five posters providing access to a series of interactive audiovisual compositions using Augmented Reality, 2022/23
I will be reborn
I am being reborn
I have been reborn
My heart now beats in double-dotted crotchets.
No more feeble triplets.
With poignant impulses
Five liters of red are pumped in units of cups
Across my tender carnal soil, feeding zillions.
pa’boom, pa’boom, pa’boom, pa’boom, pa’…
thus goes my rhythm-machine
The calming pulse in my ears.
What’s the weight of blood against water?
What’s the weight of demisemiquavers against triplets?
This is the text integrated into one of a total of five augmented reality compositions that make up the main component of the SkylAR project. These pieces, conceived as miniatures, are accessible via individually designed posters that are displayed in public spaces. Each of the posters features a QR code that can be scanned with a mobile device, leading to a website where the augmented reality (AR) composition can be launched.
My starting point of SkylAR was the use of comic motifs from the 50s, specifically motifs from the science fiction comic genre. Characteristic of this period was a pronounced techno-optimism, the belief that technological progress will not only lead humankind to a better future, but also to self-realization. The rationalism anchored in technology thereby represents an ideal of humanity and a path to power: the power to overcome all conceivable barriers as, for instance to be able to travel to distant galaxies, but also to dominate other threats and cultures through military superiority, like rebellious aliens on newly discovered planets. The conviction to be on the "right side of history" can be felt in science fiction comics of the 1950s from the USA in an almost unfiltered and unreflective way, which is the reason why I chose them as a foregrounded reference point for the SkylAR project.
My intention was to place the motifs of the comics in a context that dissolves this ideology and instead describes states of re-discovering and re-constructing oneself. This self-discovery takes place through the exploration of one's own body and sensory organs, which is depicted in the poems integrated in the SkylAR project. In these poems, bodies are often described as new landscapes and sensory systems as fluid in their capacities of perception.
My tong penetrates my left nostril.
Flicking, I force my way into the pharynx.
Auto-titillation – I sneeze.
My tong penetrates my right nostril.
Manoeuvring around a pearl of saliva.
Not bitter, nor sweet, nor salty, nor sour.
Now my tong rolls backwards.
With its bifurcated tips it enters the eustachian catacombs
That lead to the tympanic cavity.
A quick drum-roll –
now retract before the hammer can strike!
Such a state-of-mind is characterized by a sensitivity to the environment, and an awareness of a non-dualistic interdependence of it and as such it proposes a responsible and response-able approach to our planet. A basic understanding of interconnection is outlined here, which at first seems to be simple and obvious, but due to the development of Western culture, for many - myself included – this is anything but self-evident or easy to achieve. It stands in stark contrast to the state of mind of the self-assured technophile and potent pioneer of space travel of the 1950s. Instead, the rethinking that the time of the current climate crisis demands from people involves – as described by Elena Pulcini - "a radical operation of rediscovery and reconstruction of the self by highlighting aspects repressed or devalued by rationalist and patriarchal culture such as vulnerability and dependence"(2022:41). The protagonists in all of the five AR experiences of the SkylAR project are in precisely this process of reinvention and rediscovery.
The “Rediscovery and Reconstruction of the Self”
…body parts that have given up their original function and now discover other possibilities for action…
…sense organs that have altered sensibilities…
…asymmetries and imbalances between paired organs that allow them to develop special characteristics…
…one's own body that is discovered and explored as an unknown landscape…
These are some of the motifs used in the texts of the individual miniatures, describing the process of radical self-discovery and reconstruction of the self described above.
The sound that meets my left ear
comes lilting out of the right one.
Wobbling and bumping the spectrum over brain lobes.
The sound that meets my right ear
comes roaring out of the left.
A slingshot in the head,
trajectories through the auricle.
Two ears, duplicates of forms.
No more echoing each other.
Stuck in continuous mutation.
The texts are displayed in speech bubbles typical of comics, which are assigned to characters taken from the science fiction comics of the 50s. These characters all appear under the name SkylAR - two women, two men and an iguana-like creature. The texts are also audible as spoken or sung texts, some produced with real and others with synthetic voices. I chose the name SkylAR because it is not assigned to any particular gender. The fact that it contains the word "Sky" fits the science fiction theme. I capitalize the final two letters "AR" to refer to the augmented reality through which the compositions are experienced.
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In addition to the texts, and the characters from the science fiction comics (all are taken from comics available for public domain) several other types of material play a recurring role in the compositions.
Both visually and acoustically, the use of historical material thus plays an important role. A historicity is conveyed, and reference is made to pioneering attempts of the past to acquire knowledge and collect data whereby science often legitimized ethical questions to be disregarded. This phase of science often used the method of collecting, structuring, and categorizing diverse phenomena, whether through the recording of animal species or collections of ethnomusicological recordings. At the same time, unknown regions or continents were systematically explored, which found a continuation in the exploration of space in the 20th century. The referenced material is therefore fraught with a multitude of ethical issues, many of which can be deemed highly problematic. Instead of resolving them and taking a clear position, in the project SkylAR I decided to present the multifarious references as a heterogeneous web that defies any easy resolution.
Posters in Public Space and a Performance
The SkylAR posters are put up in public space and are therefore available to a general public. Furthermore, they are accessible while people are going about their everyday activities. Each poster contains a QR code which leads to a landing page, from where the AR can be started.
The foregrounded use of motifs from comics is suitable to appeal to a broader audience, thus opening up the project to people unfamiliar with experimental art forms. As part of the Zagreb Biennale 2023, the posters are distributed throughout the city already two weeks before the beginning of the festival. As a complementary event, a one-hour performance takes place early in the festival, where the visual and sonic elements from the various AR-compositions are performed live in an audiovisual concert, performed by Jennifer Torrence (percussion and performance) and myself (electronics, visuals and performance). Various projections, live-streaming and a heterogenous multichannel sound system are used.
Haraway, Donna: Staying with the Trouble – Making Kin in the Chthulucene, Durham: Duke University Press, 2016
Hoppe, Katharina: Die Kraft der Revision – Epistemologie, Politik und Ethik bei Donna Haraway, Frankfurt: Campus Verlag, 2021
Pulcini, Elena: "Feminism and Convivialism" in: Frank Adloff and Alain Caillé (Ed.s) Convivial Futures - Views from a Post-Growth Tomorrow, Bielefeld: Transcript, 2022
Internet traffic is responsible of 2% of the global CO2 emissions. I have created a work that relies on the use of the internet in order to be experienced and thereby it contributes to the pollution of the planet. In order to keep the caused data traffic to a minimum, I avoided all unnecessary data transfers. I kept the file sizes of sounds and images small even if it sometimes leads to noticeable low resolutions. Although I am using cookies in some of the ARs, they are only tracking whether that particular AR has already been visited, in order to provide new experiences on repeated visits. No other data is stored other than a single number associated with that AR. No personal data are accessed or stored.