Oceanomicon A cartophonic interface

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Description

Sound installation using a touch-responsive map made of fabric, cyanotype on canvas 4m x 3m, computer, Pure Data, 24” monitor, field recordings, two speakers & two theremins

The Oceanomicon is a cartographic artefact which emerges from the corrosive wake of the Carbon Gas in the One Ocean. This large-scale object made with fabric and cyanotype is more than a mere world map that one can only appreciate by sight; it is a sensory cartography of knowledge and affect, operating on the edge of human perception. From the folds of this liminal atlas, a conductive wiring harness and a bundle of audio devices are interfaced between the fabric’s membrane and the antenna of two theremins, creating an infra-sensible channel of amplification. By touching the blue of the map with the tip of your fingers, find the porosity between the terrestrial and the oceanic life. If you channel the ether waves of the theremins in you, an environmental murmur will be unveiled by the ebb and flow: the intimate sound of the seawater in your veins under the increasing acidification.

Watch Oceanomicon’s haptic call here.

Process

Can a sonic sensitivity raise empathetic awareness about such a silent climate change as the ocean acidification? 

Thinking about the ocean acidification is a haunting state of mind because of its complex nature and its ensuing vertigo. This terrifying word combination is corroding our ability of understanding and it draws a veil of silence on this "Other Carbonic problem" of our planet. From this blind spot, we can easily miss out essential questions on the fragile agency of our ecological era. Do we know enough about the cycle of carbon dioxide and its consequences?  Are we well aware that this gas absorbed by the Ocean is making its seawater blood vessels more and more acid? Is our knowledge of the world, our language and our perceptions sufficient to connect ourself with this corrosive phenomenon?

In the face of all these concerns which go beyond us, I became obsessed with the idea to create a space to listen to this hidden acidity. During my efforts of research to find an aural passage to these limits, an object made of blue cloth was emerged, an Oceanomicon, a map of the Ceaseless Sea, a touch-responsive interface with sonic bio-feedbacks. Combining field recording, cartophony, audio technology and a singular configuration of our senses, this interactive installation is conceived as a place between terrestrial and oceanic life where we can blend ourself with the acid corporeality of the One Ocean. 

Interfacing curiosity 

 ~ interface as a space of discontinuity and a form of relation between two entities: 

The demarcation between land and sea is one of the largest natural boundaries of our world and its crossing has always been part of a very fertile collective imagery. However, this work is stimulated by an envy to blur this dichotomy by expanding its opened border and thus to highlight the space of encounter between these two entities. 

~ interface as a technological apparatus to set an ecological entanglement: 

Do you also feel this sense of wonder at all the devices we can use to interconnect electronic equipment and thus create an intelligent form of interactions? Extending this fascination, maybe we are able to subtly intertwined ourself with our environment through this panoply of technology? Perhaps field recordings, fabric, cyanotype, conductive sensors, programming language and theremin's ether waves are the key elements to open the passage towards the acidic layer of the Ocean?

Ear-hand-eye coordination 

~ composing an alternative ordering of our perceptions: 

As a sound practitioner, I am interested in proposing a certain synergy between our senses in my work. I find that being a listener is a particular stance which allows us to think differently about how our perceptions can work together to feel the world. Setting a singular relationship between listening, touching and seeing is an attempt to generate an emotional intelligence from the audience towards the Oceanomicon. 

~ being playful with hors-champs and landmarks: 

Vision is stimulated by certitudes and distinctions that take roots in us throughout our lifetime. However, when these bases are destabilised, this visual disorientation could lead someone to use their other senses to fill the gaps. Playing with the unseen and our visual marks aims to build a different way of narrative to deal with ecological burden. Following the same reasoning, drifting away from the famous Mercator planisphere to the Spilhaus map is a cartographic confusion that aims to break our habits by shifting us toward a more oceanic perspective. 

~ a kind touch to connect with fragility: 

With our haptic sensitivity, we can create an encounter and we can compress the distance between land and sea to melt ourself into the otherness. Touching is an act of intimacy which can reveal the corrosive link between carbon and seawater. Getting closer to this blue world printed in the drape of the fabric is an invitation for the delicacy of our finger tips. 

