INVISIBLEDRUM ART PLATFORM

AMALIA FONFARA AND NAZARÉ SOARES

An international and transdisciplinary research platform that investigates holistic practices and spiritual technologies within the field of ecologies and the arts.

Detail, Interactive sound installation, performance. 10x10m. Invisibledrum Art Platform 2018.

INTRODUCTION

Invisibledrum platform consists of artists and researchers that focus on animism within transdisciplinary fields of knowledge, encompassing practices within the arts, creative ecologies, technology, embodied cognition, healing practices, speculative design and psychology.

The platform aims for opening pathways where knowledge production within creative practices is manifested aside from traditional postcolonial school of thought, where an understanding of knowledge production is mainly based on the influence of orthodox rationalist thinking. Hence the platform facilitates dialogues based on methodologies where body, technology, (in)visible architecture, site, and landscape are in interrelation and in constant becoming interactivity.

An important area of interest in our research lies in what role and function the technology of ancient holistic sacred practices had in their community, and further; how can these ancient practices be reconnected to our contemporary society. How through the imaginary, embodied cognition and performative practices can these technologies be accessed and re-viewed today, in a highly digitalized society? In a time where we as a collective now more than ever actively must change our interaction with the planet, Invisibledrum questions how through creative practices we can develop embodied repertoires of performativity to reconnect people with our environments rediscovering a holistic reality for the whole of Mother Earth?

The platform aims to contribute and exchange knowledge and methodologies within a transdisciplinary field of researchers, practitioners, artists and other interested collaborators.

The platform aim is to build up a network of Nordic and international partners with a focus on holistic practices and creative ecologies. We aim to build a network for planetary connection and more-than-human healing, by bringing together a range of practitioners concerned with how creativity and spiritual practices can join together. This will take the format of happenings, poetic gestures, symposiums and gatherings, and with a focus on non-hierarchical structures as a potential non-place for collaboration and co-creation.

The platform was established in 2018 by Amalia Fonfara and Nazaré Soares in Trondheim, Norway.

1st International Symposium of Spiritual Technologies within Creative Practices

Invisibledrum Platform in co-production with Rosendal Theater on the 4-6th of February 2020 hosts the first Nordic and international gathering of the platform in Trondheim, Norway. Through the symposium, we intend to connect the arts and other embodied practices where artists and professionals can exchange knowledge and reflect critically to expand the professional fields.  The topic of the symposium brings together artists, researchers and other practitioners working with embodied practices, to discuss how the notion of spiritual technologies relate to and inform their work and research. And, how they can expand the ways we value creative effort in an environmental context. The platforms focus lies in the roles and functions of technologies from holistic practices of our ancient Nordic and arctic tradition and those of many ingenious practices today.

Within the platform of Invisibledrum we are interested in qualities from traditional forms to emerge and become embodied within contemporary forms of technologies and creative expressions. These qualities are inherent in the combination of life breath, life force and spiritual power to allow for the potential to collapse perceptions of time: “contemporary art (…) has the added proclivity of collapsing time by “breathing ancestral hau (life breath) into the present,” in a way that “the past is reactivated but does not dominate.” (Cassandra Barnett quoted in Phillips 2018) The function of these technologies was repeated cultural practices meant to alter the reality, e.g. the mind, body, or spirit of an individual or a community. These technologies served to relational conceiving a membrane of existing elements and natural forces. To place the body in an immanence interrelationship with matter and energy.

Intention

On a socio-political and environmental scale, all the partners of the platform are concerned with how political structures are creating major threats towards knowledge practices and cultures coming out of a living bodily relationship with the land and cosmos. Thus, the platform encourages to preserve practices and traditions that have an intimate interconnection with Mother Earth and her multitude of species. Therefore this 1st international Symposium of Spiritual Technologies within Creative Practices seeks to create an arena, where collaborators of the platform and other interested partners, can meet and discuss how we can continue building and strengthening this network further and develop strategies that impact ecological concerns on a local, regional, and global scale within our society.

