Of Future Pasts – Københavns Universitet

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ESSA2014: Mapping the Field > Documents > Of Future Pasts

Of Futures Past. Contemporary Sound Works with Obsolete Technologies
Kate Donovan

The vast majority of contemporary arts festivals are centred around digital culture, digital technologies and the latest advancements in technology. Despite this, currently there is a plethora of artists who choose to work and experiment with analogue media, obsolete, outdated or abandoned technologies. In this panel of artist presentations, installations and performances, the research and practice of such sound artists will be introduced and discussed in an attempt to expose and understand prevalent working methods that are sidelined all too often.

Such works are not limited to, but could employ mediums such as:

  • Outdated/historical recording devices. The phonograph cylinder/disc, electrical recording, optical recording, magnetic recording (wire recorders/reel to reel tape/cassette tape), obsolete or early digital devices (mini disc/compact disc).
  • Obsolete technologies. Dot‐matrix printers, discman/Walkman, fax machines, video recorders, OHP, floppy discs, Gameboy or other gaming devices, early computers (Atari, commodore64, amiga, etc).
  • Hacking, circuit‐bending or recycling.

On a more theoretical level, themes such as perception, historicism and materiality can be considered. All of the aforementioned technologies were, in their time, cutting edge, and all of them were replaced or ‘improved’ usually by faster, smaller, more functional versions. Is artistic expression the only remaining use for such obsolete technologies?

What can we learn about contemporary society by looking at artistic uses of the remains of futures past? What are the conceptual, commercial, aesthetic reasons for working in this field? – the abundance of obsolete technologies? – giving meaning to abandoned technologies? Are artists working in these mediums making a statement against consumer culture? Can these technologies be used simply for novelty value? Does there always have to be a sense of nostalgia, or are artists able to ‘look forward’ by referring to futures past?

This panel will take place Saturday 15:45 - 17:45

Panel XV: Of Futures Past. Contemporary Sound Works with Obsolete Technologies
Chair: Heikki Uimonen

  • Lemke, Helmut: The Noise of the Process
  • Zapparoli, Marta: The Significance of Tape, and ‘Inaudible Sounds’
  • Riis, Morten: Sounding Media Archaeology