Monday, 23 December 2013

he's a Christian man because he's doing what he can, because he's doing what he can he's a Christian man...

I made this song last week following an open invitation by Richard Sanderson to create something responding to his album Air Buttons, which would then be collected into a complementary collection. I looped a section of one of his tracks, added some mouth percussion sounds, recorded myself singing a little lyric, and added a sample from Dear Black Eyes by Slim Doucet for good measure. The lyric was inspired by a conversation I had recently with an ordained Anglican minister, about his responsibility in an ostensibly secular community for helping people with matters of spirituality, whatever their own beliefs.

Richard has now compiled the responses, the astonishing number of 46 tracks, as the free download Button Box

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

WMA part 4

Monday, 11 November 2013

WMA part 3

Monday, 4 November 2013

WMA part 2

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

WMA part 1

WMA part 1 by Steven Ball on Mixcloud

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Boundary Cyclone Transaction

Lists remind us that no matter how fluidly a system may operate, its members nevertheless remain utterly isolated, mutual aliens. Ontographical cataloging hones a virtue: the abandonment of anthropocentric narrative coherence in favor of worldly detail.

...ontography is a practice of increasing the number and density [of things], one that sometimes opposes the minimalism of contemporary art. Instead of removing elements to achieve the elegance of simplicity, ontography adds (or simply leaves) elements to accomplish the realism of multitude. It is a practice of exploding the innards of things.
- Ian Bogost, Alien Phenomenology

Boundary Cyclone Transaction is a video I made for the new season of DVBlog. The video takes Ian Bogost's characterisation of the ontographic list and uses it as a process by which to auto-construct a picture of a non-human, which is perhaps to say alien, world, using material found on or through the internet. As such it also presents a fragment of what might be considered as the consciousness of the internet as manifested in image, sound and text.

The video consists of collections of image sequences, written words, spoken words and sounds. The order in which each of those elements presents themselves to the viewer has been determined randomly, therefore any juxtaposition of the elements is entirely arbitrary. The words used are nouns, i.e. they are things, objects, they were selected using a random word generator. The sounds consist mostly of recording of environmental phenomena, such as weather or recordings of cosmic energies, generally speaking non-human sounds. The image sequences are all found online and consist of landscapes, insects, animals, images of microscopic organisms and viruses, astronomical image, in other words also largely non-human. Both sounds and images were found through using keyword searches. It was important in the making of the work for the elements to be as removed from what I might customarily intentionally select, for them to be as far away from the familiarity of the (my) everyday, as possible. 

Imagine this as a premise: 
the world as it appears is only as it appears to you 
and perhaps 
the world  
appears in arbitrary order
Alienation is a state arising from objects in the world as they present themselves inevitably arbitrarily and without a coherent narrative. In this video the use of random processes aims to make coherence impossible, or as difficult as possible, while still, due to the linear and temporal nature of its reception, will still self-organise into a kind of self-coherent ecosystem. The longer term aim is for this video to be realised in performance, to perform itself, using software to randomly order the playback sequence of the discrete elements and media objects (images, words, sounds) for every iteration. 

Boundary Cyclone Transaction on DVBlog 

Monday, 21 October 2013

Unspoken Word and Speakers

Following the release of the Storm Bugs back catalogue and new single on Bandcamp, I've uploaded the two mini-album collections of my sound works Unspoken Word and Speakers. As a sort of experiment in self-publishing it'll be interesting to see if anybody actually buys them, I'm not anticipating retiring on the proceeds!

Monday, 16 September 2013

No Nothingness

A wave front is advancing, sweeping across the plain…
No Nothingness, the first new Storm Bugs record for ten years, featuring the song No Nothingness c/w extended instrumental mix Triangulation, is available now exclusively for download at Bandcamp

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Ar y Traeth

The day we visit the beach at Porth Ceiriad on the Llyn Peninsula in North Wales, where in 1973 BS Johnson shot the film Fat Man on a Beach, it is misty and raining a fine drizzle.  We clamber down a slightly treacherous path to the beach, and as sea spray adds to the dampness within minutes we are soaked. A small group of intrepid surfers are the only people to find the conditions agreeable. 

Having visited a place it's easy to traverse its landscape on Google Earth.

Friday, 6 September 2013

of spectres and vapours, past and future

The twentieth anniversary of the lecture and publication 'Specters of Marx' by Jacques Derrida, was marked in April this year by the Hauntology: 20 Years On symposium organised at the University of Bradford. Philip Sanderson and I give a presentation at the symposium about our current work in progress Film of the Same Name. This project revisits the films we made in the late eighties, in particular Green on the Horizon and Hangway Turning. The films were made before Derrida delivered his famous lecture, but they are prescient to recent interest around forms of hauntology which, beyond Derrida's extended essaying of the status of Marxist thought in the immediate aftermath of the dismantling of the Soviet Union, has rippled through art and music and is now popularly better know as embracing other questions and resonances of the past in the present.

