Loss, and tactics of surrender
the entire seabed
a sentient cemetery
I am not particularly interested in artworks. I rather compose projects. Artworks are done; set; finished in some fashion.
Projects, on the other hand, are dynamic; contingent; always in-the-making; and ever-affording re-appropriation. Everything can fit in there: things, processes, speculations, technologies, ideas, other projects..
Hybridise or die!
Rather than allowing older or seemingly irrelevant media/paradigms to withdraw in obsolesce, I try re-introducing them in my practice to further complex remediation cycles. I long for playful interplays and accidents between the analogue and the digital, the poetic and the computational, the scientific and the occult, the hi-tech and the vintage.. So, at the core of my practice one shall find layers upon layers upon layers of interwoven materials, processes, remediation strategies, and tactics to (incompletely) expose the former in some situated context. This condition is an (ir)real and (dis)continuous one. It calls for unconditional experimentation with pretty much everything and in all sorts of diverse real-life creative contexts. It is inter-disciplinary, trans-contextual, and trans-geographical.
The (ir)real (dis)continuum that sustains my creative work is best shown by example. The first figure illustrates my set-up for MEDIA()MESSe (a 2h long multimedia performance for 10 artists/hackers from 4 research labs; Nantes, May 2022). It comprises DIY instruments, a general coverage radio scanner, Japanese calligraphies, an orange construction work uniform, a pair of protection gloves, pieces of wood and a pine cone. Employing the above I performed both alone and with others.
A Yellow Box with a Key Switch and a 1/4” TRS Balanced Audio Output
A reductionist infra-instrument made of a yellow die-cast aluminium box and featuring a minimalist UI: just a key switch and a 1/4” TRS balanced audio output to connect to a PA system. On the turn of the key, the device performs a certain poem in Morse code with trains of very low frequency sonic bursts. Keeping the poem unintelligible to only but a few is in-line with the conceptual logic governing the overall design: the instrument is radically simple, yet ambiguous, bearing no indication whatsoever on what it is supposed to do (other than producing sound). It converts poetry into bursts of physical vibrations that make a hosting architecture, and any human bodies in it, resonate. Poetry, then, turns to rhythm that is physically felt through one’s body, as well as through space and one’s visceral sensation of it.
Bild: Archiv Marionos Koutsomichalis
The instrument has surfaced a theoretical/material hybrid that was relevant at that time. My home studio is always abundant in all sorts of haphazard electronic components and materials to experiment with. This particular yellow box I stumbled upon in a vendor’s e-shop and immediately ordered it as it looked rather cute. When it landed in my desk, I immediately visualised a minimal instrument with nothing but a key-switch (that has been also lying somewhere nearby) and an audio output. Nothing particular sprung in mind, but a tiny micro-controller also sitting on my desk suggested itself. At the time, I was intensively studying radio communication technologies (preparing for my ham-radio license) while also fooling around with Morse code and while occasionally working on an ongoing art-book project featuring selected text sketches (i.e., poems). Then, the instrument pretty much conceived itself, surfacing this network of activities and things.
in space and time
in things and beings alike
in scents and tastes and touches
in shared pain and shared agony
in shared dreams and shared nightmares
I rise and fall in silence
I live and die in fragments
Stahlblock is designed with nothing but functionality in mind. It can trigger up to 32 audio recordings of arbitrary duration and by means of an 8x4 matrix of buttons. It draws from 16 stereo and 16 mono audio files, reproducing up to 12 of them simultaneously and at distinct outputs (16 in total; 4 stereo and 8 mono). With the help of a mixer Stahlblock can be utilised in arbitrary audio reproduction settings. Prior to Stahlblock, I would use a laptop-based solution to this end; an approach that is functionally sound but suffers in many respects. Laptops require setting up; they are fragile; non-waterproof; with non-intuitive UIs when in comes to alternate between audio files (while external controllers favour plastic pads over metal buttons). Most importantly, laptops are ascribed with very prominent connotations that severely undermine a DIY/experimental ethos. Of course, such a solution would enable me to process audio in many additional ways, but my practice increasingly favours restricted user interaction. I like keeping things focused. Hardware synths, samplers, or audio recorders could be surely programmed for such a task, yet severely compromising immediacy and introducing new distractions. So I came up with Stahlblock, an optimal DIY solution that is robust, waterproof, and dedicated to do very well just what is required. Much more importantly, it doesn’t explain out the ‘mystery’ of its interface and, arguably, it promulgates a DIY ethos and a certain aura of uniqueness.
