Absorb is an art experiment by Canadian composer Tina Pearson created in collaboration with dancer Lori Hamar, videographer Kirk Schwartz and many sonic contributors, for the Interchange Digital Arts Symposium hosted by Media Net in Victoria, Canada. It is an attempt to reconcile an essence of presence in the seemingly disconnected realms of technology and the biosphere. It will have its premiere at Media Net’s Flux Gallery, October 7 – 15, 2016. One branch of Absorb will also occur in the networked “virtual” platform Second Life.
Absorb poses a set of questions about intimacy, memory and artistic responses within ecosystems, and how those responses might be alternately exposed and informed by the tethering of their representation within digital media.
I experience both enthralment and trepidation as a daily witness to the fundamental and continuos change in my physical being, my perceptions, and my understanding of reality as a direct result of my active and passive participation in digital and networked technologies. I’m a hybrid being. In my imagination, I recall the sensation of my bare toes grasping at the mossy root of a tall red cedar, releasing a rich dusky smell, while my fingers quickly type commands for an online “virtual reality” telematic performance; my eyes get help with glass prisms to focus on the computer screen showing movements of my oversees colleagues’ virtual avatars; and my ears, swimming in the blur of our combined electronic sounds humming through the speakers, perk up suddenly to zoom their focus far far out and up toward the cacophony, about 100 yards beyond my window, of the local crows returning from the shore to their night time roost.
My body can be here, while another aspect of my presence can be there. I, as an essence, can be present in multiple “theres” at once. And in telematic practice, without the complex interface of the body, aspects of presence’s non-body essence can become honed, clear and sophisticated.
Absorb hypothesizes that, if non-body presence is being pulled and projecting itself into more and more of these other “theres” made possible by networked technologies, is it possible to similarly experience and perceive a non-body presence of essence inside elements of the biosphere? Is it possible for the essence of a focused listening and sensing practiced by artists to be pulled into an ecosystem? What would it look like and sound like if its trees, waters and winds have absorbed the essential sounds, smells, movements, the essential mind of an acutely listening and sensing human presence?
Absorb considers a possible biospheric reality where humans are remembered, but they and their materials and machines no longer exist. It imagines the ghostly traces of human breath, voice, language and gesture that might linger in a post-human ecosystem, the possible fragmented archives of a human essence that might be revealed in the cells of a tree’s bark, the way a branch moves in the wind, how a shoreline wave reflects the light of the sun.
Absorb was created through biospheric performance scores that merge techniques of deep and hyper listening; and body-based and telematic performance practice. Contributors from many places used two Absorb scores to record their breath and voice in sonic snapshot submissions that form two threads in the work. These techniques were applied to the making of video and audio recordings of water surfaces and water bodies; and cedar and pine trees, with and without disturbance-action by performers, in ecosystems of the unceded Coast Salish territory area of the Pacific coast. Additional presence comes from avatars in the “virtual” networked platform Second Life, where a rendering of Absorb exists as artifact and transposed reality.
In the gallery space, constructed echoes of an imagined absorbed presence are revealed visually and sonically as layered and fractured digital archives of this material, further filtered into a virtual reality space that has no geographic location, no smells, no biospheric sounds, no movements but digitally created ones.
Absorb was commissioned through the BC Arts Council by the Victoria, BC centre Media Net, as part of its Digital Arts Symposium October 7 through 15, 2016 at the Flux Gallery.