The Geologic Imagination: Lectures, Interviews and Recordings

RESEARCH SERIES #19 At the end of November 2015 we will travel to the North of Norway and Russia for the second edition of Dark Ecology. There, we will explore diverse aspects of the notion of Dark Ecology in lectures, discussions and walks, and through the presentation of commissioned works in the Barents Region – more specifically in Kirkenes, Murmansk and Nikel. The Sonic Acts festival The Geologic Imagination, which took place last February, and the three-year Dark Ecology project, are thematically interconnected, and theorists and artists involved in the 2014 Journey and works commissioned for Dark Ecology were part of The Geologic Imagination. To get you in the mood for the upcoming Dark Ecology Journey, Research Series #19 is a viewing edition that includes recorded lectures, excerpts of live performances, sound recordings and interviews made during the festival with contributors such as Timothy Morton, Jana Winderen, Espen Sommer Eide, BJ Nilsen and Karl Lemieux, Raviv Ganchrow, Ele Carpenter and Graham Harman.

Jana Winderen presenting at Sonic Acts The Geologic Imagination. Photo by Pieter Kers
The term ‘dark ecology’ is borrowed from philosopher and theorist Timothy Morton. He is also the ‘inventor’ of the concept of the hyperobject, an idea that is probably as important to our research as ‘dark ecology’ is. Morton was the keynote speaker at the first Dark Ecology Journey, and gave a lecture at Sonic Acts 2015, when he spoke on the subject of subscendence – the inverse of transcendence. Subscendence happens when something shrinks into its component parts in such a way that the whole is always less than the sum of its parts. Morton explained why this new concept is very useful for thinking ecological beings, as in an ecological world, beings are necessarily fragile and incomplete, even the massive ones.

Timothy Morton: Subscendence from Sonic Acts on Vimeo.

The Norwegian sound artist Jana Winderen was also present at both the first Dark Ecology Journey and the 2015 Sonic Acts festival. She conducted research in the Pasvik Valley on the border between Norway and Russia for her new work Pasvikdalen, which premiered live at Sonic Acts 2015. In her presentation Listening without Getting Answers she talked about her methodology, work and motivations. She focused on how recording and presenting sounds we cannot hear or access – for instance, from fragile underwater ecosystems – communicates stories and issues that are of grave concern.

Jana Winderen: Listening without getting Answers from Sonic Acts on Vimeo.

Interview Jana Winderen from Sonic Acts on Vimeo.

The Norwegian artist Espen Sommer Eide is well acquainted with Kirkenes, and has spent quite some time up North. He gave a talk and performed in Nikel, Russia, as part of the first Dark Ecology Journey, and is currently working with Signe Lidén on a new work for the third Dark Ecology Journey. We invited him to the Sonic Acts festival to give a talk on his research project Material Vision – Silent Reading, which involves the creation of new musical instruments and a performance developed on the extremely remote Bear Island in the Barents Sea. In Material Vision – Silent Reading he investigates, through a combination of artistic and scientific performances, various ways of reading a landscape and how the viewer and the viewed relate to each other. He also performed at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. For his performance he played hybrid acoustic–electronic instruments that he had constructed himself for the purpose of tuning into and out of the present time and place. He uses several musical tuning systems, both old and new, from the eerie Norwegian ‘troll tuning’ for the Hardanger fiddle to Pythagorean pure mathematical intervals.

Espen Sommer Eide: Material Vision – Silent Reading from Sonic Acts on Vimeo.

Espen Sommer Eide: A Tuned Chord is like a Scientific Instrument Probing the Universe from Sonic Acts on Vimeo.

In 2014 sound artist BJ Nilsen and filmmaker Karl Lemieux visited the border area between Norway and Russia, where the sparse beauty of the Arctic landscape meets industrial decay and heavy pollution, to collect material for an audiovisual collaboration. The result was unearthed, which premiered live at Sonic Acts 2015, and used film and sound recordings of, amongst others, Nikel’s red and white chimneys that hiss and growl as they spew out clouds of smoke. unearthed was released on a USB device that was included with the publication The Geologic Imagination, which also has a text by Lemieux and Nilsen as well as a collection of images by Lemieux. The Geologic Imagination is on sale via the Sonic Acts Shop.

BJ Nilsen & Karl Lemieux: unearthed from Sonic Acts on Vimeo.

Sound artist and researcher Raviv Ganchrow embarked on an investigation of infrasound, and developed a new work-in-progress, Long Wave Synthesis, of which a first working prototype was presented during the first Dark Ecology Journey A first full-scale installation was presented in Amsterdam harbour as part of Sonic Acts 2016. On that occasion Ganchrow presented an overview of his research into infrasound, showing how infrasound – extremely long sound waves (up to 171 kilometres in length) below the threshold of human hearing – literally connect the solid Earth to oceans and weather as well as to industrial practices. In Ganchrow’s Long Wave Synthesis project, marine oscillations, streaking meteors, calving glaciers, gas flares and nuclear explosions coexist; sound becomes so heavy that it is affected by gravity, and oscillations slow down to such an extent that they spill over into weather…

Raviv Ganchrow: In the Company of Long Waves from Sonic Acts on Vimeo.

Interview Raviv Ganchrow from Sonic Acts on Vimeo.

Raviv Ganchrow: Long Wave Synthesis from Sonic Acts on Vimeo.

Curator and writer Ele Carpenter, whom, like Dark Ecology keynote speaker Susan Schuppli, has worked on curatorial projects about art, the atomic bomb, nuclear energy and waste, introduced her research into nuclear culture at The Geologic Imagination. Can you imagine a darker ecology than that of radioactive nuclear waste? Carpenter talks about her field trips to underground research laboratories for high-level radioactive waste storage at Horonobe, Japan, and Bure in Northern France and reflects on the evolution of this ‘hyperobject’ of nuclear waste from state (weapons), to private (energy), to the public sphere. As we adapt to living in a radioactive environment, we have to consider what the nuclear archive should contain for future generations…

Ele Carpenter: The Nuclear Anthropocene from Sonic Acts on Vimeo.

Interview Ele Carpenter from Sonic Acts on Vimeo.

The philosopher and one of the ‘founders’ of the Speculative Realism movement, Graham Harman gave a lecture titled Anthropocene Ontology at Sonic Acts 2015 in which he explained how the proposed Anthropocene Epoch is not an Anthropocentric Epoch, because it highlights the fragility of the human species rather than human supremacy. There is also a short video interview with him made by our Russian friends from Fridaymilk. Harman will also be a speaker at the upcoming, Dark Ecology Journey in November 2015.

Graham Harman: Anthropocene Ontology from Sonic Acts on Vimeo.

Interview Graham Harman from Sonic Acts on Vimeo.

Following his lecture, Graham Harman talked to Liesbeth Koot and Menno Grootveld on the Anthropocene. This interview was published as Sonic Acts Research Series .

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