Notes from Oldenburg

July 15, 2011

Test Tones by schrimshaw

My first suspicion was that the subterranean conspiracy would take effect within the economic situation on the ground, but this naive assumption would soon be proved false; the City mobilises an economic machine against the earth, stalling the effects it might otherwise have in this sphere, making sure that developments on the ground are subject to its own decisions, or otherwise illegal. The economic situation on the ground would foreclose the possibility of any t(r)ailing allegiance with subterranean conspirators gaining any ground, or any potential progression towards an alternate situation becoming the state of things.

That the insurgency should not take direct effect within the economic organisation of the surface did not, however, fully neutralise the conspirators, as their various concoctions were already being felt by means of horizontal contagion and architectonic decay at the surface; foreclosing the possibility of economic influence would only force the conspirators to the surface by other means, where, upon arrival, various contaminants and solutions would set about realising their own desires through the medium of humanity.

s.doWhenBooted({ var pHArray, pHSeq;
pHArray= [8.5596, 8.435, 7, 7.758, 6.815, 5.8, 7.901, 7.1, 6.655, 5.142, 7.5984, 7.22, 6.016, 6.6372];
pHSeq = Prand(pHArray, inf).asStream;
SynthDef(\impulse, {
		|input, pHMin, pHMax, attack, volume, decay, out|
		var pH, rate, frequency, impulse;
		pH =;
		rate =, pHMin, pHMax, 19, 6.5);
		frequency =, 0, 14, 50, 150);
		impulse =, volume), 400), frequency, attack, decay);, impulse);
Reference frequencies for the perception of relative depth & the production of 
a more independent harmonic structure:
{ var klank =`[
	[800, 1071, 1353, 1723], [0.1,0.1,0.1,0.1], [1, 1, 1, 1]],; 
		klank!2 }.play;
// Ramp Synth:
SynthDef(\ramp, { |end, dur, out|
	var line;
	line =, end, dur, doneAction: 2);, line);
0.001.wait;	// wait for the synth to get setup on the server.
// set up the control busses:
s.sendMsg(\c_set, 200, 7);
s.sendMsg(\c_set, 101, 12);
// Left Channel:
s.sendBundle(nil, [\s_new, \impulse, f = s.nextNodeID, 0,1, \pHMin, pHArray.minItem, \pHMax, pHArray.maxItem, \rate, 1, \volume, 0.8, \frequency, 62, \attack, 0.1, \decay, 0.65, \out, 0], [\n_map, f, \input, 200]);
// Right Channel:
s.sendBundle(nil, [\s_new, \impulse, p = s.nextNodeID, 0,1, \pHMin, pHArray.minItem, \pHMax, pHArray.maxItem, \rate, 1, \volume, 0.8, \frequency, 62, \attack, 0.1, \decay, 0.65, \out, 1], [\n_map, p, \input, 101]);
// Left Channel Task:
t = Task({ |pH|
	loop	({		
		// pH = 0.rrand(14);
		//pH = pHArray.choose;
		pH =;
		s.sendMsg(\s_new, \ramp, x=s.nextNodeID,0,1, \end, pH, \dur, 0.34.rrand(6));
s.sendMsg(\n_map, x, \out, 200);
		});	//loop.
	}).play;	//routine.
// Right Channel Task:
h = Task({ |pH|
	loop	({		
		// pH = 0.rrand(14);
		//pH = pHArray.choose;
		pH =;
		s.sendMsg(\s_new, \ramp, l=s.nextNodeID,0,1, \end, pH, \dur, 0.02.rrand(5));
	s.sendMsg(\n_map, l, \out, 101);
		});	//loop.
	}).play;	//routine.
s.sendMsg(\n_free, 1019);
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Geomnemonic Regression or the Indexing of Epochal Intervals?

April 28, 2011

According to Professor D. C. Barker’s exposition of geotraumatic research ‘descent into the body of the earth corresponds to a regression through cosmic time’.1 Here subterranean explorations mirror the atavistic regression of a Ballardian spinal descent through transorganic memory or evolutionary history. Yet perhaps opening up to subterranean influences or conditions is less a regression or movement through time as the indexing of temporal or epochal intervals, such as that carried out by Powers:

Closing his eyes, Powers lay back and steered the car along the interval between the two time fronts, feeling the images deepen and strengthen within his mind. The vast age of the landscape, the inaudible chorus of voices resonating from the lake and from the white hills, seemed to carry him back through time, down endless corridors to the first thresholds of the world.

