Network 5 - Fragile Coexistence (2020)

Network 5 is a performance where minimal gestures create fragile electrical contacts whose analogue sounds are mediated by the computer with direct and perceptually rich responses, while, on a deeper level of tangential mediation, the information stored frames the performer’s agency determining its scope. While the direct relationships audible through the quick responses of the machine keep the performer’s intuition engaged, the long-term tangential effects of the gestures determine the limits for successive actions; such limits are not intuitively comprehensible by the same actor who created them but experienced empirically through listening.

The development of the piece is regulated by a series of concentric time cycles which are all related to the intuitive durations of the live gestures of the performer. The longest cycle, the upper level of organisation, can be repeated a fixed number of times for a stage performance or ideally repeated endlessly in an environment where the audience is free to join and leave the space at will.

The sound source controlled by the performer let human agency participate in the network, thus its choice is an essential part of this work. The circuit generating the input signal is an analog noise generator that amplifies the residual noise of a resistor: the component is exposed and the performer manually creates the contact generating white noise by pushing the resistor on the terminal. The contact not only generates white noise, but also a series of glitches and hums due to the imperfection of the operation. The noise generator is unshielded, with the connection to the chassis ground of the mixer/soundcard left open on the case of the circuit: the performer can touch the metal pin to remove ground loops and noises picked up by the body working as an antenna, or leave all the interferences. Through the selection of an input source with evident limits and imperfections, the information channel that mediates human intentionality is reduced to the bare minimum. The reduction of the information channel does not configure a reduction of the information processed but redirects attention to information meaningful to the piece: the gesture, occasionally reminiscent of morse code, highlights the focus on duration and how a simple set of durations chosen intuitively can frame the entire compositional space; the limits and the glitches of the operation contribute to the uncertain positioning of human agency in the network. The acoustic qualities of the glitches are also used extensively in the piece in that the digital response mediates these analogic imperfections and use their features for the synthesis. Occasionally, I looked for processes that turned these imperfections into emergent idioms: familiar sounds of drum machines, or synths recalling eastern stringed instruments set mnemonic references but the relationships with the events happening in the performance “complete” the idiom in unforeseen ways, often resisting to the performer’s intentions or suggesting alternative ways to convey intentionality.