A situation for an alert and knowledgeable citizenry
On View September 14 to October 20, 2018
Opening Reception: Friday, September 14, 8pm
Artist Talk: Friday, September 14, 7pm – Upstairs Event Space
“Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together”. ~Dwight David “Ike” Eisenhower, January 1961
Electromagnetic forces can be shaped, modulated, monitored or transformed in order for them to be utilized. The FRAGILE SAFARI situations are constituted as a ‘parcours’ through two bodies of work. The first work is the evolved signals intelligence (SIGINT) work: We Should Take Nothing for Granted – On The Building of An Alert And Knowledgeable Citizenry the second is the spatial electromagnetic installation STAR VALLEY (ICARUS).
Together, the works provoke a sensorial experience of the immaterial electromagnetic spectrum, and open well-defined societal questions regarding notions of privacy in the 21st century. Collectively, the elements form a tactical media landscape that is conceived as an “electromagnetic theatre” in order to engage the visitors/participants on multiple levels; technologically, intuitively, intellectually and politically. Arguably the electromagnetic spectrum is the most valuable, yet non-exhaustable natural resource, while it’s control and use continues to be strategically significant and economically vital.
Central to both works are probes, the devices that are probing multiple aspects of the electromagnetic spectrum by monitoring or transmitting signals in order to observe or occupy the spectrum. These acts activate civic potentials to engage and re-imagine the relationship between the global citizenry and sovereign actors with the military industrial complexes including their visible, opaque and dark structures by addressing current positions and debates about the notions and structuring of privacy, surveillance states, and safetylss. Each element in FRAGILE SAFARI is the result of research and construction of hardware and software systems nto be utilized as a set of tools, in order to gain knowledge of the occupation, use and potential misuse of global mass communication infrastructures.
STAR VALLEY (ICARUS), is a single spark-gap transmitter lthat occupies and overwhelms local signals . The transmitter is controlled by a computer running a neural network that has been trained on US/NATO codenames, describing units, orders of battle and/or military operations and their descriptions in order to generate new names, theatres, and directives of ‘imaginary’ operations both from the past and projected into the future, highlighting the intentional obfuscation of facts from the public.
Lastly, We Should Take Nothing for Granted – On The Building of An Alert And Knowledgeable Citizenry, is designed to demonstrate the fragility of the local communications infrastructure by probing the visitor’s personal communication devices while creating a generative sonic landscape of over 20 years of collective signal monitoring archives using Eisenhower’s presidential farewell address from 1961 as a compositional tool.
The title for the series FRAGILE SAFARI is derived from another “safari”, the BIG SAFARI, which is a specialized black USAF program dedicated to air systems modification for collection and processing of SIGINT (signals intelligence) and COMINT (communications intelligence) data, as well as offensive and defensive electronic warfare. The program is one of the oldest electronic warfare related programs and responsible for much of the SIGINT collection globally since 1952.
The works on display are small part of the evolutionary toolkit that Biederman and Peljhan have been creating over the past 20 years in order to re-examine and redefine our relationship to the political, philosophical and physical conditions of the Electromagnetic Spectrum.
The artists would like to thank the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec, Ministry of Culture Republic of Slovenia, City of Ljubljana Cultural Department, C-ASTRAL and the University of California Santa Barbara Media Arts and Technology Systemics Lab and the Wave Farm (Acra, NY) for their financial and material support. A special thanks to Brian Springer and Aljosa Abrahamsberg.
Matthew Biederman works across media and milieus, architectures and systems, communities and continents since 1990. He creates works where light, space, and sound reflect on the intricacies of perception and policy. Since 2008 he is a co-founder with Marko Peljhan of Arctic Perspective Initiative, dedicated to fusing traditional knowledge through new technologies towards greater autonomy of the circumpolar region. He has served as artist-in-residence at a variety of institutions and institutes, including the Center for Experimental Television on numerous occasions, CMU’s CREATE lab, the Wave Farm and many more. His work has been featured at: Lyon Bienniale, Istanbul Design Bienniale, The Tokyo Museum of Photography, ELEKTRA, MUTEK, Montreal Bienniale (Musee des Arts Contemporain), Bienniale of Digital Art (BIAN, Montreal), Artissima (Turin, IT), among many others.
Marko Peljhan is a theatre and radio director, conceptual artist and researcher. He founded and co-founded several still active arts organizations in the 90’s such as Projekt Atol and one of the first media labs in Eastern Europe LJUDMILA. From 1994 on he worked on Makrolab, a project that focuses on telecommunications, migrations and weather systems research in an intersection of art/science/engineering; the Interpolar Transnational Art Science Constellation and the Arctic Perspective Initiative. He is the recipient of many prizes for his work, including the 2001 Golden Nica Prize at Ars Electronica with Carsten Nicolai and his work has been exhibited internationally at multiple biennales (Venice, Lyon, Istanbul, Gwangju…) and festivals, at documenta, ISEA, Ars Electronica and museums and art institutions worldwide (YCAM, ICC-NT, PS.1. MOMA, GARAGE…). He serves as professor and director of the MAT Systemics Lab at the University of California Santa Barbara, the Chair of the Media Arts and Technology program at UCSB, the coordinator of international cooperation of the SPACE-SI Slovenian Centre for Space Sciences and Technologies and editor at large of the music label rx:tx. In the radio spectrum he is known as S54MX.