Speculative Cosmologies

Sound Systems logo

CSM MAID x Very Very Far Away x Iklectik Art Lab

(Designing) at the intersection of speculative fiction and anthropology, we find a sense of epistemological humility about the kind of worlds we could or should inhabit. Yet epistemological humility should not be confused with futility: possibilities and potentialities still matter. We do not know what we are capable of, and yet that need not keep us from the pursuit of what ifs. Through the imaginative interpellations of speculative fiction, (we) gravitate toward new localities and means of presence: ecological, technological, Afro-futuristic, (African-futuristic, Chicana-futuristic, and so on). Facing the imminent prospect of both disaster and discovery, they call us to resist despair and to craft tangible ways of shaping and repairing the worlds we still hope for.

Anderson, R. et al. (2018, December 18). Speculative Anthropologies. Society for Cultural Anthropology. (https://culanth.org/fieldsights/series/speculative-anthropologies)


BACKGROUND

The idea of space settlement has often been tied to colonialist narratives, with space being viewed as a new frontier to be conquered and exploited in much the same way the Europeans colonised the Americas. This narrow focus on resource extraction and economic development has often overlooked considerations of environmental sustainability and social justice (Scharmen, 2019). However, prioritising collaboration and community-building, rather than domination and exploitation demands a reimagination of the ways in which the idea of outer space is constructed; not only as a physical location, but rather a social and cultural construct shaped by human experiences, imaginations, and practices (Messeri, 2016).

Similarly to Sun Ra’s use of music to transcend time and space, in “Space is the place”, our Sound Systems strive to diminish the distinction between sonic experiences and music as a means of intellectual exploration.

Our goal is to embark on voyages to distant lands and spaces, akin to intrepid explorers of uncharted territories, and convey our discoveries through sonic experiences and performances aiming to unveil fresh interpretations and shed new light on our connection with the world.

Drawing inspiration from Ursula K. Le Guin and Todd Barton’s “Music and Poetry of the Kesh,” which served as a soundtrack for Le Guin’s novel “Always Coming Home,” our endeavour involves envisioning, constructing, and theorising instruments and interfaces, as part of rituals that embody the values and concepts of the worlds they inhabit.

BRIEF → AUTUMN 2023

This project presents an opportunity to explore design as a means of imaginative expression, enabling us to question and critique our existing modes of thinking and being while fostering new possibilities. In this context, design functions as an interface for both generating knowledge and conveying information.

Our focus will be on crafting objects, instruments, and artefacts that produce sound, while taking careful consideration of how we engage with them — whether individually or collectively, in public or private spaces, through fast jolty gestures or slow soft touches, at dawn or dusk, and so on.

We will contemplate the ways in which we interact with these objects, their spatial arrangements, and their aesthetic and qualitative attributes, both in their sonic characteristics and materiality. All these aspects will be examined in relation to fictional socio-cultural contexts, that we will collectively dream, imagine and define, by departing from what is real to explore other, and potentially new, ideological projects.

Finally we will embody these new worlds through the organisation and performance of rituals, events, and/or situations associated with these speculative spaces.

(…) In the age of nth order simulacra the limited beings that we are may need to come to terms with the notion that fiction really exists and reality is unknowable as anything but, hopefully complex, fictions. Reductions of what is there to something we can narrativise. This means that the stakes are very high when you write something down but, paradoxically, this knowledge renders these stakes absurd.

Holt, M. (2017, May 16). The Terrifying Ambivalence of Theory-Fiction. Ark Review. (http://arkbooks.dk/the-terrifying-ambivalence-of-theory-fiction)

DELIVERABLES

This project will culminate in the creation of:

WORLD-BUILDING

To initiate our exploration we will first engage in a collective world-building session, aimed at jumpstarting our ideation process. Our primary objective will be to examine ideas of habitability and belonging and explore how these notions can shape and influence other modes of existence in unfamiliar environments.

During this exercise, we will concentrate our attention on four specific locations: a space station in Low Earth Orbit (LEO), a settlement on the Moon, a settlement on Mars, and a spacecraft embarking on a 100-year journey to Proxima Centauri B. To facilitate our exploration, we will analyse these locations through the lens of four overarching key concerns: governance, economics, ethics, and community. The aim is to stimulate alternative thinking about familiar and earthbound experiences (Popper and Rakotoniaina, 2019).

Following the completion of this world-building session, our next step will involve dividing into smaller groups. Within these groups, each team will be tasked with identifying key situations and narratives that will serve as the foundation for their respective projects.

SOUND PRODUCTION

After the initial session, our focus will shift towards exploring the practical aspects of sound production. Specifically, we will delve into the development and construction of “sound engines” utilising programming environments like Arduino and FAUST potentially, as well as the USB-based microcontroller development system PRJC’s Teensy.

During our studio time, we will delve deeper into the functionalities and capabilities of these platforms. As the projects begin to take shape, we will offer more targeted assistance and support. In the meantime, this repository has been compiled with valuable references, introductory materials, and relevant examples for each of these platforms. This repository serves as an excellent starting point for further exploration and experimentation.

TIMETABLE → 2023

Date AM PM Guest
Oct. 31 Brief Launch World/Rituals building  
Nov. 7 Teensy Audio Intro Teensy + Arduino Joseph Popper
Nov. 14 FAUST w/ Arduino Supervised Studio  
Nov. 21 Status Check Supervised Studio  
Nov. 28 Supervised Studio Supervised Studio  
Dec. 5 + DESIGN Review + + DESIGN Review +  
WINTER BREAK    
Jan. 9 AUDIO + WRITINGS Hand-in Performance making Malena Arcucci
Jan. 16 DOCUMENTATION Hand-in Performance making  
Jan. 21 PERFORMANCE @ THE YARD THEATRE    

KEY DATES → 2023

Date Task
Oct. 31 Brief Launch
Nov. 21 Status Check
Dec. 5 DESIGN Review
Jan. 9 AUDIO + WRITINGS Hand-in
Jan. 16 DOCUMENTATION Hand-in
Jan. 21 PERFORMANCE @ The Yard Theatre

WHAT’S NEXT?

Get started with Teensy and the audio shield.


APPENDIX

INDEX

TECHNICAL REFERENCES

MISCELLANEOUS

THEORETICAL REFERENCES