He turned the car off the road along the track leading towards the target range. On either side of the culvert the cliff faces boomed and echoed with vast impenetrable time fields, like enormous opposed magnets. As he finally emerged between them on to the flat surface of the lake it seemed to Powers that he could feel the separate identity of each sand-grain and salt crystal calling to him from the surrounding ring of hills.2

The impression of the landscape upon and within Powers’ mind forces an mnemonic indexing of geological time, opening up an interval between the present and variable points in geological history, an interval within which the earth ‘screams’, booms and echoes. Note that Powers closes his eyes for the ‘descent’ beyond a visually configured world space or level. This closing of the eyes marks a preliminary step beyond the antropomorphically scaled and visually configured world space: ‘Level 1, or world space, is an anthropomorphically scaled, predominantly vision configures, massively multi-slotted reality system that is obsolescing very rapidly’.3 This descent into deep time is marked by auditory envelopments, impressions and a mnemonic impression of the landscape within the mind, a primarily auditory domain, the constitutive bandwidths of which accompany a similar shift in scale or range as that which occurs in Powers’ awareness of the landscape which shifts from the cliff face to sand grains and salt crystals. This is an auditory domain that exceeds the bandwidths of anthropocentric and organic audibility in terms of both frequency and time.

  1. Nick Land, Fanged Noumena, 498 []
  2. J. G. Ballard, ‘The Voices of Time’, The Complete Short Stories vol. 1, 260-1 []
  3. Nick Land, Fanged Noumena []
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April 27, 2011

Insofar as Subliminal Frequencies investigates the informative and influential capacity of light, this particular electromagnetic bandwidth of speculation investigates our subjection to the solar system, as most clearly manifest in the regulatory patterns of circadian rhythms. The nocturnal, electromagnetic reterritorialization or ‘islanding’ practiced by town planners makes use of the undetermined potentials offered by the night and by darkness, turning the nocturnal into a time of terrestrial or tellurian experimentation beyond solar imposition. Here the dead of night does not imply vacuous absence or void but an unthinkable depth of potential anthropically rendered as fear or horror. A similar experimental practice of electromagnetic reterritorialization is carried out the production of architectonic interiorities, the engineers of which perform experiments amidst the freedom and potentials presented through localised terrestrial isolation from cosmic and specifically solar rhythms. This practice of electromagnetic, spectral reterritorialization or ‘islanding’ can be understood, in accordance with an assumed sense of doom, as pragmatic preparation for one last winter, nuclear or otherwise, wherein we might realise the calamitous consequences of our ‘liberation’ from the solar system.

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April 14, 2011

i) Surface capture
ii) Surface contours / composite waveforms
iii) Surface Model

A Note on Herzog & Inscriptions:

This programme of Geotraumatic Resonance Research traces inscriptions in the Earth’s surface, as a needle would in the groove of a record. Accordingly the Earth’s surface is taken as a recording surface, a mnemonic substrate.

Last night I saw Herzog’s utterly amazing Cave of Forgotten Dreams. Herzog’s subterranean explorations into the Chauvet Cave appeared to me as revealing something along the lines of an ‘Idea of inscription’, a tendency towards inscription and marking that persists beyond human inscription and symbolism in general. This Idea is suggested through the intervals of time presented in the juxtaposition between the age of the paintings in the Cahuvet cave and the presence of Herzog and his team, yet also through the more ambiguous intervals presented between the remains of the cave’s various visitors: bears, wolves, humans, the various elements constitutive of the Earth ‘itself’, all of which leave marks across epochs; even within the human inscriptions, any two markings could potentially have been made five thousand years apart.

A one point in the film, Herzog is interviewing an archaeologist, questioning him on archaeology as a production of narratives between objects and events. The archaeologist recounts a story of an Aborigine who, upon discovering an ancient painting that is showing signs of decay, begins to touch up the painting. The ethnographer for whom the Aborigine is a guide asks why he is doing this; “it is not me, it is the spirit that guides my hand” the Aborigine replies. If we don’t simply cast off the Aborigine’s explanation as mythical nonsense, but take it more seriously, what are we to make of this guiding spirit if we are to maintain a position of atheism/nihilism?