By bringing together researchers, artists, and practitioners to learn from each other various practices and national backgrounds, and building up this network of partnerships, alliances, and collaborations, the platform aims to create alternative ways of coexisting and bringing balance to our communities within a creative ecology framework.

A completed list of collaborators of Invisibledrum is included in the webpage: www.invisibledrum.com/members/

(2,2) 0 Sonic Architecture of the Inner Space

First project created from a collaborative process by members of Invisibledrum Art Platform Amalia Fonfara, Øystein Kjørstad Fjeldbo and Nazaré Soares.

(2,2) 0 – Sonic Architecture of the Inner Space is a mixed media installation. The central piece is an interactive spatial sound composition in a completely black space, accompanied by a two-channel film installation and a durational performance, both located in a waiting room outside the sound composition.

(2,2) 0 proposes a cinematic space where the visual external stimulus is removed. The interactive installation utilizes real-time rendered binaural sound systems. We have taken the structure of a (2,2) mode shamanic drum as our reference and built an invisible architecture which is experienced sonically inside a completely dark space through wireless headphones. The aural experience is limited to one person and each decides the duration of their visit. We have developed diagrams and maps which depict a spatial sound composition made from qualities and motions of sound events. As the main methodology in the creative processes of developing the sonic landscape, we have applied methods from shamanic and animistic practices. Through these we have created the invisible sonic architecture within the installation.

Viewing

In each acoustic room, the movements of all sound objects are linked to a ritual gesture developed for each room, weaving together the invisible architecture in (2,2) 0. The ritual gestures are based in the understanding of Nordic shamanic cosmology, connecting the cardinal directions and the four elements together: Earth – West, Water – South, Fire – East and Air – North.

One navigator at a time can move around and interact with these sound sources through their presence in the rooms. The navigator of the space is orientated within a journey through the architecture of one’s inner space and towards expanding qualities of the imagination, the art of memory, and emotion. Disorientation and decentralisation force the body to re-orientate itself. The gaze is reformulated and questioned within this invisible architecture. Kowo Eshun refers to the architecture of inner space, he borrows the term from R Murray Schaefer who goes in detail into the functional experience given by headphones: “Headphones as a headspace which is not geographical but expansive. Both moves–towards the inside and outside–are endless”. (Eshun 1998)

To enter (2,2) 0 one walks through a red velvet curtain. This aesthetic choice is inspired by origins of cinema, pre-cinematic magic shows and illusionary practices developed in theatrical settings and also informed by Heinrich Khunrath ́s imaginary Amphitheater of Eternal Wisdom or Lynchian concepts of the Black Lodge. Encountering (2,2) 0 generates strong emotional and physical experiences as individuals become exposed to the binaural composition within a completely dark space. Because of this demanding aspect of the work, it is accompanied by a durational performance throughout the exhibition period, taking place in a waiting area outside (2,2) 0. This waiting area has a significant role in the work, allowing the artists to facilitate and accommodate visitors entering and exiting (2,2) 0 by providing instructional information beforehand as well as a soft transition (2,2) 0 after exiting.

The waiting area also features informational papers, maps and a log where each visitor is invited to express their experiences in writing or drawing. Moreover, moving image works are placed in the waiting area.

Research Questions

“The body not as mechanical object but as magical entity.” (Abram 1997) 

(2,2) 0 uses language found in animistic and ecofeminist practice, as a methodology to create strategies for decolonization of cognitive and somatic sensory systems, and to address notions of invisibility and vacuum within the virtual environment. This gives rise to the following set of questions: How does the body relates to its environment without the external references of a physical space for navigation? How can disorienting and displacing the observer’s external experience place emphasis within the body? What do we define as the virtual in contemporary media culture? What are the technologies, techniques and languages used in order to produce the virtual? How can we approach a correlation between technology and animism in a contemporary and digital society?

