Installation opening: Monday, 15 April 2024, 20:00
Exhibition on view: 16–25 April 2024, 14:00–18:00 (weekdays)
Venue: Osmo/za (Projekt Atol production)

In The Body of Nature and Culture, Rod Giblett argues that “in pre-modern Western and non-Western medicine, the body is understood as the Earth and the Earth as the body, while in modern Western medicine, the body is understood as a machine”. The development of this view and the fragmented anatomical exploration of the body coincided with the mapping of the Earth in the process of colonisation. The isolationist view reduces the whole to fragments or the mere surface of what is otherwise a three-dimensional living space. In this way, the fragments of the organism under consideration become mere representations that can be frozen in time and space and thus cease to exist in a stochastic matrix of open possibilities. 

Giblett says that “representation reduces the depth of the body and the Earth to the surface”. In medicine, such thinking brings about a highly specialised view of parts of the human body that ignores non-mechanical parameters. For example, according to this perspective, intelligence originates in the central nervous system, i.e. the brain, and the ratio of the brain to the body (in different species) is an indicator of intelligence, even though this has long been refuted. Medical research has been revealing the workings of the mechanism with increasing precision, but at the same time, it has missed out on a fantastic world of possibilities in the body’s neural networks and in creatures that do not, for example, derive their intelligence from a centralised nervous system. Mental processes also occur in the relationship between a creature and its microbiome. The solution is not to treat the microbiome as an organ, as that would reduce it to part of a mechanism, but to introduce complex physiological-mental relationships with new diagnostic procedures or merge Western medical research with medical disciplines that are not subject to a mechanistic view (e.g. Chinese medicine).

Sound is supposed to be perceived by the nerves in the inner ear, but listening is by no means limited to the workings of the ear mechanism. First and foremost, we listen with attention, which is a mental process independent of mechanical perception. The often-pronounced idea in musical theory that we can shut our eyes but not our ears couldn’t be further from the truth, since sound can be filtered (turned on or off) by attention. Jonathan Sterne, for example, has challenged the assumption that there is a hierarchy of perception between the auditory and the visual in the binary pairs of spherical/oriented, immersive/perspectival, affective/intellectual, spatial/temporal, subjective/objective, internal/surface, near/far and life/death. The central problem with binary understanding of senses is not the oculocentric society, but the legacy of humanism and the mechanistic view of perception. Sound is thus not just something we hear with our ears, but something much more fragile and porous.

When we focus on finding the tools to choreograph effects, any of the senses can create a feeling of presence, permeability, emotional experience, empathic influence, mental involvement and spatial orientation. In the Spiral Fluctuations installation, sound is not considered in terms of the auditory perception of the inner ear, but as vibration that is also perceived by the other senses, for example, as vibration in the body, or as oscillation of the threads/feathers set in motion by the low-frequency sound ripples in the air, or by pulsations of light. The sound installation is primarily intended for the hearing impaired, although it can be also perceived by hearing people.

Ambient/haptic composition and installation are based on the field recording of the magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine at the Magnetic Resonance Laboratory at the Jožef Stefan Institute. By capturing this spectrum and translating the diagnostic method into a haptic artistic experience, the artist attempted to overcome the mechanistic consideration of senses, such as hearing. To record the sound sequences, the artist simultaneously used several field recording techniques and detectors to sonically translate different (sound and electromagnetic) frequencies into the digital audible spectrum. MRI sequences of about twenty minutes in length form the basic compositional score. The artist used various modulation methods, such as resonance, friction, accumulation, reflection, rotation, spiral and phase synchronisation, to expand the sounds of the device musically. She placed sound chambers in ambisonic spatialisation and developed compositional strategies for transmitting low-frequency (< 200 Hz) and subsonic vibrations (< 20 Hz) with a bodily/physical effect. The composition deals with emotions and sensations rather than mechanical measurements of the body. Foucault states that illness is constituted as an object in the discourse of medicine, which is linked to the discourse of nature. In that regard, the installation proposes listening as a permeable sense rather than as an object. In addition, the composition also includes the resonance of telluric currents, establishing a direct connection between the body and the Earth, thus encouraging the spectators to reflect on new ecologies and biopolitical relations.

Concept, electronics, installation, composition: Ida Hiršenfelder (beepblip)
MRI recording collaborators: Igor Serša (Laboratory for Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Jožef Stefan Institute)
Volunteers: to be announced
Technical assistant: Valter Udovčić
Laser cutting advisor: Jakob Grčman (Rampa Lab)
Production: Projekt Atol (Tina Dolinšek, Uroš Veber, Rea Vogrinčič)
Sound spatialisation adviser: Blaž Pavlica (DIY ambisonic dome)
Technical equipment: Aquatocene Studio (Robertina Šebjanič) & Pina Institute (Mauricio Valdes, Borut Jerman)
Katja Goljat
Supported by:
Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia, City of Ljubljana (Department for Culture)

With the installation, the artist continues her research into the sound of the electromagnetic spectrum. She conducted a series of workshops for field recording and composition titled ‘Tentacles for Electromagnetic Field‘ (2021–3); made a wavefield synthesis composition Morphoiki (2022) based on which she released Thermophilia (2024) solo album; exhibited the ‘Hyperthermia / Morphoiki‘ installation (2023–4), in which she played on a sequence of electromagnetic radiation from solar storms as an instrument.