Echoes of Cybersonica 05

This may read a bit like a small child's reflections after having been to the fair or circus. I can tell you about lots of bright colours and new sounds / noises and nice people offering me things but there may not be much more to it...

Cybersonica 05 was made up of a number of quite distinct elements. There was the first two days at The Dana Centre and then another existence as The Art at Encompass at The Old Truman Brewery. There were symposia, performances, workshops and exhibits running throughout.

On the first day I caught parts of a session about Interactive Audiovisual Experiments. I chatted to Chris O'Shea afterwards because I found the ideas behind his work challenged things that bother me about lots of 'interactive' work that I think has a very narrow idea of what interaction involves. Particularly he talked about how important open source principles / ideas are to him.

He started out aiming to make an interactive music controller and explore how tactile controls enhance how we use sound but became increasingly frustrated because there was little shared knowledge about how things like this are made. He described the fact that many producers have their own approach and there's a lot of work that's not compatible. It's like most other developers want to preserve their ownership and just show things in galleries not really including others in their work.

A big part of his work is now to create platforms to share the developments he and others make and possibly to develop standards for communication between elements. He said "there's nothing new needed for what I'm doing, things like camera tracking and mapping properties but if everyone has to start afresh we keep getting stuck at the technology then it takes a long time for a new user to move beyond the most basic sounds." It seems to me to be a bit like every new user having to design a guitar before you can start strumming. {But also see ruthc's points about people expecting too much of technology.}

This relates to one of several distinct trends running through the event. Some of those presenting, like Chris, regard their work as 'open source' in some way. Others seem to have a much more proprietary approach, which isn't neccessarily overt and is often connected to more of a performer / artist position.

I went to the session 'Sonic Art - Waveswarms' without having much idea what it was all going to be about. I'm still not that clear except that all the people talking were all concerned in some way with exploring sound and interaction.

A number of speakers referred to the way in which sound and hearing have been undervalued compared to words and images. Aaron Siegel used the idea of aural parallax to compare the experience of some interactive sound installations to that of moving around a sculpture like that of Serra, for example. He used this to illustrate an understanding of 'public space'. The important aspect being that the individual can be part of a shared experience while retaining a separate subjective sense of themselves. This can come, for example, from moving around a space and experiencing changes in our sonic field as a result. He referred to great examples of this from John Cage's 'Radio Music' through David Tudor's 'Rainforest IV' to Alvin Lucier's work.

To me the exhibits sort of sat there waiting to be checked out and I didn't really have the time (or enough enthusiasm to be honest) in the first two days but I did have a fine old time with them on the Sunday. I think they helped me make a bit more sense of the whole experience as well. I'll say more about them soon.

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