~ there is something in the ocean, there is listening 

Our aural sense is the key to understand the hidden dimension of this artwork. Sound is a vector of transmission that helps to articulate the oceanic feeling and to explore its insensible nature. Active listening materialises the agency of the present moment, reminding us the sea's perilous state.  Hearing the underwater sound of an acid-base reaction participates in overcoming the abstraction of the acidification. Setting a sonic environmental bio-feedback is also a sensitive attempt to re-amplify the trans-corporeal bound between human and sea. 

Infra-wandering 

~ facing the vertigo of the entire ocean and its acidic shades: 

Even from a standpoint of chemistry with the pH measurement, the changing nature of the acidification through a scale going from 1 to 14 still seems intangible for us. What does it mean when a liquid pH declines from 8.2 to below 8.1? Is it a minor change? Or is it a serious upheaval? Yet, this slight change of decimal is what is happening in the world's oceans and it is already deeply corroding the marine life. What is this feeling of confusion that emanates from the grandeur of the Ceaseless Sea and the internal chemistry of its seawater vessels? An unknown dimension seems to unfold from the deep, its call arises both an unsettling strangeness and a lot of fascination... an infra-world. 

~ persevering on the unfelt path: 

Delving into the acid windings of the ocean is groping along, by trial and error, sometimes drowning in its complexity. Giving up the sonification of the acidification because of a lack of pH data, getting lost in the distortions of the map projections, printing deformed cyanotypes, programming aberrant audio patches on PureData... Even if we are constantly stranded on the shores of the sea, this tenacity to dive into the water again is important. Combining all these accumulated experiences is a possibility to generate a piece of answer. 

~ bringing something back from this hidden territory... a sense of infra-lucidity: 

Perhaps through this obstinate attachment to fathom the ocean acidification, the Oceanomicon's aura reminds us that some phenomena of the world will always dwell in the shadows of our perceptions. The act of feeling an ineffable reality is the source of teaching which should not be underestimated. Bringing back the unsettling strange echo of the infra-world is a way to improve the audience vigilance towards the environment. This complex ecology should be a warning to us to always navigate the waters of this lightly sketched world with caution. We must remain humble and alert with respect to the uncertainties of the acidic veil of the One Ocean. 

This little acid chunk that I took from the wounded sea... 

Opening the listening to the "haunted landscapes of the Anthropocene" is increasingly becoming the path of my artistic journey and the Oceanomicon is another demonstration of this commitment. The territory of the ocean acidification was a great source of learning to develop my way of combining sound arts and environmental problems. Although I decided to deal with this phenomenon by choosing a trans-corporeal and infra-lucid approach, I still wish to find a way to sound the pH data by developing collaborations with oceanographers and art science organisations (e.g., the Tara Ocean Foundation). Perhaps by drawing from transdisciplinary sharing, the Oceanomicon can open up to new horizons.

Through the conception of this cartophonic interface, I gathered an interesting layout of technologies which I want to keep using for my future projects. Working with haptic interaction has offered a deeper degree of engagement with listening experiences and this new sensory relationship is leading my creativity towards stimulating perspectives. In a surprising way, I did not expect to build up a strong affinity with theremins and PureData during the development of my interactive apparatus. This singular way to modulate field recordings even makes me consider live performance ideas which could be a fine addition to my interest in sonography. 

The hybridisation of my sounds with fabric and cyanotype offered me a certain physicality in my work that I had never encountered before. Even though it was a challenging learning process, I found that it helped me to build confidence in engaging with new types of material. This experience gives me a new window of possibilities to share my aural sensitivity. 



ABOUT MATHIAS ARRIGNON

Mathias Arrignon (he/him, born in France) has the tendency to be interfaced with any type of audio devices. This technological affinity is an extension of his aurality, a sensitive curiosity to uncover facets of our world which are on the edge of our perceptions or that need a greater audibility. This spirit of sharing is grounded in his sound engineer career, instilling him a careful attention to transmit sonic perspectives whether on radiophonic waves, through the sound design of films or the placement of his microphones. By pursuing the MA sound arts at the London College of Communication, he is refining his versatile use of sounds to infuse a more empathetic listening to our world.

To see more of Mathias Arrignon’s work visit:

https://mathias.arrignon.fr/
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