by Annet Dekker and Malka Jonas

Invisible technologies are a part of our lives even if we are not aware of them. The rise of invisible networks had such an impact that it changed our manner of communicating, working, learning and playing. Many of our daily experiences are shaped by invisible structures based on technologies employing electromagnetic fields, radio waves and wireless networks. Whether it is computers, television networks or mobile communication instruments, many of the tools we take for granted have an invisible body that we do not consciously interact with or even think about because it is invisible for the human eye. But when technologies disappear from sight, they also disappear from our consciousness, and although we are surrounded by a whole world of invisible structures, we no longer experience our environment as constructed. We interact with invisible technology in every realm of daily life, be it through mobile phones, the TV set, radios or even electronic kitchen appliances, without actually thinking about them or knowing about their functionalities. The interest in objects is therefore shifting from the technology itself to the value they have for shaping our experience: we are no longer interested in the way a tool works but in what social or cultural status it signifies. As a result, we become increasingly removed from the technology and its influence on our daily lives, actions and thoughts. To break the cycle, the exhibition (in)visible sounds goes in search of invisible networks that exist around us. Artists visualize those unperceived yet very present technologies. Some literally expose both analogue and digital networks, while others make use of exactly the invisible, surprising us with the amount of information passed on and possibilities opened up by invisible networks.

Artists in the exhibition

Working with sound and the specifics of the location is the main interest of artist and writer Brandon LaBelle. For his project Radioflirt (2007) he has worked together with artist James Webb, whose work explores the realms of magic, exoticism and alienation and impossible environmental phenomena. Radioflirt lets the user hear the secret narrative of the building. Utilizing a series of mini-fm radio transmitters located throughout the building, visitors are invited to follow traces of incomplete messages, hidden whispers or trembling static that appear as an ambiguous and secret narrative. Radioflirt is an intimate radio experience that aims for the heart and explores the emotional geographies of listening.

Semiconductor make Sound Films which reveal our physical world in flux. Since 1999 UK artists Ruth Jarman and Joseph Gerhardt have been exploring many processes of digital animation to produce experimental films and live animation. Earth Moves (2006) is a continuation of their exploration into how unseen forces affect the fabric of our world. The south-east of England is explored through a series of five audio controlled photographic panoramas. Semiconductor collected sound recordings and photographs on location along the A23 at Pease Pottage, Witterings NT reserve, Findon Valley, John St Brighton and the Adur Valley cement factory. The sounds were used to re-animate the landscape at each location. The results are captivating images and sound that seem to reveal a different reality usually hidden from us. The limits of human perception are exposed, revealing a world which is unstable and in a constant state of animation as the forces of acoustic waves come into play on our surroundings.

Rob Davis
is a systems developer in the Psychology Department of Goldsmiths College, University of London, particularly interested in systems that are contingent upon the environment and the entities that inhabit it, and the adaption within such systems. Usman Haque is an architect who has created responsive environments, interactive installations, digital interface devices and mass-participation performances. His skills include the design of both physical spaces, and the software and systems that bring them to life. Evolving Sonic Environment III is an acoustically-coupled analog neural network, consisting of a society of devices whose behavior collectively changes in response to the pitch ascendancy or descendency that each one detects. In contrast to earlier versions of the project (which operated at much higher frequencies), humans will be able to participate more directly in the adaptation process by making sounds of their own. Each device can output at any one time a rising and/or descending tone: however, if a device hears too much of one type of tone it may get 'bored' and slowly modify its behavior. On the other hand, they may all coalesce in an equilibrium where they are all 'content' with the state of pitches in the room. This 'contentedness' may get disrupted when humans enter and start making their own sounds, thus perpetuating the evolving acoustic characteristics of the space. The system will remain active for the entire duration of the exhibition, so there will be many Gigabytes of data for analysis which, it is hoped, will demonstrate that adaptation has occurred over both short term and long term occupancy of the space. If this is so there should be correlations between occupancy and acoustic spectrum patterns that may change over the weeks.
Usman Haque: http://www.haque.co.uk/evolvingsonicenvironment.php
Robert Davis: http://homepages.gold.ac.uk/rdavis