Perhaps we can take a cue from Iain Hamilton Grant’s Schellingian recapitulation that states: ‘the primordiality of soul means nothing other than: the ceaseless becoming that is motion is by nature prior to somatic becomings’ (Iain Hamilton Grant, Philosophies of Nature after Schelling, 42). From this we take the soul to be something approximately synonymous with the Aborigine’s guiding spirit. This guiding spirit thereby becomes something other than a humanoid spectre, something more closely related to Ideas or to what we might otherwise refer to as tendencies. In this instance Ideas are interpreted not according to a-formal empirical purity (such as in Deleuze’s account of the Ideas of sound and colour as manifest in white noise and light respectively, see Difference and Repetition, 258) but as informal transcendent tendency. The ‘touching up’ is driven by a desire for inscription, a desire that might be thought to be guided by a more general Idea of inscription, an Idea that stretches throughout and beyond individuals, species, genus, phyla and organism. The Idea of inscription might otherwise be thought as a tendency towards inscription, marks upon a surface that attest to a fleeting presence, to being, becoming, non-being, the residue of events instantaneously diminished in themselves. This tendency towards inscription can be observed in the ancient cave bear who scratched at the walls of the cave, the paleolithic human who did the same, in a wasp that gnaws at the paint on a garage daw; equally we might observe the Idea of inscription in the movements of glaciers that slowly carve out valleys, the gradual folding and general morphology of the Earth that leaves marks, traces, inscriptions upon and within itself. The Idea of inscription perhaps presents a universal mnemonic function that persists in excess of any conscious intention, thereby recognised as natural or general tendency, a writing without or at least anterior to meaning, an (auto-)affective inscription that marks a productivity, trauma or distortion that itself informs as well as documents. We find the Idea of inscription actualised in each of these instances.

This project of Geotraumatic Resonance Research traces an Idea of inscription actualised in the surface of the Earth.

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Geo-traumatic Resonance Research

March 29, 2011

Experiments in reading geological erruptions as recording surfaces, tracing the impressions of the crust’s morphological composition. The geophonographic process used in rendering the surface of the earth audible can be summarised as follows:

1. Documentation of site / surface.
2. Basic image analysis rendering each row of pixels as a waveform.
3. Composite of all rows or waveforms, as detailed in stage 2.

This collection of waveforms derived from the surface image can then be played back all at once or through numerous other methods:

Geophonography by schrimshaw

Further details:

Basic image analysis:

import sys
import Image
arg = sys.argv[1]
im = # read file path specified in argument
dimensions = im.size
row = []
print dimensions[0], dimensions[1]
#for y in range(dimensions[1]): # for number of horizontal rows in image ...
#	for x in range(dimensions[0]):
#		pixval = im.getpixel((x,y))
#		# SC SurfaceReader format:
#		print y, pixval
#		# gnuplot formatted output:
#		#print x, '\t', y, '\t', pixval
#		# .obj format
#		#print 'v', x, y, pixval 
for y in range(dimensions[1]):
	for x in range(dimensions[0]):
		pixval = im.getpixel((x,y))
		row = row.__add__([pixval])
	print row
	row = []

Output the results as a text file to be read by SuperCollider:

python T5.tif > T5.txt

Results of image analysis rendered as waveforms in SuperCollider:

var path, model;
path = "/Volumes/MORTH/Documents/GRRU/Renderings/T5/";
model = "T5";
f = File(path++model++".txt", "r");
l = f.getLine.split($ ).asInteger; // first line gives dimensions
a = Array.newClear(l[0]);
("mkdir "++path++"Buffers/").unixCmd;
SynthDef(\surfaceReader, { |buf|[0,1],, buf,, 
	loop: 0, doneAction: 2)*(1/l[1]));
SynthDef(\doneSynth, {|buf| var play, bus;
	play =, buf,, loop:0, doneAction: 2);[0,1], play*0.3);
s.sync; // wait for Synth to get setup.
l[1].do({ |i|
x = f.getLine(l[0]*10).asArray; 
x =$[, $\n).tr($],$\n).split($,).asInteger; 
r = (x-0)/(255-0) * (1-(-1)) + -1; 
Buffer.loadCollection(s, r, 1);
s.sendMsg(\b_write, i, path++"Buffers/"++i.asString++".aiff", "aiff");
(i.asString++" Written to "++model++"/Buffers").postln; 
"\n\nFile Closed\n\n".postln;
"Writing Score \n\n".postln;
z = File(path++model++".osc","w");
for(0, l[1], {|i|
	e = [0, [\b_allocRead, i, 
for(0, l[1], {|i|
	// buffer length in seconds:
	b = ((l[0]-0)/(44100-0) * (1-0) + 0);
	// figure out buffer length then use for generating OSC timestamps:
	t = i*b;
	e = [t, [\s_new, \doneSynth, 1000+i,0,0, \buf, i]].asRawOSC;
	e = [t+b, 
		[\s_new, \doneSynth, 5000+i,0,0, \buf, i]].asRawOSC;
e = [t+3, [\n_free, 1001]].asRawOSC; // arbitrary last message to end NRT Synthesis
"Score Written\n\n".postln;
"Starting NRT\n\n".postln;
("./scsynth -N "++path++model++".osc"++" _ "++path++model++".aiff"++" 44100 AIFF int16 -b 4096 -a 4096 -n 4096 -o 2").unixCmd;
z = File("/Volumes/MORTH/Documents/GRRU/KE_Bay/AllSurfaceCommands.osc","w");
for(0, l[1], {|i|
	e = [0, [\b_allocRead, i, 
for(0, l[1], {|i|
	e = [0.2, [\s_new, \surfaceReader, 1000+i,0,0, \buf, i]].asRawOSC;
e = [2, [\n_free, 1001]].asRawOSC; // arbitrary last message to end NRT Synthesis
"Score Written\n\n".postln;
"Starting NRT\n\n".postln;
"./scsynth -N /Volumes/MORTH/Documents/GRRU/KE_Bay/AllSurfaceCommands.osc _ /Volumes/MORTH/Documents/GRRU/KE_Bay/KE_Single.aiff 44100 AIFF int16 -b 4096 -a 4096 -n 4096 -o 2".unixCmd;
}); //end booted;

