The Ghosts in the Machine

The performance programme reflects the relationship between “old” and “new” media, bringing together the past and the present of the festival. It explores the compatibility and incompatibility of analogue and digital media against the background of McLuhan’s twin theses that “no medium has its meaning or existence alone, but only in constant interplay with other media”, and that the new can only proceed from the specifics of the old. Employing media-archaeological approaches to the materiality of media, a range of works will therefore be presented which themselves “listen in” on analogue media – the digital instruments in a sense functioning as “listening devices”. In a series of analogue/digital audiovisual performances, inherent qualities specific to older media will be revealed, luring out the “ghosts in the machine”.

 

This approach refers both to concepts like Derrida’s “hauntology”, which characterises human beings at the beginning of the 21st century as being dogged by “ghosts of the past”, and to British pop-cultural theorists like Mark Fisher or Simon Reynolds, who use the term to describe a genre of pop music in which historical sounds – like the crackling of vinyl records – are taken up as basic sound elements. The issue however is not about any nostalgic belief in a “better past”, but rather, as the journalist Olaf Karnik has put it, about “memory and the loss of a future” and about a “neo-contextualisation of the neglected and the suppressed”. Frequently, says Karnik, “old sounds contain within them the outlines of a future that never was, and visions of horror that never came to pass” that are “once again brought back to the surface, demanding our attention.”

 

This questioning of history is not however limited to pop music, but can also be found in comparable ways in media art. Here too, discarded equipment and recording devices are brought out of storage, further carving out their own essences in combination with digital media, prising open new levels of meaning, and bringing unredeemed promises and forgotten dreams back out into the daylight.


Joshua Light Show

At the heart of the performance programme is the legendary Joshua Light Show, who in the 1960s appeared at New York’s Fillmore East club alongside Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and The Doors. Originally working with an entire arsenal of film-, overhead-, and slide-projectors, colour wheels and various light-producing and reflecting objects, founder Joshua White will, after a long break, perform again in a setting which combines analogue with modern digital projection techniques. As part of transmediale, a series of collaborations with musicians will be initiated, bringing together analogue and digital sound-production, and featuring exponents of so-called hauntology and hypnagogic pop.

 

Further Ghosts in the Machine

Other works include the performance ideomotoric chatroom, which was developed specifically for transmediale 2012 by the Austrian video (feedback) artist and musician Billy Roisz together with the musicians dieb13 and Mario de Vega. The title refers to the ideomotor effect – the fact that the contemplation of a specific movement produces an impulse to execute this particular action – and recalls phenomena such as the Ouija board. Accordingly, the artists and machines in the performance act as though they were being moved by an invisible hand; the inherent logic of the reflex-like, unconscious interaction between the audio and visual signals is revealed by three superimposed projections on a single screen. Wolfgang Spahn und Martin Howse’s sound and light performance Liquid State Machine combines chemical, biological and physical processes within a complex machine that generates an uninterrupted space-sound continuum. The viewer is almost irresistibly drawn into the universe of constantly changing organic structures comprising the hypnotic sounds and flowing kaleidoscopic images that are created through the simultaneous convergence and divergence of Howse’s noise machines and Spahn’s digital/analogue projectors. This kind of hybrid media materiality and temporality lies at the centre of The Ghosts in The Machine performance programme.

 

The performance programme is curated by Sandra Naumann.