Endless Sonification, Techno-creolization

The web residency project Re-Imagining In-Conversation: A New Poetics is a sonic space in progress with mutable elements, allowing the user to create soundscapes to coexist within an almost endless aural possibility and multiplicity. Here, the artists talk about the theoretical backbone of their work, techno-creolization and cultural hybridity, and how sonic improvisation allows them to reverberate these theories. The website itself rejects »a static position or a universal narrative,« acknowledging the multiplicity in relation to identities. The work is a prototype and a work in progress, allowing it to change and evolve over time.

Shamica Ruddock and Hannan Jones in conversation with Denise Sumi — Dez 14, 2023

Akademie Schloss Solitude - Endless Sonification, Techno-creolization

Re-Imagining In-Conversation: A New Poetics, visualization by Jones and Ruddock.

Akademie Schloss Solitude - Endless Sonification, Techno-creolization

Hannan Jones and Shamica Ruddock at the Future Soundscapes Festival 2023, photo: Andrea Vollmer

Denise Sumi: Your web residency project explores the dynamics of cultural hybridity, exchange, and techno-creolization. Can you explain those concepts and their theoretical background?

Shamica Ruddock: I would say these three things are arguably variations of one similar process.

What defines this project is an exchange through the sonic, taking place both as live improvisation using predominantly percussion, electronics, and vocal samples, and through conversation occurring in the everyday. References are shared, as are epistemologies and methodologies. Exchange here speaks to a reciprocal relationship, and this exchange ultimately results in affect. Through an exchange we divulge differences, negotiate obscured commonalities, and in these moments we are always becoming. Exchange fundamentally allows for change, expansion.

Of course on an interpersonal level this is mutual and consensual. Each exchange informs the previous, and invites the following. The relation could be said to be symbiotic. This is what we mean by exchange.

»We consider sound spatiality, how we are situated, and the sound’s potential to situate others. We set up a world to exist within and move between.«

When we consider notions of cultural hybridity, we begin to turn from the micro to the macro to consider global colonial histories and the effect of and on the movement of peoples – enslavement, displacement, migration, dispossession. We look at what emerges.

This is a somewhat similar process to what is happening with creolization. »Creolization« is a word often used in the context of the Caribbean and parts of the United States to designate emergent cultural formations, most noticeably language or food, resulting from the introduction and interaction of two or more distinctive cultural groups, from changing geographies and temporal dislocation, to hegemonic cultural groups in Indigenous spaces. There is also often a colonizer-colonized dynamic.

Akademie Schloss Solitude - Endless Sonification, Techno-creolization

In this process, which perhaps becomes somehow both concealed yet ubiquitous, what emerges is distinctly different, yet holds evident traces of its precursor. Creolization is again a process of becoming. Lastly, speaking to Glissants writings on creolization, there is also a recognition of an element of unpredictability that you could say distinguishes creolization from simply a process of hybridization. We embrace the unpredictable as improvisers.

Techno-creolization is a term encountered primarily through the work of Louis Chude-Sokei and Julian Henriques, who both speak on dynamics of race and technology and what emerges with this interplay. Techno-creolization similarly considers notions of hybridization and creolization, but here, technology becomes an influencing factor.

In some ways techno-creolization is simply creolization reframed to account for emergent technologies, from physical hardware and technological methods of production to the more frameworks-shaping processes, which people often term a technology. In this reframing there is a consideration of the technological as an extension or composite of the human.

Akademie Schloss Solitude - Endless Sonification, Techno-creolization

Hannan Jones: These three concepts are also intricately linked with ideas of the psychosocial, encompassing individual and collective well being. In context of this discussion, I believe it’s important to emphasize the fragments that are at play by way of shaping a sense of self. Considering complexities and nuanced ways that these theories and social factors intersect. In a »post-colonial« and globalized landscape, there are fragments – the theoretical background of cultural hybridity, exchange, and techno-creolization allows us to position ourselves, through lived experience, to consider where the crossovers, silences, and parallels exist and call attention to this.

»This oscillation and affect is pivotal in contributing to the formation of concepts surrounding cultural hybridity, where the influences of forming identities, migration, and globalization intertwine and unravel.«

Our thresholds as people are significantly shaped on structures that emerged during modernity, entwined with the creations of colonial frameworks that have impacted and influenced the creations of categorization. Through our practice here we offer an exchange, moving towards a counteraffect through sonic mediation and chaos of the experience of migration, resilience, mixed-origin, and diasporic existence. In this, we are attempting to resist one type of representation, and highlight the oscillation and recurring exchange/s.

This oscillation and affect is pivotal in contributing to the formation of concepts surrounding cultural hybridity, where the influences of forming identities, migration, and globalization intertwine and unravel. The interdisciplinary nature of cultural hybridity is perpetually shifting and interconnected.

Denise: How did you get to work with these concepts? What areyour individual backgrounds and where do you find common ground?

Hannan: Together, we shared a subterranean studio space at Open School East. A peripheral space that we came to know as »The Beats Kitchen.« The Beats Kitchen was fueled by conversation and joy, and energized by rituals and friendship. It hosted curiosity and our passion for speculating through experimental sound, film, electronic and analog music equipment, archives and futurisms, sonic fictions, and world-building. Within this, our individual practices are very much research-led, with process-oriented approaches. Specifically, I was considering ways of mapping or creating a cartography of Algerian histories, focusing on the curation of K7 tapes and vinyl records, with the intention of constructing a sonic archive. Through the mediums of moving-image and installation, I was seeking to engage in speculation aimed at illuminating the experiential dimensions of diasporic existence. Shamica was considering maroon histories, dub, Africa-centerd space-time cosmologies and black technopoetics. I recall Shamica deeply considering liner notes and practices of storytelling.