Our films are in part concerned with hauntings in a quite literal sense, one of the characters is based on local legends of ghost sightings, but it also draws on such paranormal phenomena as psychometry, ley-lines, and various other notions of energy embedded in the land.  The films employ forms which have become tropes associated with hauntological concerns: voices over narrate mysterious poetic phrases and faux documentary reports, shot on super 8 film they already evoke a grainy ghostly nostalgia. By contemplating what it may be to revisit, remake, reenact these projects, we are immersed in the same kind of forms of hauntology that the word has become associated with, almost to the point of cliche. In the face of this it’s hard not let a certain sense of irony creep in and for the presentation we go into a deadpan performance mode while layers of past and present manifestations of the project slip variously in and out of relationship with each other; we read adaptions of the original text, play back video of recent visits to the films' original locations, reenact the revisitations right there in the auditorium, throw in extracts from the original films, alongside recent workshop re-stagings of the original sequences, deliver mini papers on related themes, all strung together with recorded extracts from a semi-fictional journal about the project.

As a way of approaching presenting the material amassed for the project and giving it a form which might lend it to public presentation, this seems to work quite well, in spite of suspicions that the audience are simply puzzled, there seems to be enough to do more than simply tantalise and the presentation is followed by a quite wide-ranging discussion. If nothing else it gives us a way in to thinking about how to begin assembling the beginnings of a finished film, a process that is now underway.


Questions around hauntology resurface a month later, albeit with closer regard to Derrida's original thoughts, when I write an essay about Chantal Akerman's film D'Est for a Melbourne Cinémathèque screening. The film was made in 1993, the same year Derrida published Spectres of Marx, and in it Akerman visits the (then recently former) Soviet Union 'before it was too late' [sic]. The coincidence of the anniversary of the film and the book, and their partly shared subject of the post Soviet Union, as well as the aforementioned reawakening of interest in the concept of hauntology, leads me to post-Marxist speculations about the resonances and relationships between the recent and current haunted reappearance of these formulations.


Future ghosts begin to appear through videos made for the vapor collecting Vimeo group project initiated by Michael Szpakowski, following a conversation we had had about the 'vaporware' music phenomenon. Vaporwave as a primarily musical practice, fascinates me with its engagement with the forms of late capitalism, often taking quite cheesy ‘80s and ‘90s, occasionally recognizable smooth funk and MoR, slowing, glitching, pitch-shifting it into hazy melancholia, immersed in the world of the shopping mall and commerce as both repellant and attractive, a kind of post-accelerationist form that speaks to a contemporary on- and off-line capitalist experience, while forging a more heightened affective aesthetic, it ranges not just across sonic forms but also appropriates video material. I may write more about this in the future but for more information and links to examples Adam Harper writes a couple of quite enlightening pieces for Dummy magazine last year and then a year later, while Aural Incognito also writes about vaporwave, particularly interesting is his framing of it as contemporary industrial music

The shopping mall escalator of vaporwave chimes with my interest in the private/public spaces of late capitalism, both the real and their virtual representations if such a distinction can still be made, and vapor collecting is an opportunity to try a few quick experiments with the reproduction of such spaces.  The works reuse and manipulate material mostly sourced on the web, as well as self-captured video (if such a distinction can still be made). They are immersions in capitalist spaces, the hazy logic of late capitalism melts into pixels, in part suggestive of an internet consciousness as imagined through the blandest of neo-liberal banality. They embrace the aesthetic and the ambiguous contradictions of a relationship to such places, the repulsion from and the attraction to their seduction. The imperative here is to distort and amplify affect through audio-visual effects, slow motion, pitch-shifting, repetition, and in so doing suggest hallucinations of spaces of the near future, imagining a time, perhaps post-consumerism, when the spaces of capitalism are theme parks, pure spectacle, within which a dream-like melancholic drift is the only activity available.

These works already have a life beyond the internet as a selection of the vapor collecting group videos screened at the Synthetic Zero event at BronxArtSpace in New York.

Capital Wharf Station and Systemic Risk Plaza from the vapor collecting series are also soon to be screened as part of the Tuned Cities screening programme at Baltic 39, Newcastle on 21 - 22 September. 

Western pixelated blur trail (accelerated obfuscation mix), one of the videos posted to the vapor collecting group is an ambient remix of an already ambient video From the West made for the latest edition of Kerry Baldry's One Minute project.   After being immersed in virtual representations of shopping malls, for this video I pay a visit to the most recent, and in some ways most notorious, example locally of such a place (being part of the Olympics-led regeneration and reportedly a crime hotspot - perhaps an appropriate reputation for a beacon of consumerism).

Not being a regular habitué of such places, this first trip to Westfield shopping mall in Stratford offers some revelations. I notice two things in particular: one is that it seems to have been designed as not just retail space, but also for leisure; there are a number of places where one can stop, relax, sit down, much like as in an airport lounge (which themselves increasingly resemble shopping malls). The other observation is that while the place is buzzing with people the shops are mostly empty and appear to be doing little or no business. Have people not come here to shop?