Quantitative Extraction:
An attempt at retrieving something of the intensive quantities behind the surface appearances traced above by way of spectral reduction:

var rampBus = 100, rampNode, goal;
s.sendMsg(\b_allocRead, 0, "/Volumes/MORTH/Documents/GRRU/Renderings/T5/T5.aiff");
s.sendMsg(\c_set, 100, 80);
SynthDef(\freezer, { |freeze, thresh|
	var in, chain;
	in =, 0,, loop: 1);
	chain = FFT(LocalBuf(4096), in);
	chain = PV_MagFreeze(chain, freeze);
	chain = PV_MagAbove(chain, thresh);, IFFT(chain).dup);
SynthDef(\line, { |bus, end, dur, out|
	var ramp;
	ramp =, end, dur, doneAction: 2);, ramp)
s.sendBundle(nil, [\s_new, \freezer, 1000], [\n_map, 1000, \thresh, rampBus]);
goal = 15.rrand(30.5).postln;
s.sendBundle(nil, [\s_new, \line, rampNode = s.nextNodeID, 0,1, \end, goal, \dur, goal],[\n_map, rampNode, \bus, rampBus]);
s.sendMsg(\n_set, 1000, \freeze, 0);
s.sendMsg(\n_set, 1000, \freeze, 1);
}).play; // end Routine.
}); // end doWhenBooted.
// Non-Realtime Output:
var goal;
t = 1;
z = File("/Volumes/MORTH/Documents/GRRU/Renderings/T5/T5_Extraction.osc","w");
e = [0, [\b_allocRead, 0, "/Volumes/MORTH/Documents/GRRU/Renderings/T5/T5.aiff"]].asRawOSC;
e = [0, [\c_set, 100, 150]].asRawOSC;
e = [0, [\s_new, \freezer, 1000, 0, 0]].asRawOSC;
e = [0, [\n_map, 1000, \thresh, 100]].asRawOSC;
z.write(e);{ |i|
	goal = 15.rrand(30.5);
	e = [t, [\s_new, \line, 1000+i, 0,0,
		\end, goal, \dur, goal]].asRawOSC;
	e = [t, [\n_map, 1000+i, \bus, 100]].asRawOSC;
	t = t + goal;
	e = [t, [\n_set, 1000, \freeze, 0]].asRawOSC;
	t = t + 0.01.rrand(0.1);
	e = [t, [\n_set, 1000, \freeze, 1]].asRawOSC;
	t = t+0.01;
	t = t+30;
	e = [t, [\n_free, 1001]].asRawOSC;
"./scsynth -N /Volumes/MORTH/Documents/GRRU/Renderings/T5/T5_Extraction.osc _ /Volumes/MORTH/Documents/GRRU/Renderings/T5/T5_Extraction.aiff 44100 AIFF int16 -b 4096 -a 4096 -n 4096 -o 2".unixCmd;

Further instances of geophonographic practice: geophonography.

Comments (1) | Tags: , , , , ,

Background Noise

December 9, 2010

Noise and airs are often generally subtle enough in their fluctuations to become imperceptible, defining the background of an environment due their persistence. By virtue of their existence as part of the background of the day to day experience of an environment, they constitute that which a sound or smell must set itself apart from in becoming perceptible or moving to the fore. Both often fall beneath the thresholds of conscious perception, temporarily slipping into imperceptibility, while at the same time defining these thresholds.

Below are some experiments combining background noise and data derived from the quantaties of diverse airs populating the background of our respiratory and olfactory experience.

PlagueCloud.aiff (large file).