(2,2) 0 nature offers multiple possibilities of times and realities co-existing in the same place, where visitors must use their intuitive instincts for reorientation. Most human beings rely on sight to code spaces, but by placing visitors in a completely dark environment, a new hierarchy of the senses seeks to challenge cognitive processes of bodily orientation. The interaction with an abstracted binaural soundscape expands the experience of disorientation, thus challenging a visitor’s spatial perception. The work attempts to use technological tools as a way to produce mental states where environments can be perceived in a nonconventional way. Interacting with the work can evoke a heightened awareness of bodily senses and thereby challenge how we perceive ´spacetimemattering´. (Barad 2007) Many reviews from visitors describe how involuntary memory and previous experiences are recalled and entering the work evoke recollections of the past without conscious process. In this way the aim of creating this sonic space with an intention for ritual and healing means, serves its point.

Moreover, due to its technological realisation, the work is also an investigation into the ontology of virtual spaces and how these are perceived through new media and sensing technology. Potential relations between body, space and technology are set within (2,2) 0, in this way the virtual and the real merged within the interaction of the dark space. The sonic architecture affects the senses in such a manner that the sonic forces contained in the binaural acoustic rooms are very real perceived by the body. These apparently external forces give layers of qualities of motion, speed and intensity to the different sound objects that become the events triggering the virtual within the imaginary world of the visitor. (Ikoniadou 2014) The work approaches the virtual and its relation to the potential from a Bergsonian understanding of immanence.

(2,2) 0 aims for a space where the subject is object and through which self-negation of nothing, something will emerge; “that of the subject itself, as the outcome of its own impossibility”. (Žižek 2014)

The conceptual approach of the work is rooted in emancipatory views of the non-place; (Augé 2008) as a space where one can escape from labour and the capital production of realities, where neoconservatives ideologies can’t exploit or “win hearts and minds.” (Grossberg Durham, NC : Duke University Press, 2010.)

Within this impossibility, meaning collapses by opposition of qualities of the I, therefore giving rise to the potential for “corporeal reality” as outlined by Julia Kristeva:

“The abject has only one quality of the object—that of being opposed to I. If the object, however, through its opposition, settles me within the fragile texture of a desire for meaning, which, as a matter of fact, makes me ceaselessly and infinitely homologous to it, what is abject, on the contrary, the jettisoned object, is radically excluded and draws me toward the place where meaning collapses.” (Kristeva 1982)

Meditative Devices

The research behind the work explores a meta-critique of sight perception in relation to virtual, real and imaginary spaces. Within the research we ask how advanced sophisticated digital technology can be connected and reinvent modes of ancient technologies in contemporary forms? (2,2) 0 proposes a speculative design for developing conceptual ideas of meditative devices and invisible architectures. This approach is inspired by the ancient technology as of shamanism and animistic practices used for communicating within inanimate and animate realms.

From a media ecology perspective, we understand that affect and emotion have a vulnerable exposure to new technologies; bodily and haptic information defeats and makes secondary the information contained in the linguistic system. (2,2) 0 is created from concerns about communication, mainly based on semantic and linguistic systems. It offers a somatosensory system as a tool for communication and functions as a physical system that embraces potentials in virtual dimensions thus understanding the coexistence of systems as multiple levels of resonance. (Massumi 2002)

Technology & Animisms / Techno-shamanism

We define the term technology as any tool – body, object, process, system, or practice – not only an electrically powered or computer-based device. Our research approaches a correlation between technology and shamanism, where both the technology of shamanism and shamanism of technology are inseparable. Here shamanism is both understood as a technology for the production of knowledge and further; the pursuit of intuitive powers goes through the use of technology. (Borges 2017) Our practice-based research within animism and shamanism reside in research within the Nordic and arctic field of shamanism such as Seidr (Nordic), Noaid (Sami) and Angakkoq (Inuit). Although there are different aspects to the tradition’s worldview and techniques within each culture, they all encompass the same understanding of a real living reality of Spirits. In the process of producing (2,2) 0 we have focused on how technology of shamanism and that of digital technology, can merge and reawaken this magical world of spirit through the imagination of our contemporary human minds, where we can come to glimpse and maybe acknowledge an animistic view of the Spirit World.