Where earlier ghosts of political/social totalitarianism reemerge in Chantel Akerman's films 'from the east' (D'Est), what future ghosts of political/social capitalist totalitarian consumerism emerge from the west?

I think back to Derrida's writing in 'Specters of Marx' and I try to imagine a paradox of western consumerism after the fall of capitalism: now the shopping mall is a kind of theme park, a purely social space for people to hang out in, it retains its aesthetics, architectural structure, etiquette, and customs but the crucial ingredient, mass consumption, is missing, reenacted only in the performance of the social habits of the act of shopping. It has become a ghost of itself.

From the West screens as part of One Minute Volume 7 at Cofi Roc, Caenarfon, Wales, 6 – 7 September; De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill, 28 September; Projection Rooms, The Museum of Club Culture, Hull, 26 -27 October; and Furtherfield Gallery, London, 25 -26 January and 1 – 2 February 2014.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Dodgy Provenance and the Fantastic Mundanity of Sound in Space

The final event in the Visual Thinking: Between Sound and Light workshop that I organised with Rob Mullender and Duncan White at Camden Arts Centre was presented on Saturday 16 February. For the workshops we had proposed that invited participants respond to the sounds of the Film in Space exhibition curated by Guy Sherwin.

We posed the question 
...taking the installed works' existence in the space and time of the exhibition as a given, what might become of sound as their residual and mutable extension?
The sound that we were inviting response to were those that Rob and I had recorded in the gallery space during the exhibition. Rob had concentrated on making close-up recordings of the machinery and sounds in the show, most often those of the 16mm projector parts, squeaky reels and so on, while my recordings were of the ambient sound of the rooms, ostensibly that of each piece, or at least in close proximity, using binaural microphones.  Of course the sound in the room at the point of viewing a specific piece didn't necessarily reflect the actual intended (or otherwise) sound of the work. Rather it was the sound of everything inside and outside the room relative to the position in which I was standing.

Our outline statement for the project suggested that

…faith to the provenance, authenticity, veracity and intention of the originating work is less crucial than the possibility of the extensible production of new material given birth through the process, giving free reign to transformative imaginative reconfigurations.
In the event the participants didn't necessarily take the brief quite so literally; Aura Satz and Steve Dorney presented a fascinating range of devices that demonstrated the mechanics of perceptual remapping of sound and image; Jan Thoben and Rob Mullender examined different methods for transforming light into sound, with Rob presenting his photosonic recordings of the show; Andy Birtwistle gave a lecture on experimental film and sound which became all but obfuscated by its own noise in the hands of Rob Mullender's layering manipulation; David Toop presented an intimate and personal essay about the silence of Annabel Nicholson (a version of which is published on his blog).

For my performance Dodgy Provenance and the Fantastic Mundanity of Sound in Space I took the recordings that I had made, looped them and imagined an alternative provenance for them, inventing a narrative which was quite fantastical while tracing a mysterious mundane situation, in effect it became something of a science fiction journey in which the continual presence of the sound of 16mm projectors became reinterpreted as the engines of some kind of implied inter-planetary craft. I performed it as a spoken word text accompanying the relevant sounds, the room in darkness, I was seated behind the audience.

The text was written very quickly and only finished the night before I performed it.  It does, I hope, strike the balance of being a slightly absurd mundanity, perhaps with more work it might have been more outlandish. It was very much an experiment that could become a process applied to any number of sounds, and perhaps I will make more of these in the future. 

Here is a recording of the performance:
  download mp3 

Later that day Duncan White performed A History of the Rectangle.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Myths of Social Capitalism screenings

Rastko Novakovic and I have made a new preliminary version of Myths of Social Capitalism.

It will be screening today in the Taking Place programmes curated by Duncan White and me for British Artists' Film and Video Study Collection in the Black Maria at Central Saint Martins, King's Cross, and at Self Organised London space at Eileen House in Elephant and Castle
This is a 'preliminary version', a work in progress if you like, because it bears little resemblance to what we are intending the film to become. This version sets out the stall of the project, introduces the context which is Southwark Council's woefully incompetent management of the Heygate Estate. The estate, which is now emptied of most of its residents, has been sold to developer Lend Lease for an absurdly small sum. Lend Lease plan to build a luxury residential estate on the site, and where there were once more than 1000 social housing households there will be fewer than 80 'affordable'.

This version of the film combines ensemble voice performances recorded on the estate which parody the language of regeneration planning as found in documents such as the Lend Lease masterplan, constructions of landscape images shot on and around the estate, and text outlining the estate's recent history and current situation.

Many of the details of the Heygate saga and other attempts at gentrification in Southwark can be found on the Southwark Notes website.

Myths of Social Capitalism