These are experiments and don’t need to go on for long, so duplicate lines were removed from the log files using the following emacs commands:

C-x h C-u M-x shell-command-on-region RET uniq RET

The SuperCollider code responsible for the sounds above:

	var average, length, int, subav, duration, value;
	f = File("/Users/cl-user/PlagueCloudReduction.txt", "r");
	// put the contents of the file into an array, as long as it is not nil:
	a =;{ |i|
	v = f.getLine;
	if (v != nil, {
	a.add(v.asInteger); });
	// calculate average value of the file (background noise):
	average = a.sum/a.size;
	"average : ".post; average.postln;
	f.close; // dispose of exhausted file.
	// open anew:
	f = File("/Users/cl-user/PlagueCloudReduction.txt", "r");
	// get server ready for recording:
	s.recSampleFormat_("int16");	// lame has issues with whatever the default settings are
								// so int16 set for easy mp3 encoding.
	// buses:
	s.sendMsg(c_set, 100, 20);		// frequency bus
	s.sendMsg(c_set, 200, 0.01);	// q bus
	s.sendMsg(c_set, 300, 0.4);	// vol bus
	// White Noise through a bandpass filter:
	SynthDef(bpass, {
		|freq, rq, vol|
		var noise;
		noise =, freq, rq, vol);[0,1],*, freq, 0.1, 0.2, mul: 0.05),
			100, 1.2, 0.75, drylevel: 0.5));
	// a line generator to control the freq, q and volume of the above synth:
	SynthDef(line, {
		|outbus, end, dur|,, end, dur, doneAction:2));
	// Start the synth:
	s.sendBundle(nil, [s_new, bpass, x = s.nextNodeID, 0, 1],[n_map, x, freq, 100, rq, 200, 	vol, 300]);
	// start recording:
// send values derived from log file to synths: ({
// use the length of the array that the log values are stored in to determine length of the loop:{
		int = f.getLine.asInteger;
		duration = int / 100;
		value = ((int)**((int)/int));
			[s_new, line, s.nextNodeID, 0,1, outbus, 100, end, value, dur, duration],
			[s_new, line, s.nextNodeID, 0,1, outbus, 200, end, int/120000, dur, duration],
			[s_new, line, s.nextNodeID, 0,1, outbus, 300, end, int/30, dur, duration]
	}); // end loop
	f.close; 			// close the log file
	5.wait;			// wait five seconds
	s.stopRecording;	// stop recording
	//s.quit;			// kill server
}).play; // end routine
}); // end when booted..
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A Calamitous Plague Cloud Descends

December 8, 2010

Earlier today I popped out to deposit a canary in Ford Park to gather more data. As I felt I needed the exercise I took a walk over hoad hill on my way to pick up some more wool from Loopy’s in Ulverston. Coming down off the hill into the town I immediately became aware of a faint but foul stench, reminding me of both Painthorpe pig farm and the smell of burning hair during boring science lessons at school. This smell grew stronger as I got further towards the town centre. I spent a little time trying to locate the source of the smell but most of the clouds emitted from the buildings in town were pleasantly fragrant in comparison. The situation continued to get worse and a thick mist descended upon Ulverston. I returned quickly to Lanternhouse to get a mobile canary in order to investigate any possible correlations between what I was smelling and the overall quality of the air. I followed the cloud from Neville Street to the edge of Ulverston along Stockbridge lane, at which point the smell began to disappear, so I headed back into town to gather what data I could.

Despite the canary not being calibrated and therefore not being able to give precise readings on what amounts of which chemicals are present in the air, we can contrast the results gathered using the same equipment on different days. Ruskin characterised the plague-clouds descending upon Coniston according to their erratic movement. While I can’t comment on the visual movements of the cloud surrounding Ulverston this evening, the reading I was getting while seeking out its thresholds were certainly erratic in contrast to that which I’ve become accustomed to seeing while walking around the area. The first two images above show a plot of air quality against location gathered earlier this evening. The faint green line shows the route taken through town and the size of the circles indicates fluctuations in air quality. The third image is a plot of a similar walk taken a couple of days ago, on what can be considered a fairly normal day in Ulverston with only very minor fluctuations in air quality throughout the town. There was something in the air tonight, and it wasn’t very nice.

An alternative plot of this evening’s data:

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Atmospheric Proxemics

December 8, 2010

Some notes on the broader concerns of the invisible cartographies project:

There are two sides to the invisible dynamics of the landscape revealed by this project. The first presents these dynamisms as components or qualities of the landscape as an objective reality, as fluctuations that are part of the landscape itself and not simply perceived fluctuations or subjective variations determined as such according to given thresholds of perception. The second is not wholly separate but certainly different in that it is focussed upon these same fluctuations as they occur within the proximity of a human body. This latter point refers to the data gathered by the mobile or bluetooth canaries which log fluctuations in localised atmospherics against latitude and longitude, fluctuations occurring around the human carrying the device and therefore charting an atmosphere to which the carrier or walker contributes through their breathing or other gaseous expulsions.