Genuinely described by Pinchbeck “Shamanism is a technology for exploring non-ordinary states of consciousness in order to accomplish specific purposes: healing, divination, and communication with the spirit realm.” (Pinchbeck 2002) As such we have implemented shamanic drum journeys as a technique to engage in a communication with the spirit realm, through which we invoke the internal psychoacoustic space of our imagination. By this animistic approach, we gradually mapped out each sonic event in the space in order to structure the invisible architecture. The narrative of the work contains different qualities of happenings, characters and locations from the drum journeys forming the underlying design of (2,2) 0. 

The notebook logged by visitors, suggests that people who entered (2,2) 0 experienced scenery, sensations or memories as a product of their altered awareness within the installation. Although not everyone experienced this altered state of awareness, the work always provided a system of free association in relation to sound and bodily movements.  As such the shamanic and animistic aspect of our work is grounded in the methodology of communication and language but also within the formal expression of the work itself.

Context

Initially this project had the working title Timeless Machine, which drew upon the idea of “Tiny Machines”, relating to the physical potential of nanotechnology. This conceptual construct was inspired by the behaviour of atoms and particles in principles of quantum theory as outlined by Michio Kaku ( 2011).

Grounded in speculative design theories, The Timeless Machine was a dream machine to make oneself disappear, become imperceptible and belong to a space; to become space. This early conceptual version of the work was about becoming millions of particles or millions of realities and times at the same place in time. It situated the body as a tool, dissolving it formlessly. Hence the Timeless Machine was a journey into the architecture of the inner space and an interior cinema.

We were also inspired by creatures that live in the dark. For such creatures, the sonic information thrown back to them is their map. A composition of multitude possible movements within a space of darkness, where the lack of sight brings another kind of spatial knowledge, “Feminist accountability requires a knowledge tuned to resonance, not to dichotomy.” (Haraway 1988)

Etymologically cinematic shares roots with kinematics, “to move” or “movement”, kinetic and kinaesthetic: in physics, kinematics is the study of the motion of particles and is defined and measured by mathematical geometry in a coordinate vector. It is used in astrophysics to measure motion in celestial bodies, as we find in Kepler’s law of planetary motion.  Cinema has spatial-corporeal kinetic properties hence the cinematic experience is closer to the voyage than to the voyeur. How to do not theorise cinema only from visual perception? By not limiting the cinematic experience to a fixed gaze. We may see cinematic potential in relation to “geophysical exploration.” (Bruno 1997 ) Cinema is then a mobile map. A system of light, sound and the body through kinematic, kinetics and kinaesthetic paths. In ( 2,2 ) 0 the navigator creates a kinematic montage from spatial psychoacoustic experiences, “the path followed by the mind across a multiplicity of phenomena, far apart in time and space, gathered in a certain sequence…, ” is not in front of an immobile spectator but within the dark space of the observer in motion.  (Sergei M. Eisenstein quoted in Bruno 1997 )

Methods

(2,2) 0 was created during a collaborative process between Nazare Soares, Øystein Kjørstad Fjeldbo and Amalia Fonfara. All three collaborators brought various fields of research and knowledge into this hybrid work. Thus, the work features methods and concepts derived from sound technology, paracinema, performance arts, theatre, ritualistic and animistic contexts which have all been explored during the creative process.

Furthermore, theories taken from literature and the phenomenology of perception and cognition have been addressed in the theoretical articulation of the work as well as practice-based research.