Akademie Schloss Solitude - Endless Sonification, Techno-creolization

Denise: How does your project and the way you’re working with fluidity and improvisation in sound – away from a clear set of instructions – become a space of world-building, away from linear storytelling?

Shamica: Multiple methods of world-building take place within this project, but I suppose first and foremost there’s the literal sonic landscape, a spatio-temporal event set up at the moment of performance. When we come together, we introduce sounds into a space through improvisation, considering them and placing them in relation to other sounds present in the totality of the whole composition. By this I mean we are always considering how we can travel, how certain sounds invite other sonic materials, and what needs to be taken away to allow space for other sounds to be received.

We also consider where sounds may be sent in space through the use of panning, or even depending on the acoustic environment, how the sounds reverberate throughout the space and a consideration of speaker selection and placement, alongside what is placed in the space that invite others to listen and feel the sounds’ vibrations. We consider sound spatiality, how we are situated, and the sound’s potential to situate others. We set up a world to exist within and move between.

Here the site provides this function, leaving room for the site visitor to gather their own points of reference, and follow their own intuition for navigation. The storytelling in this context exists perhaps less as an overarching explicit narrative. The navigation offered in the live format is gestured through the use of the draggable icons, and in some ways again the icons provide fragments of a narrative, encouraging the site visitor to piece together a narrative of their own. Because this might require several visits to the site, several returns to a shared start point before diverging into a new pathway once again through this site, this world, it eventually becomes nonlinear.

Akademie Schloss Solitude - Endless Sonification, Techno-creolization

Hannan: Echoing Glissants Poetics of Relation, we align with the idea »Relation is an open totality evolving upon itself.«

Within A New Poetics, this constant evolution isn’t just a conceptual framework, but a lived experience for both us and those we have invited in. It becomes a form of resistance to linear storytelling, offering a space where narratives intertwine and coalesce. The site user is also an integral part of this world-building endeavor. As they navigate through the sonic environment, experimenting with the draggable icons and influencing the composition, they actively contribute to the evolving tapestry. Our project, much like Glissant’s, invites engagement into a shared space that transcends predefined boundaries and narratives. So presently there is a constant flux and yes, fluidity. There is also a rejection that there is a static position or a universal narrative. In that, we move away from linear storytelling, acknowledging the present as a tapestry of relations and multiplicity in relations to identities.

Shamica: Perhaps this then speaks to world-building as this ongoing process – one that depends not on a single iteration, but instead the wider project at large. Since first coming together, we have slowly procured additional interlocutors beyond the two of us. This project is perhaps the first time we begin to introduce some of these interlocutors, some of the excerpts existing on the site come directly from them. Although perhaps Hannan and I remain the common denominator, those existing alongside us are continually in flux. This in itself is a form of world-building, only perhaps in world-building as a literal act that affects how we exist in the everyday. This site is perhaps also a way to begin to demonstrate this opening up.

Denise: Can you reflect on the technologies you used for the web residency as an interface between you, other artists and musicians, and the audience, or users?

Hannan: A New Poetics manifests as a sonic site, a cacophony that is orchestrated by the cursor’s position across the site; moving in, around, nearby and through draggable icons that symbolize each interlocutor’s contribution. The codes foundation, created by Grayson Earle, is composed with Javascript, enabling many non-fixed elements, allowing for an almost endless sonic possibility and multiplicity to coexist.

The technological landscape allowed us to create an active site of dynamics that do not have a predetermined outcome, therefore opening out into feeling. This choice was intentional to consider possibilities of translation itself, and reflects a constant shift that continues to disrupt translation. Inviting artists and musicians into the fold is very intentional. It became a way for us to signal that this is a lineage of many, not a solitary endeavor, but a collective experience with many axes.

»In some ways techno-creolization is simply creolization reframed to account for emergent technologies, from physical hardware and technological methods of production to the more frameworks-shaping processes, which people often term a technology.«

Shamica: As time goes on, I feel we begin to realize that the site functions in multiple ways. In one sense what is presented with each visit is something close to a performance, with the site visitor as composer-performer. In other ways the site arguably functions as a synth, and perhaps within its use there is a similarity with some synths built through technologies such as Pure Data and Max MSP.

Akademie Schloss Solitude - Endless Sonification, Techno-creolization

Denise: The website references fragmented gestures, movements, an in-between, as well as collapses and clashes of sonic environments. How does one orient/navigate themselves as a listener in this fractal environment? How does one choose to listen/move? 

Shamica: How one chooses to listen or move depends in some parts on experimentation and curiosity. However, in time, how one might choose to interact can depend ultimately on familiarity with the site and its sounds. Movement might therefore depend on an attempt to find new pathways within an arguably limited environment. For now, the sounds never change, but it is somewhat impossible to return to the site each time and produce the same composition.

 Hannan: With this there is a sense of opacity, an unknowability and experimentation. The site maps multiple degrees of possibility, and enables the visitor to project themselves into this space, with no predetermined pathway. Theres a flexibility in the orientation that can act as a springboard for improvisation and intuition as well as a considered composition to emerge, and in the use of the site, each visitor contributes to the becoming.

This is the nature of improvisation. Improvisation is very much reliant on the unknown – yet it also brings to the fore a synchronization of energy and embodied knowledge.

Hannan Jones’s research draws parallels of personal and collective histories; navigating this through themes of hybridity through language, rhythm, and psychogeography.

Shamica Ruddock’s research considers Caribbean masquerade and oral folk storytelling practices, Black technopoetics, sound culture, and technosonic production. Fugitivity and refusal are also key departure points.

Denise Sumi is coordinator of the program Digital Solitude and doctoral researcher at the Peter-Weibel-Research Institute for Digital Cultures in Vienna.

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