The above image is an attempt to show the second of the two orientations mentioned above. The faint green line shows a walk around Ulverston, the centre of each circle indicates a point on the walk at which a sample of the air was taken. The varying diameter of the circles shows fluctuations in air quality. This seems like a particularly suitable way of expressing a kind of gaseous proxemics visually. Proxemics is a term taken from the work of Edward T. Hall. Proxemics can be thought of as the study of personal space, but more precisely it’s socio-cultural or broadly contextual flexibility. A proxemic boundary can be considered broken when another person stands too close. Anyone with a sibling has surely unknowingly experimented with proxemics on long car journeys as a family: one child puts a hand close to the body of the other while claiming that they’re “not doing anything” as their is no physical contact being made. The other child calls out to the parent that their brother/sister is “in my space”, the limit of this space being perceived to be highly ambiguous and often getting little support from the parents. The proximity of the hand to the body of the brother or sister is, however, certain to annoy due to proxemic or personal space being transgressed. While from the outside, or the front of the car the boundaries of the spaces between kids in the back are hard to determine, the kids know precisely where they lie and how to manipulate them. This is of course a really simple example of the complex components and contextual determinants of personal space, which Hall describes in more detail (see The Hidden Dimension). Of particular interest to my own work is Hall’s discussion of auditory and olfactory proxemics, or the contribution of sound and smell to the determination of personal space. The work I’m doing as part of this residency can’t really be considered proxemic research as proxemics are always concerned with the thresholds of interpersonal space, and much of the work I’m doing involves walking alone or in small groups with the focus being placed upon the material composition of an invisible space rather than the interpersonally determined thresholds of personal space, invisible or otherwise. The reason for bringing this up here is that the work being done in mapping atmospheres that circle the body can perhaps be thought of as impersonal proxemics, insofar as it is concerned with the particular elements that contribute to a personal atmosphere that circles individuals and constitutes an ambiguous boundary. While this is less about interpersonal space, this is due to the fact that it is more concerned with how impersonal and inhuman elements nonetheless contribute to what we think of the personal or the space of the self.

Diffuse Bodies

This project is orientated around the diffuse interactions of bodies, human bodies, bodies of air, micro and macroscopic bodies; it busies itself charting the spatio-temporal contingencies of the confused and corpuscular space of which the self is composed. The human as one such body appears in this schema as being composed of―as well as constantly decomposing into―a corpuscular space or atmosphere that both surrounds and permeates individual, proxemic territories. This project approaches the self in terms of a corpuscular space that determines its proxemic territory, the self and not just the body, as this would be both too simple and reductive as the body is clearly observed as being composed of a number of potentially autonomous units. Perhaps there is a tendency to think of the self as a more unitary and unified mode of existence, such as where we write “I” but could just as easily read this symbol numerically as 1. The self thought as diffuse and dependent upon a corpuscular space is thought in a manner more thoroughly confused with a wider environment or atmosphere upon which it depends and with which it is enmeshed. In this model the self is thought as the composition of every element comprising the confusion of body, soul and ecological atmosphere.

The Particular Importance of the Invisible and Corpuscular

Foregrounding the invisible movements, interactions and constitutive contingencies of that which is apparently solid and stable serves to alter and embed a critical function within those thresholds of perception that are allowed to contribute to ontological determination where we hold too strongly to empiricism. We currently face catastrophe, and a factor contributing to the denial of our own implication within this calamitous future is the common ease with which stability and solidity are taken as the chief characteristics of reality, as it is perceived by the eye, ear, or senses in general. We cannot rely upon that which gives itself to perception, upon that which is easily and readily perceived according to inherent sensory capacities, and so we must forcefully bring to the fore elements and qualities of that which resists, ‘withdraws’, or rather exceeds the possibility of perception according to the thresholds of perception as they are simply given. The example that always springs to mind here is of the enormous problem of plastic in the oceans. I once heard a radio programme where two Women out doing research in the pacific described beautifully clear water on a lovely sunny day. They then went on to talk about how the water for miles around was saturated with microscopic particles of plastic that were clogging the up the bodies of marine life. The visible plastic was less of a problem, but would eventually be broken apart and spread itself over thousands of miles into the guts of thousands of fish, mammals, birds and so on. Where we remain focussed upon an understanding of the environment that relies upon that which is empirically justifiable such problems pass us by. In a similar way we might think of Ruskin’s plague-clouds and ‘calamitous winds’ which can be thought as close relatives of smog. While the smoke and smog of the industrial revolution may have cleared and been sandblasted from the walls of our cities, we now face an invisible yet nonetheless substantive threat in the form of pollution that persists, in part at least, due to its imperceptibility. On the subject of “plague-winds”, “smoke-cloud” and “dense manufacturing mist” Ruskin commented on “the uselessness of observation by instruments, or machines, instead of eyes”. It is this sufficiency of the given thresholds of perception that we must continually move beyond in order to take account of the substantive operations of the invisible and imperceptible, embedding them within our image of reality.

