals only.
Algorithmic Spaces was a collaboration between Algorithms that Matter (ALMAT) and Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe (ZKM), taking place in December 2018 within ZKM's festival inSonic.
We selected talks and pieces based on a call works engaging with the space and spatialities of computational processes. Are there inherent spatial properties to algorithms? For example, what is the relationship between the iterations of code, the behaviour of multi-agent systems, the exploration of databases, and their inscription into the perceptual, auditive space? We were interested in pieces that use generative processes to produce space, rather then applying a secondary “spatialisation” procedure. We were looking for approaches that treat spatiality as a critical phenomenon emerging from the work with algorithms, for sonic artefacts that probe concepts of spatiality through embedding in algorithmic processes.
Algorithms that Matter (ALMAT) focuses on the experimentation with algorithms and their embedding in sound works. Rather than conceiving algorithms as established building blocks or the a priori formalisation of a compositional idea, we look at them as performing entities whose consequences are irreducible to models. Algorithms “matter” in the sense that matter and meaning cannot be distinguished, neither can artists and their computational tools. Algorithms actively produce spaces and temporalities which become entangled with their physical embeddings.
In 2019, we created a workshop within the impuls . 11th International Ensemble and Composers Academy for Contemporary Music, taking place in the Museum of Perception (MUWA) Graz, February 11–21, 2019. It focused on the development of a site-specific sound installation. The installation explored the interactions of algorithmic and physical spaces and their dynamic and mutable properties. Participants worked on the premise that spaces and our perception of them change depending on presence, absence, the movement of visitors, the time of the day, the rhythm of the surroundings as well as the sonic and algorithmic interventions we bring into them. The workshop sought to attract computer music practitioners, sound artists and composers by offering a platform for exchange and reflection about their personal approaches towards algorithmic experimentation. The participants were invited to develop their various approaches within an atmosphere of collaboration, where special emphasis was given to the translation of environmental data (such as sensor input from the surroundings and visitors) through computer music systems developed and assembled by the participants and tutors.
The workshop was held with technical infrastructure provided by the Institute for Electronic Music and Acoustics (IEM), including an 48-channel sound system and a selection of sensors. The workshop ALMAT was developed by David Pirrò and Hanns Holger Rutz (both IEM Graz) and was held together with the special support by Robin Minard.
'Simulation and Computer Experimentation in Music and Sound Art' was the title of an artistic research seminar conducted through a collaboration between Algorithms that Matter and Orpheus Instituut Ghent, taking place at Orpheus from March 21, 2019 until March 22, 2019.
The seminar brought together practitioners and scholars to discuss the wide-reaching implications of the ‘agential cut’ (Barad) or ‘ontic cut’ (Rheinberger) – the separation between operationalised model or abstract theory and perceived or experimentally verified ‘reality’, the fissure already indicated by Husserl and realised in experimental computational systems.
Computational models afford a way to test theoretical constructs or observe the consequences of non-physical or even imaginary hypotheses. One arrives at a critical conception of computation, situating it beyond the dualism of a deductive, representational approach and an inductive, empirical approach, acknowledging a speculative quality of algorithms that ‘are not simply the computational version of mathematical axioms, but are to be conceived as actualities, self-constituting composites of data’ and ‘equipped with their own procedure for prehending data.’ (Parisi) The very activity of experimentation and augmenting the language of artistic creation is exposed through the use of algorithms.
Discourse and materials pertaining to the fifth experimental iteration with the core team (Pirrò, Pozzi, Rutz) and guest artist Ji Youn Kang, during the Algorithms that Matter (Almat) artistic research project.
Unheard landscapes: this metaphor leaves space to imagination, to the un-thought, to the un-known, to past and future, as well as unexplored sound scenarios. It also reaches the field of auditory perception, the acoustic domain. Sound, through auditive qualities, acoustic phenomena, design practices, artistic creations, and listening experiences, offers an inspiring transversal entry onto landscapes and ambiances. Beyond the discussions on “soundscape”, approaching ordinary environments through sounds increases the awareness of our own capacities to feel, while we inhabit and move across different worlds. From an ecological perspective, resonance appears a key word, too. It puts sound and space together. It implies the idea of a plurality of bodies, things and living beings vibrating all together, sharing common contexts of time and space.
The act of listening bypasses the passive meaning it usually receives. It contains in itself a completely unexpressed potential, connoted with «project», «pro-action» and «active decision» by individuals. What will be the sounds of the future and the soundscapes in which we will live, or would like to? How can listening practices evolve, how will we listen or how differently could we listen to the world around us, tomorrow?
Inhabiting the world brings to us questions about how we want to manage our being in it. How do we want to inhabit the world sonically? How sound and listening do actually affect our way to inhabit it? Have we lost some of our abilities to resonate with the world? What remains to be heard? Where could the practices of listening and attuning take us to?