June 2019, Taito city, Tokyo.
On my way to collect a knife that I have left for engraving. (I am obsessed with sharp knifes and clean cuts). A mesmerising chant is heard off a nearby temple. I happen have this habit when travelling: I occasionally visit inconspicuous religious places and attend ordinary everyday ceremonies.
So I’m in.
Attending the ritual — some flavour of Buddhism. Chants and vocalisations resonate bodies and architecture. They are literally improvising timespace itself! This lasts for an indefinite amount of time. I, then, throw three pinches of incense to the fire to honour my lost ones (they have become five already). Time to leave, but this time I’m drawn to a different door. To my surprise it leads to a cemetery. I hesitate. I explain to the dead that I’ve lost loved ones myself, and that should I be accepted I would like to wander a little bit and immerse myself therein.
I am welcomed; so I go.
Bild: Archiv Marionos Koutsomichalis
Later on I write a few words in my traveling notebook. They end up in a recent publication — an art book with various travel notes and texts of mine, silk-printed in handmade Nepalese paper and also featuring a few Japanese calligraphies. I intend to bury five of those books in special locations so as to allow decay to transform into something else.
When preparing the calligraphies for the book I made a few special ones — hopefully reminiscent of what they signify — and so as to reserve for special gifts. Among others, I prepared a few »台東の墓地« ones.
I like Japanese calligraphies. They can elevate awareness and bring forth some particular aura simply by making or merely by looking at them. They allow me summon traces of lived experience, memory — or even absence thereof.
Wait for me
wait for me
brother of faithless stare
we need no excuse
The world is theirs, them who walk
Walking is the most intimate way to explore and engage with a place. It is to dance what silence is to music. Peripatetic/psychogeographic practices have been at the core of several projects of mine for over 20 years, while I very often also employ technological probes to explore the spatial footprint of situated sonic, electromagnetic or other activity. Occasionally, I also collect objects that strike me as interesting to survey or simply hold upon my hands. I am a very tactile-driven person. I like to touch things. For me, experiencing a city is a primarily tactile experience. I do often bring these objects in my performance; either to hold in my hands, or to simply have lying nearby so as to infuse space with something of their own.
Bild: Archiv Marionos Koutsomichalis
The STWST team initiated the MEDIA()MESSe event with a performance concluding with semi-improvised acts of walking. This made a subtle but long-lasting impression that — I feel - somehow affected everything that followed. An hour or so later on, I find myself very slowly walking around the space in my orange uniform, before I rather dramatically turn on the key on my tiny yellow box. I do experiment a lot lately with (DIY) attire in my projects. This uniform I had originally bought in the context of a different project and with the intention to turn into an augmented suit that would sonify radio-frequencies.
There are several other objects that appear in my set-up — each with an involved story of its own. The gloves I tend to use as a safety measure whenever I perform with DIY instruments, as (against all advice) I tend to make them operate on main AC power. The radio scanner I often use to capture radio-communications or naturally occurring electromagnetic phenomena. The 混乱 (confusion in Japanese) calligraphy traces back to my 2011 »Sygxysis« (confusion in Greek, written with latin characters) composition and the »φöρβιρρινγ« (confusion in Swedish, written with Greek letters but for the ö) series of events I curatated in Stockholm some years later on. I made a series of 混乱 calligraphies back in 2019 as special gifts and to promote my live concert in Tokyo. Confusion is a key notion for me. Like all honest conditions, it has its own supreme beauty. Confusing, unstable and unruly situations have pretty much defined my psyche on many occasions and — I have to admit — sometimes make me feel right at home.
there is a place
where we can all
let ourselves turn into
sheer chaotic turbulent
Marinos Koutsomichalis at STWST48x8 DEEP with Sentience: https://stwst48x8.stwst.at/en/sentience