Introduction to From Sound to Waves to Territories

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From Sound to Waves to Territories
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This dissertation undertakes a quest for a poetics of responsibility in the age of the Anthropocene. I aim to extend the concept of a poetics of responsibility beyond the literary discussion, where it was originally coined by ecocritical theorist Greg Garrad. My thesis does so by tracing sound and radio waves from outer space, to the inside of the human body, and along cross-species boundaries to the deepest depths of the ocean. With reference to the theoretical work of Michel de Certeau, and media arts practice under the wider label of tactical media, I argue that critical reflections of political media arts practice occurring at the nexus of politics and technology can make an important contribution to the quest for a poetics of responsibility. In making this argument, I draw on works that incorporate sonic and radio related practices from the early 20th century radio amateur movement as well as work of contemporary media arts practitioners including Natalie Jeremijenko, Marko Peljhan and my own. My argument is epistemologically informed by philosopher Jacques Rancière’s theories concerning the political dimension inherent in the aesthetic and vice versa, and the work of media theorist Geert Lovink, a key figure in establishing the concept of tactical media. In order to understand the merger of creative practice and theory in tactical media, I employ the notion of fluid thinking in waves — depicting art making as the tactical pondering over aesthetic experience, technological possibilities and political context. Based on my own artistic exploration in a series of works titled unrelated relatedness, I suggest that the combination of technological and sensory perceptions in media arts practice can extend and refine the human sense of situated awareness and shift how we as humans understand our position on this planet.

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0. Phd Thesis Introduction

The chief role of creative intellect is to hold society together. – Nicholas Humphrey (1976, p. 308)

[Download Introduction as PDF]

Prior to undertaking my PhD research, the focus of my art practice as radio maker and media artist revolved around issues concerning the role of communication at the nexus of media, politics and subjectivity. This focus evolved with the PhD research – practical and theoretical – as I will discuss in this thesis. This change resulted from and in turn shaped the research in the context of my growing concern with ecological issues, thinking and artistic practices. My initial point of departure for my artistic inquiry has been my desire to explore the relationship between inner and outer worlds. Also central to this was the role that media play in this relationship, and the relationship between how we communicate and how this structures the way we relate to the environment around us. During the research process and my expanded understanding of ‘environment’, I came to understand these relationships through the poetic notion of unrelated relatedness. This notion conveys for me the sense of a mental confusion, a grappling on an individual level with an understanding of ecological interconnectedness, while at the same time, as a species, we keep pushing beyond the limits of planetary boundaries. It was this poetic notion that would hold together the series of art works in this thesis – works which helped to guide the theoretical research. As a result, my PhD, looking at communication from an ecological perspective, moved on from my earlier works investigating modes of communication within a more urban context. I became focused on phenomena such as the interrelatedness of ecosystems, which I explore as a shared space between humans and non-humans beyond the local.

The poetic notion of unrelated relatedness became, then, the leitmotif for structuring the writing of this thesis and the title of a series of three works that form the artistic output of my practice-based research: My City is a Hungry Ghost, Nature in the Dark and planet ocean, which are discussed in Chapter 3. It was, though, actually only after completing the Nature in the Dark project that followed the My City is a Hungry Ghost installation that this understanding crystallised — as this is often the case with practice based research.


Supervisors & Research Panel

related posts:
From Sound to Waves to Territories


In this installation at the Kuenstlerhaus Schloß Wiepersdorf designed Jan Hendrik Brueggemeier two ‘black clouds’ out of 420 small loudspeaker to display 6 discrete audio channels.

As a topic, clouds trigger manifold associations and are a largely known cultural phenomenon. ‘As-Sahab’, the name of the alleged media production unit of Al-Qaeda means “The Cloud” in Arabic. In the old testament it is reported, that god liked to hide his appearance behind a cloud when calling Moses on the seventh day of the creation of the earth. The cloud also serves as an analogy for radio and the more recent phenomenon of wifi and wireless culture. It describes how the reception area is spread out. As well, it leads to the first days of the radio, when people experienced radio as a god-like appearance – a disembodied voice addressed to them directly.

Radio, today, is on one hand a synonym for popular culture and mass distribution. On the other hand, it can be tagged with politics of territory and strategic warfare. It may be surprising, but to a certain degree radio is culturally and technologically rooted in war and military invention – similar to the Internet.