29 AUGUST – 16 SEPTEMBER2005
Curator Lyndal Jones
John Mackinnon Almost Saturn, 2005
Phil Edwards Shotgun Science, 2005
LOCATING THE MOBILE
“Where r u now?” Contemporary everyday practices are seemingly unavoidable without the micro-coordinations of mobile devices. Trams and supermarkets are full of those one-sided (slightly autistic) conversations that are part of mobile performativity and the associated practices of ‘co-presence’ (being here and yet there). Mobile phones are an essential part of first world everyday practices and are thus loaded with symbolism and meaning associated with culturally specific forms of individualism and sociality. The mobile phone “connects us” to unspoken forms of meaning; so much so that one could argue that the mobile phone as an object is communicating more in terms of social and cultural values than as an actual form of communication technology.
In the recent London terrorist attacks, it was the ordinary everyday mobile user that was transformed into the journalist/ photo-journalist. With the rise of remediated (compositions of old and new technologies) and yet emerging genres such as the camera phone and mobile video web, the multi-modality of mobile devices are taking photography into the hands of the everyday user. And so what will be the effects of the “power of now” (Wilhelm et al, 2005) aesthetics of mobile media on such disciplines as photography and video art? How do we make sense of this convergent mobile phenomenon and how does this impact on the so-called “user”? In short, how do we locate the mobile?
The mobile phone – as symbolic of global ICTs (Information and Communication Technologies) – demonstrates the importance of the local in the mobile’s uneven dissemination and appropriation in the Asia-Pacific region. For example, the Asia-Pacific region is marked by uneven penetration rates and usages of mobile technologies – from “3G (third generation) centres” such as Tokyo and Seoul to low-tech adaptations by the Filipino people in the “texting god” phenomenon (Ellwood-Clayton 2004; Bell 2004).
The mobile phone has become a key example of an object imbued with modes of individualization and personalization, operating as a symbol for one’s identity and identification as signified by the importance of customization (Hjorth 2003a). What polyphonic ringtone, screen saver or how we personalize our text messages (or not) acts as an extension of our identity as a signifier of cultural values and tastes. This series of works explores some of the symbolic and cultural particularities of mobile media in the “IT keitai (mobile) revolution” centre of Tokyo. These works seek to provide a space in which we can meditate and reflect on the different symbolic values of mobile telephony in our everyday practices. By taking away the aurality associated with mobile practices we are left with visual vignettes… fleeting moments and messages in the language of being mobile. Tokyo may seem an extreme example of mobile ubiquity (and indicative of the future of mobile telephony) but it is important to recognize that in Melbourne – whilst users in general may be less inclined to adorn their phone with a plethora of Hello Kitty – user rates and customization/ personalization are arguably as high. This exhibition is less about Tokyo mobile phones but rather providing a space for Melbourne users to consider their own forms of vicarious identification via the symbolic connection of the mobile phone. It is about locating the mobile…
Saturn is a source of intense radio emissions, which have been monitored by the Cassini spacecraft. The Cassini spacecraft began detecting these radio emissions in April 2002, when Cassini was 374 million kilometers (234 million miles) from the planet, using the Cassini radio and plasma wave science instrument. The radio and plasma wave instrument has now provided the first high resolution observations of these emissions, showing an amazing array of variations in frequency and time. The complex radio spectrum with rising and falling tones, is very similar to Earth’s auroral radio emissions. These structures indicate that there are numerous small radio sources moving along magnetic field lines threading the auroral region. (NASA)
The planetary system is the property of science and mythology. Recent news from NASA was that the sound of Saturn is now available. Radio waves or such like electronic sprites have been recorded and transmuted into something that sounded audible to the human ear. Time on these recording has been compressed, so that 73 seconds corresponded to 27 minutes. NASA has shifted them downward by a factor of 44.
Driving through the city traffic these compressed manifestations of physics from the outer solar system came to me via the car stereo like some 1950’s science fiction film soundtrack. Science left me to imagine a Saturnian solar storm blowing across cold moons, mystic freezing surfaces and bright rings of gaseous nebula.
What was at once something new – REALLY new – and extraordinary, immediately become familiar, i.e. within the labyrinthine realms of imagination. As compressed as the sound was my memories became equally compressed in some time loop. AS SOON as I was able to hear it, the Sound of Saturn became that of the Forbidden planet.
I began to wonder how this eminently listenable version of science pop came about? Scientific Inhospitable is turned into space stations and or a garden oasis amongst the lunar debris the unavoidable must somehow become familiar and likeable if we are to extend to it the comfort zone of the human senses? I realised that often in the process of making Art the familiar can appear questionable, obtuse and mysterious while Science often appears to want to suggest the opposite. But we are suspended in the anti-gravity state of ALMOST being real and not quite fake.
Art finds its responsibility by being in a continual state of ‘almost’. Questions about the ability of art to represent reality are as ancient (and poetic) as Plato’s shadowy musings. NOW, as our notions of fixed realities are all but abandoned – (I say, all but, because few would doubt that this precept may be the only fixed point people have left from which to determine their direction) – it seems inviting to use the decision of NASA to make familiar the sound of Saturn and mirror the sleight of hand of the artist.
Phil Edwards and John Mackinnon
In association with Vital Signs, a conference presented by RMIT University, School of Creative media
in conjunction with the Australia Council for the Arts and the Australia Film Commission.
September 7, 8 & 9 – 2005 Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Federation Square, Melbourne
Larissa Hjorth would like to thank Chantal Faust.