Saturday, January 09, 2010

Agostino Di Scipio - Ecosystemic Sound Construction

"Stanze Private - Private Rooms" | sound installation (audio feedback system with glass objects, wooden boxes, miniature microphones, earphones, speakers, live signal processing)

A few excerpts from the full version of the interview to Agostino Di Scipio by Digicult. His work was represented by the new gallery Mario Mazzoli based in Berlin, one of the first galleries in the international dedicated to sound art.

Agostino Di Scipio: For "Private Rooms" I have outlined a network of miniature microphones and headsets (ie, miniature speakers) that, by accumulating background noise from the room environment, could possibly generate sound. Then I spent a long time to implement, empirically, the mutual influence between the various network components, making it to some extent self-regulate over time, and to dynamically change its own process depending on acoustic events in the surrounding space.
"Stanze Private - Private Rooms" amplifies the noise inside these small rooms, these few jugs and glass ampoules, transparent. And it amplifies the noise in the surrounding environment, in the largest room where the installation is placed. It produces sound from the audience. We as listeners can not only be part of this small ecosystem, our physical presence alters the acoustics of the surrounding space, altering the dynamic. Listening thus interferes on listening, the listening is never something objective, is always something that changes the listening itself.
I usually use electroacoustic transducers (microphones of various types, sometimes accelerometers or other) to detect the acoustic reflections of the walls or other niches resonant in a given space. Often I detect sounds reflecting the social function of the surrounding space, but small sounds that are typically removed from our auditory experience - acoustic scraps, sonic garbage. These sounds are analyzed by a computer, with digital signal processing methods, so the computer measures some features of sound, and that information is finally used to drive the process of generation and transformation of the environmental sound itself. At the base, there is a kind of retroactive scheme in which the sound production is at least partially modified by the manner in which the space responds to the very same sounds that are produced: the computer process is rendered space-dependent, adaptive.

[Music, photos and sketches from the installation]
[Watch: video interview with Di Scipio | Italian-only @ AMI - Agenzia Multimediale Italiana]

Daniela Cascella wrote an essay about Agostino Di Scipio, included in the catalogue of the ANLAGE art exhibition:

The air is filled with snow and the morning hours sound hushed, and soft. As I enter the space drawn by Agostino Di Scipio's Stanze private I am subtly pervaded by a sense of loss, of subtraction, which defies any easy expectations for polished, sheer minimalism per se: these suspended signals, or filaments of sounds, at times gently hued by hushed human voices drawing close on prayers, call for a rigorous inspection of the space inside, around and without. If one should speak of voyeurism, it is one reversed on ourselves: it is us that we ultimately are compelled to watch – us, at our most hidden, in those nooks and crannies which we only dare sneak into as detached spectators of ourselves. These 'private rooms' (thus translates the title of the installation) are not a mere representation: instead, they are defined by the continual exchange between what happens inside the glass vessels, the pulses and the structure which feed them, the very space which hosts them, the spaces of our minds which perceive them, the presence or absence of our bodies as related to them. Di Scipio calls such systems 'audible ecosystemics', by their very nature of self-feeding, endless evolution and ever-adjusting balance. In this small room within the art fair, I end up thinking of poetry. A stanza is a group of lines within a poem, usually home to its basic metrical unit and to its fundamental rhythm. What sort of rhythm encompasses the dimension outlined by the sounds, space and people in Stanze private? It's not the regular, recurring pace of the refrain, but a form more free, that designs a 'listening place' while it grows, and which embraces unexpected occurrences and withdrawal as vital elements. By investigating – or pointing at – the very threshold between what is there and what is absent, between a structure which is built and one which is eroded as we enter its field, this piece prompts reflection upon what could be audible and what is audible. A constant hum which we either experience, or we chase, and cannot get rid of: we need noise, as we need the air that we breathe. Di Scipio calls it "low-frequency turbulence material" (see his notes to Craquelure. 2 pezzi silenziosi, a Giuliano, 2002), or sonic dust.
Di Scipio has stated that he does not compose sounds: rather, he generates interactions, "[...] a shift from creating wanted sounds via interactive means, towards creating wanted interactions having audible traces. In the latter case, one designs, implements and maintains a network of connected components whose emergent behaviour in sound one calls music." Most notably, interactions are not merely between man and machine: ambience plays a much greater part: "I will from now on refer to 'interaction' as not meaning the man/machine interrelationship, but the machine/ambience interrelationship, and always keeping in mind the triangular, ecosystemic connection, man/ambience/machine, that can be thus established." He does not act upon or against a space: he welcomes it, and he moves towards it.
In his 1894 essay Introduction To The Method Of Leonardo Da Vinci, which explored the fluctuating, insidious and uncharted territory of artistic creation, Paul Valéry wrote: "One often forgets that works of art have not existed forever... Such research implies the abandonment of any notion of glory... It takes you to finding relativity beneath apparent perfection... What is final, tricks us, and what is made to be watched, changes its shape." This sense of ever-slipping away structures, and lack of big statements, could well be used to read Di Scipio's work, which also keeps a strong focus on what comes before sound, on the conditions which generate sounds, that are hereby defined as consequences and trails of certain choices. Sounds emerge, not as abstracted shapes, but in a dynamic interchange which shifts any idea of pureness into an ever-changing motion. "Music never ever exists before such phenomenon of emergence, it is not guaranteed at the start. The ear does not dictate conditions, but for sure it controls in the way it knows and must. And it does it endlessly." Before composing you have to listen carefully, Di Scipio seems to imply. He knows shapes, trajectories, he knows how a sound is born and how it is nurtured, and how to place it, so as to embrace what's between himself and sound. To quote the fundamental conjecture of actor-network theory, "human and non-human elements in a given network take the shape that they do because of the ways they relate to one another. Nothing lies outside each network, and there is no difference in the ability of technology, humans, animals, or other non-humans to act". One could say that in the work of Di Scipio – who maintains that "sound is the interface", and who in a 2005 essay stated that "music has always been the art of relationships, of welcoming or refusing, of the rhythm of exchange, of keeping everything together (even if alone) in time" – such networks can be examined and researched with a specific eye on sound, as a surface mirroring endless exchanges of aural glances, hints and voices and murmurs and inputs and outputs and appearance and dissimulation.


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