Erich Berger
follows a rich tradition of video artists such as the Vasulkas, Livinus van de Bundt and Bas van Koolwijk who specifically investigate into the world of electromagnetism. His audiovisual installation TEMPEST (2004) takes its name from the U.S. government code word for a set of standards for limiting electromagnetic radiation emanations from electronic equipment. Every electronic device that is switched on, whether a mobile telephone, a laptop or a GPS receiver, generates constant electromagnetic emissions, even on standby. Hidden under the user-friendly surface are autonomous processes with their own dynamic, what British designers Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby called 'The Secret Life of Electronic Objects'. TEMPEST utilizes the basic principles of the 'Van Eck Phreaking' technique to transform purely generative graphics into a tight and intense composition of sound, noise and light. Following a long tradition of subverting military technologies for creative purposes, Erich Berger creates an audiovisual piece in which the relationship between images and sounds is precisely determined by the electromagnetic emissions produced by the monitor. The graphics that appear on the screen in TEMPEST produce radio waves which, when captured using various radios tuned to different AM frequencies, become the sharp and vibrant sounds that go along with the images.

In their work the Australian artists David Haines and Joyce Hinterding make a connection between natural phenomena and our electronically saturated world. In the live sound and video installation Purple Rain (2004) they explore the world of data transaction: the digital video projection of a mountain avalanches in response to fluctuations in the television broadcast images detected by antennas. The more signals the antennas detect, the more raging and violently the snow collapses. The power of the avalanche thus depends on the amount of electromagnetic energy and communication data that reaches the installation room via the antennas. The false video image of an illusionary natural disaster is of intense sublime power. It displays the raging energy around us produced by telecommunication and satellite networks. Haines and Hinterding use the image of the avalanching mountain like a metaphor for the natural world as threatened by and interwoven with the power of invisible networks.

Audio Space (2005-2007) is an interactive 3D 'augmented aural space'. In the installation, visitors can leave messages for each other in space in the form of text or sound. The user - wearing a headset made up of headphones and a microphone - hears all the sounds left in simulated 3D audio, allowing them to pinpoint the location of the sound and find it in the space. Interactive artist and designer Theo Watson turns the space into a memory of the people who have interacted with it. The user can respond to messages left by previous users or seed conversation for future discussions. The combined sounds create rich, evolving atmospheres for different parts of the room, and for the user it creates a superimposed sonic environment that seems tangible and very real. The visitor gets the feeling of walking in a space filled with the ghosts of previous visitors.

Olga Kisseleva is interested in the ways people use electronic information-gathering and data-processing technologies to visualize our environment. With Landstream (2006), the Russian artist found her own way to translate a continuous flow of digital information, a stream of waves and signals understandable for only a small scientific audience, into graphic images that anyone can read . For realizing Landstream she worked with scientists from Russia, the Sorbonne and Stanford to measure the density, quality and movement of electromagnetic fields around nuclear stations, airports, and other locations. They developed an experimental program to track and translate them into graphical images. Her colorful paintings are translations of those graphics and map the dynamic flow of electronic information through the landscape in real time. Besides the new images, Kisseleva also presents documentation of the work process in order to give the audience a new insight into what she calls the electromagnetic pollution that surrounds us. The poetic abstract images let us discover a new world.

Cell Phone Disco (2006) is an experimental installation made of flashing cells. By multiplication of a mobile phone gadget, Ursula Lavrencic and Auke Touwslager from Informationlab created a space for experiencing the invisible body of the mobile phone. The flashing cells consist of one or more LEDs, a battery, and a sensor that detects electromagnetic radiation transmitted by an active mobile phone. When the sensor detects EM waves it sets off the LEDs to flash for a couple of seconds. The installation has two parts: Flashing cells with sensors of higher sensitivity are used to detect electromagnetic radiation from active mobile phones. This way a mobile aura appears around the phone, revealing a part of its invisible body. While the user moves around talking on his phone, this aura follows the conversation like a light shadow through the space. Much less sensitive cells are used to create a canvas for an inkless marker. Moving the phone close to the cells leaves a trace of light, an electromagnetic drawing. Cell Phone Disco lets the visitor experience the invisible body of his or her own mobile phone, a function that we use but never consciously experience.