While making the work we applied techniques of shamanic drum journeys to access our own inner cinematic space and interconnectedness with the invisible world. Every session served as a creative oracle, following steps through phases and processes of content making which inspired aural events within (2,2) 0. The sound sources are from work field and studio recordings created from a translation of information received in our collective journeys in the historical locations. We located leaks within associative systems through dream sign strategies found within lucid dream studies and we translated these into this final diagram, which is both a skeleton and narrative of the artwork. (LaBerge & Gackenbach 1988)

Outcomes

(2,2) 0 functions as a model or method based on a spatial system encompassed as a diagram and a map. As such, this system can be applied in different geographical contexts. The map of (2,2) 0 is showing an invisible sonic architecture created from a 2,2-mode shamanic drum. This diagram depicts a sound composition made from qualities and motions of sound events and sound objects in the cinematic space. The research develops new languages applied in cinematic environments developing concepts of interior cinema and the functions of geo-spatial and psychoacoustic strategies within such environments. In the work technology and neo-animism merge to give emancipatory views of technological devices through art making, speculative design and critical engineering practices. We have created a space that embraces and reflects on how digital technology and the technology and techniques within shamanic ritualistic practice, can reactivate the role of ritual spaces within a contemporary society.

The first version of (2,2) 0 Sonic Architecture of the inner Space was proposed as a model developed from the conception of speculative technological devices exhibited at Trondheim Kunstmuseumin May 2017. A second version was made for Art and Science Museum of Singapore in June 2017 adapting to new dimensions of the space, where both sonic landscapes were the result of the creative journey. The 3rd and final version, (2,2) 0 DORA is a poetic gesture for allowing the release of geological and historical trauma of a specific site; the sonic architecture was created in June 2018 within the historical context of the 2WW german U-Boats base Dora in Trondheim. The base was the largest naval base in North Europe at that time, and the strategic location in Trondheim was secured well, guarded by three other locations in the mouth of Trondheim Fjord: Agdenes Fyrstasjon, Hysnes Fort, Brettingen Fort.

By using sonic references of echolocation, navigation, environment traces and sea-life aural qualities, (2,2) 0 – DORA connect the 4 historical naval base surveillance locations in Trondheim Fjord.

Impact

In addition to its conceptual and theoretical originality, the project has received a considerable number of visitors. Many visitors have a strong physical and cognitive experience during which involuntary memories emerge from deep physical and emotional sensations. Many visitors also described illusions of imagery given by the phenomenon of afterimages and stages of synesthesia.

Further photographic documentation of the installations follows:

Note from visitor, Interactive sound installation, performance. 10x10m. Invisibledrum Art Platform 2018.

Waiting room, Interactive sound installation, performance. 10x10m. Invisibledrum Art Platform 2018.

Map of sound architecture, Interactive sound installation, performance. 10x10m. Invisibledrum Art Platform 2018.

(2,2) 0 was supported by the Norwegian University of Science,Technology, National University of Singapore, Norske Billedkunstnere (NBK), Fond for Utøvende Kunstnere, and Trondheim Kommune.

Works Cited

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Bruno, Giuliana. “ Site-seeing: Architecture and the Moving Image.” Wide Angle 19.4, 1997 : 8-24.

Eshun, Kodwo. More brilliant than the sun : adventures in sonic fiction. London: Quartet Books, 1998.

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Haraway, Donna. “Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective,.” Feminist Studies 14, 1988: 575-599.

Ikoniadou, Eleni. The Rhythmic Event: Art, Media, and the Sonic. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press , 2014.

Kaku, Michio. Physics of the future : how science will shape human destiny and our daily lives by the year 2100. London: Penguin Books, 2011.

Kristeva, Julia. Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection. New York: Columbia University Press, 1982.

LaBerge & Gackenbach, Stephen & Jayne. Conscious Mind, Sleeping Brain. Perspectives on Lucid Dreaming. New York and London: Plenum Press, 1988.

Massumi, Brian. Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation. Durham & London: Duke University Press , 2002.

Phillips, Bruce E. artasiapacific. 21 May 2018. http://artasiapacific.com/Blog/BookReviewAnimismInArtAndPerformance (accessed 11 11, 2019).

Pinchbeck, Daniel. Breaking Open the Head: A Psychedelic Journey into the Heart of Contemporary Shamanism. New York: Broadway Books, 2002.

Žižek, Slavoj. Absolute recoil: towards a new foundation of dialectical materialism: Verso. London: Verso Books, 2014.