essay for LSF 45

Text: CHOU Chia-Hui
Translate|Yvonne Kennedy

From the strictly technological standpoint, the elimination of the starting handle makes the mechanical operation of cars more complicated, because it subordinates it to the use of electrical power from a storage battery that is external to the system.  This increased complication — and abstractness — is nevertheless presented as progress, as a sign of modernity.  
- Jean Baudrillard, The System of Objects

Speed of “Sound” + Youth

En route to Nanhai Gallery, the music playing in the headset is by the Brazilian girl band CSS (Cansei de Ser Sexy).  Their rhythms and fragmented beats combine the late-disco sounds of the 80s with a touch of New Wave.  A whiff of a similarly sweet sound can be detected in the “Sounds Like O.range” performance.  When the circular swirls of color are projected onto the sensor screen, performers behind the projected image begin a repeating oscillating motion that reveal the body’s capabilities and range of emotions.  In time with these sonic rhythms, female performers initiate a performance of interactive gaming using the body-sensing media.

The performance technique of the Sounds like O.range group is dependent on technological images and its correspondence with an automated induction machine that then creates an interaction between the visceral experience and the visual media installation. It is a performance that is accompanied by electronic music that adds a youthful “sweetness” to the show.  In the computerized sonic arrangement, the composer integrates digitized musical symbols with lights and shadows that are projected on the screen using computational algorithms.  The progression and arrangement of the music also includes a creative technique on the part of female performers who interact with the sensory mechanism and gradually weave together a non-narrative text.  Or, to push this line of discussion further, create elements of a cyborg perspective on visual technology.

More precisely, the performer’s (subjective) behaviors or actions affect the individual characteristics, gender and group attributes, and, more importantly, the intermediary media interface technology.  Hence in this performance, the sound equipment and computer tools are obviously the dominant mode of spectacle, but what sets it apart from the usual electronic music/sound performance genre is the insertion of the narrative relationship with the female body.  In terms of image and sound expression, visual technology has indeed created hundreds of guises here.  But what about sound?  It seems still in search of a sense of “belonging.”

No longer Akira, but the signal

"But do you think by turning a dog upside down it will become God?"  Artist Reiruof (artists will often use a different name for their stage persona) once wrote thus in his performance notes.  This quirky quip perhaps reflects the performer’s approach.  In other words, the moniker Reiruof, when reversed, becomes the “Fournier Transform” concept as proposed by the artist.  This refers to a digital signal processing analysis technology widely used in Internet media to analyze digital signal frequency characteristics.  Through an analogous concept, the artist uses digital analysis in the media interface for the performance process.  Noise is filtered and output through a sound effects device to create overwhelming and powerful sensory stimuli for the audience.

When the "body" is in the receiver position, the “sound” and “image” created with computer technology seems to be multiple signals transmitted through human organs -- the SimStim mode of stimuli as described by William Gibson in the essay "Neuromancer," where the audience is in a state of flux between the virtual and real.  The temporary image left by the video, the noise and amplitude, brings the audience into the artist’s program module.  To give a more visual description, it is similar to the film “2001: A Space Odyssey” where the visual image continuously moves through a physical space that resembles the universe, but ultimately what is revealed is the “signal,” and not “Akira.”  (Akira being the Japanese anime character whose name denotes bright light, or the savior).

When asked, the artist explained that “sound” was established as a primary connector whose fluctuations are dictated by the irregular frequencies of the visual images.  Using a computer system to produce sound was pioneered by Greek avant-garde electronic composer Iannis Xenakis who created his work Mycenae Alpha (1978), using a computerized musical composition tool (UPIC).  The computer detects line drawings on the sketch board to produce specific corresponding pitch and duration, and listeners get a feel for the physicality of “noise” created by the media interface.    The audio frequency and melody is represented visually by symbols made up of dots and lines on a plane, and the visual sense follows the oscillations of the visual graphic created by these lines.  In a similar way, the oscillations of the physics of noise created by Reiruof ‘s signals, the unstable graphics presented on the linear plane, and the sound texture and sound quality, combine to create the effect of interactivity between the retro and modern along the pathway connecting the new and the old computer systems.  The two levels of inter-sensory states create a displacement in the loop of the “noise system”, and become much more than an objet d’art.

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