Monday, October 15, 2007

Blog Action Day: The Environment

This will be a personal ramble for Blog Action Day.

Writing about environment on the web... there is something deeply contradictory about that. Silicon made from melted sand and circuit boards etched with noxious chemicals -- computers have a long way to go before they are "friendly" in that sense. Large-scale manufacturing. Displaced labour. Global capitol. None of these exactly screams "sustainability".

Maybe that's why I worked with the Green Party for a few years, back when I lived in Canada. I gave politics a shot but found I wasn't suited to the rigours of dealing head-on with systems of oppression. So I decided to work a different way and, yes, this blog has an important part to play in that praxis.

Of course there is an up-side to this internet thing. I've been around long enough to see it grow from the idealism of Ted Nelson into a reality for grass-roots organisations, governments, and even mega-corporations. Along the way an awful lot of good has been preserved and even extended. Open Source software, vast communities of citizens working, playing and politicking. There's massive media consumption (games industry outgrew the movie industry some years ago) but also the opportunity to create and be part of something -- options like never before.

It's fifteen years since I helped write The Electronic Labyrinth, one of the first places on the web that you could read about Nelson and other pioneers (Douglas Engelbart, Vannevar Bush). Though dated, I'm proud of the work the three of us did on this document, originally available on disk because the web didn't exist yet!

But now there are people alive who have never known a world without its wide web. I live with one. Their environment is very different from mine growing up, and there is no way we can foresee what their future will be.

That's boring anyway. I stopped being interested in futurism (in that sense) a long time ago. I think J.G. Ballard put the nail in that coffin with his stories of the skeletons of astronauts circling the earth until their orbits decay, plummeting them back to a Cape Canaveral overgrown with vines and swept with sand. Stamped on the side of the disused gantry: "Abandon In Place".

Some still think we'll get to other planets; Star Trek embodied Utopian dreams for so many. Alan N. Shapiro has written on this with perceptive intelligence, as I have mentioned elsewhere. But my take is that we don't deserve to spoil another planet. I am aware of the traps of teleology but am also interested in preserving myself, my family, my community. I think that comes from being moral.

From the perspective of my own practice as a sound artist, environment means something quite different: a physical space, a sculptural volume, an architectonic constraint. This is the environment we can deal with corporally. When I create sound it goes in your ear, rattles your bones, vibrates your skin. Sound is immediate; it's strangely unmediated for a media.

Last Friday Jürgen Simpson and myself curated another Soundings event... a live sound art night for Limerick. Even with little promotion we had sixty people show up. That was about as many as we could easily accommodate, so -- success! It's great to be in the twenty-first century, a time when people actually care about things like sound art, especially when all around is a super-abundance of visual media fighting for attention.

We listened to "La L├ęgende d'Eer" by Iannis Xenakis, which is decades old but sounds like it comes from the future of another planet. Actually, in a sense it does, since it comes from the imagined future of this planet, circa 1977.

I think that's what sound can do... bring those Utopian futures home and ground them in a present-day reality, provide an alternative to daydreams, let people play with ideas, and help free them from the constraints of corporate media culture (which is predominantly visual).

Ironic then, that the last thing I want to mention is a little slideshow I put together from some realtime audio programming code and a photo of a rock formation on the Irish coast an hour south of here. I am not sure why I did this or what it has to do with anything.

Maybe you should download some of the free tracks I have available at the escalation746 site. Listen to them as you watch.


1 comment:

Unknown said...

Dear Theatre:
My blog action is a tribute to the environment...with animated shorts, music videos, newsbites from leading conservationists from around the globe, and reviews of films like DiCaprio's 11th hour...
Check it out.

Post a Comment