A Technical Note

gnuplot commands for the above plot:

set terminal png
unset tics
unset border
unset key
set output 'proxemic.png'
plot '~/Documents/FLI/Walks/24thNovember/24-11-2010@16.17.33.txt' u 2:3:($5/470000) w circles lc rgb "black", 
'~/Documents/FLI/Walks/24thNovember/24-11-2010@16.17.33.txt' u 2:3 w lp
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December 6, 2010

Above is evidence of my knitting prowess or lack thereof. This pattern is the simplest possible translation of the data gathered on a walk carried out on 25th November 2010 into simple knitting code. The file generated by the phone used to log the walk was reduced to include only changes up or down in ozone concentrations. Changes in intensity were then condensed but kept in their original order.

+ = k, – = p.


11.46.00	54.19878602027893	-3.0920612812042236	75.0	364
11.46.02	54.19880211353302	-3.0920612812042236	75.0	364
11.47.08	54.19882893562317	-3.092072010040283	77.0	358
11.47.09	54.198925495147705	-3.0913370847702026	77.0	358
11.47.10	54.198946952819824	-3.091326355934143	80.0	358

… became p6, and so on until I ended up with the following pattern:


Tomorrow I move onto colours.

Ideas on how to integrate the location data with the shifts in airs when creating patterns are warmly received.

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Ruskin and the Nephological Medium

December 6, 2010

In carrying out research into the history of air while working on this residency, Ruskin came up a number of times, which is not surprising giving the location of the residency. I know very little of Ruskin, but have found his meteorological speculations fascinating since digging out his two lectures on The Storm Cloud of The Nineteenth Century. Ruskin made many studies of clouds, some of which I had the pleasure of seeing last Friday at Brantwood. Rather than his aesthetics, it is on the concepts presented in his lectures on clouds, presented to the London Institution in 1884, that I’d like to focus on now. All the quotes below are taken from the transcript of the lectures available here: . What follows is a few quick notes on what I consider the highlights of these lectures. It is these lectures that I’m particularly interested in as they contain a mixture of careful description with physical and mystical speculation on the nature of diverse clouds. Perhaps unsurprisingly, clouds are defined as such by Ruskin according to their visibility, yet this distinction is not made without ambiguity as Ruskin will speak of airborne bodies composed of “an invisible, yet quite substantial, vapour; but not, according to our definition, a cloud, for a cloud is vapour visible.” While not a cloud, these invisible vapourous bodies nonetheless remain substantial, affective objects. Ruskin goes someway to beginning a taxonomy of clouds based around floating “sky clouds” and falling “earth clouds”, but it is the bodies of air that are not quite clouds that I find particularly interesting, the mists that Ruskin identifies as existing in-between sky and earth clouds. It is the status of being in-between that is particularly interesting as it is that which does not quite satisfy Ruskin’s taxonomic criteria for cloud status that pertains to the invisible and to the diffuse bodies of a subtle and subliminal influence. This in-between status alludes to a body of air in transformation, between states, in flux; it is this being in-between or interstitial existence that is in part behind Deleuze and Guattari’s mention of fog and mist where they relate both theses states of the air to what they call a haecceity, a being that is in the process of becoming something else, always in a state of change, ephemeral and contingent: ‘ a haecceity is inseparable from the fog and mist that depend on a molecular zone, a corpuscular space’, (A Thousand Plateaus, 301).

Beyond Ruskin’s general work on clouds, it is the concern he expressed for a dark and menacing wind or cloud particular to the 19th century that is really interesting: “This wind is the plague-wind of the eighth decade of years in the nineteenth century; a period which will assuredly be recognized in future meteorological history as one of phenomena hitherto unrecorded in the courses of nature, and characterized pre-eminently by the almost ceaseless action of this calamitous wind.” This calamitous wind is most easily characterised as the product of rapid industrialisation and signals Ruskin’s environmental concerns, but what is of particular interest is that the action of the plague-wind or cloud cannot be neatly restrained to the problem of pollution, insofar as Ruskin bears what we would now refer to as a broadly ecological understanding of its contingencies, interconnections and extensions, with cloud formations occupying the position of a medium between industry, politics morality and subjectivity. The extent of Ruskin’s implication of the plague-cloud within an ecological field comprising the political, spiritual and environmental can be seen in the second of his lectures on the subject where he describes “the clouds and darkness of a furious storm, issuing from the mouths of fiends—uprooting the trees, and throwing down the rocks, above the broken tables of the Law, of which the fragments lie in the foreground.” Here the nephological is understood to seep not only into organic bodies but to infiltrate the Law, which due to its capitalisation should be read as referring to the domain of morals and ethics in general, to an order of social power and control.

