About process and form in feedback systems. This exposition forms part of my research on the positioning of feedback systems for composing and performing computer music. Here I'm collecting some ideas, working methods and speculations derived from my experience with such systems.
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.
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).