Furthermore, we will show the following works from our collection:

Livinus & Jeep van de Bundt, Moire, 1975
Video graphics - the ultimate pictorial art is Moiré's central statement. Livinus aim was to create electronic paintings of light, movement and sound. He added a new and electronically-determined dimension to the aesthetics of Fine Art's static image. By being consciously neither narrative nor figurative - qualities that have long been appropriated by television, Moiré is an abstract rhythmic video painting with no fixed form or colour.

Bas van Koolwijk, FBCK/AV – Red Flag, 2006
'FBCK/AV - Red Flag' provokes the observer with a penetrating sound and a flickering red image that refuses to take on a recognizable form. In order to generate this image, Bas van Koolwijk developed software which, again and again, transforms the input of audio and video signals into unique abstractions. The resulting interference looks like flagging, a term and phenomenon from the times of video tapes, which occurs when a tape does not run smoothly through the recorder. With this reference to the analogue era, the viewer's thoughts are taken even further 'back', while also reminding of the confusion of our digital era.

Anouk de Clerq, Conductor, 2004
In crystal-clear, sunny weather, the lonely lightning conductor on the roof leads a forgotten life. Only when dark clouds are gathering, pressure areas begin to shift and the wind starts to pick up, will its function suddenly be remembered: the absorption of fiery discharges of electricity, the redirection of forces from above in order to protect us down on the ground. Using subtle black-and-white animations, Anouk de Clercq provides us with a perspective on the possibility that the opposite could be the case.

Matthew Schlanger, Blue Mercury, 1987
Schlanger's work deals with people, interaction, time, physical and psychological space and memory - facts and phenomena that he records in a more-or-less abstract fashion. He deploys cyclic electronic waves as his visual source which he uses to generate amorphous forms. You watch compositions of rhythmically moving, colored forms that are in a state of constant flux. The image and the electronic sound are continually activating each other. Schlanger's oeuvre represents a kind of parallel world where the abstract remains abstract and the riddle is never solved.

Gary Hill, Soundings, 1979
Almost all the themes of Hill's later work are already essentially a part of his early videotapes: the relation between sound and vision; communication; the body as transmitter/receiver; the processes that determine meaning etc. Hill is not concerned with showing how seamlessly these systems function either separately or together. On the contrary, by dissecting them in diverse ways, he exposes the disturbances and frictions that can occur. By means of spoken text and a loudspeaker, Hill depicts in various ways the image's linguistic aspects and also the concrete or tangible qualities of language.

Woody Vasulka, Reminiscence, 1974
Issues of memory, history, narrative and their relationship to electronic imaging are often central concerns in Woody Vasulka's work. In 'Reminiscence' he uses the effects of the Rutt/Etra Scan Processor to make portapak video images appear as visual impressions, like distant memories. In this tape of a walk through a farm in Moravia, a place of Woody Vasulka's childhood, images are processed through the scan processor so that certain elements are raised and others lowered, like memories in which some elements remain vivid and others fade.

Steina, Violin Power, 1978
'Violin Power' is an ongoing work, with experiments dating back to 1970. It is a study of the relationship between music and electronic image, in which Steina's violin becomes an image generating tool. The sounds, movements and vibrations of the violin affect the sculptural patterns and images that we see in live performances and video documentations.

Steina, Bad, 1979
In 'Bad', Steina rhythmically weaves sound and image to examine the up/down, right/left movement, and squeezing/stretching of a digital image, using her own face as visual material. This highly complex image calculation provides an interesting example from the early works of the Vasulkas showing how they creatively forced the medium and attempted to exceed the limitations of the machine.

Sonia Cillari, Se mi sei vicino, 2006
The performance/interactive installation 'Se Mi Sei Vicino' ('If you are close to me') is a practical research into body-environment interaction and the possibilities of using the body as interface. A core element of the work is a sensor floor on which a performer is standing, functioning as a human antenna; when coming close to or being touched by members of the audience, the movements of the bodies are registered as electromagnetic activity. Surrounding the floor are large projections showing computer graphics, which change their form according to fluctuations in the electromagnetic field. The images are algorithmic organisms connected to audio compositions, generated by the open-source rendering engine OGRE. The research for this work was conducted in the context of the Artist-in-Residence program of the Netherlands Media Art Institute, Amsterdam.