Ruskin’s plague cloud “looks partly as if it were made of poisonous smoke; very possibly it may be: there are at least two hundred furnace chimneys in a square of two miles on every side of me. But mere smoke would not blow to and fro in that wild way. It looks more to me as if it were made of dead men’s souls—such of them as are not gone yet where they have to go, and may be flitting hither and thither, doubting, themselves, of the fittest place for them.” Here the plague-cloud is not limited to being thought as solely produced by furnaces and composed of the diffuse elements of burnt offerings to industrial progress (the “sulphurous chimney-pot vomit of blackguardly cloud”), but as being confused with the soul and the flight of the dead, echoing conceptions of the air as the medium of the spirits that has persisted for millennia. The broadly ecological (by which I mean an understanding of the interconnectedness of all things rather than the strictly ‘natural’) implication of the nephological, of clouds, mists and winds, within a distinctly moral and spiritual order can be found in Ruskin’s conclusion to the first lecture:

“Blanched Sun,—blighted grass,—blinded man.—If, in conclusion, you ask me for any conceivable cause or meaning of these things—I can tell you none, according to your modern beliefs; but I can tell you what meaning it would have borne to the men of old time. Remember, for the last twenty years, England, and all foreign nations, either tempting her, or following her, have blasphemed the name of God deliberately and openly; and have done iniquity by proclamation, every man doing as much injustice to his brother as it is in his power to do. Of states in such moral gloom every seer of old predicted the physical gloom, saying, “The light shall be darkened in the heavens thereof, and the stars shall withdraw their shining.” All Greek, all Christian, all Jewish prophecy insists on the same truth through a thousand myths; but of all the chief, to former thought, was the fable of the Jewish warrior and prophet, for whom the sun hasted not to go down, with which I leave you to compare at leisure the physical result of your own wars and prophecies, as declared by your own elect journal not fourteen days ago,—that the Empire of England, on which formerly the sun never set, has become one on which he never rises.”

The plague-cloud here constitutes a grim and filthy prophecy, being enfolded within a moral, spiritual and political order. That these clouds should have been thought by Ruskin to have moral and spiritual implications is not entirely surprising when taken in the context of certain aspects of scientific and philosophical thought prevalent around the time he presented these lectures. During the 1870’s, there are accounts of not only the physical impacts of diverse atmospheres such as tropical climates upon immigrant and primarily colonial populations, but also the moral impact of the climate upon its ill-prepared, ill-tempered, or ill-weathered European subjects who sought to exploit the resources of far-off lands ( a nice introduction to these ideas can be heard here ). While there is a highly dangerous element to this kind of thinking on climates and atmospheres, a danger that persists where environmental determinism is allowed to remain unilateral, according to which people are simply a product of their environment and the subjects of climate, where the influence of atmospheres and environments is taken amidst a broader approach to atmospheric influence and environmental interactions it helps account for the nuances of ecological relations, including (as in Ruskin’s work) the natural, synthetic, political and spiritual.

There are a few fragments within the two lectures that I find particularly interesting from the point of view of artistic practice and spatial productions, namely the moments where Ruskin considers the composition of clouds that are not normally considered natural or strictly meteorological. Considering the malignant qualities of plague-clouds, Ruskin briefly wonders whether “perhaps, with forethought, and fine laboratory science, one might make it of something else”. Here I’m inclined to speculate on Ruskin’s spirit of invention, imagining it turned towards the production of clouds as an artform or architecture of the air, and imagine Ruskin dabbling in the production of clouds of a more agreeable composition, releasing them from a laboratory that was never built onto the side of Brantwood. We can find a further fragment of a larval nephological synthesis in Ruskin’s question: “What—it would be useful to know, is the actual bulk of an atom of orange perfume?—what of one of vaporized tobacco, or gunpowder?—and where do these artificial vapors fall back in beneficent rain? or through what areas of atmosphere exist, as invisible, though perhaps not innocuous, cloud?” In these questions we find Ruskin considering atmospheric production by means of perfume, explosions and smoking, and an altogether more experimental mode of thinking on the subject of atmospherics and cloud production.

Hopefully by the end of this residency I can draw up a reading list to enable me to take these speculations further.
These final images were taken during an earlier trip to Coniston to gather samples in Ruskin’s garden:

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