Contribution to the SAR Conference 2019, February 21-23

Our submission to the 10th SAR International Conference on Artistic Research at the Zurich University of the Arts has been approved.
We are referring to the conference topic “Inspiring Failures” which is close to the conceptual underpinning of the rotting sounds project

In the artistic research project Rotting sounds – Embracing the temporal deterioration of digital audio, we explore artistic opportunities arising from obsolescence, degradation and information loss in digitally represented sound.

Compared to a gradual and graceful degradation and eventual disintegration of analog sound, common digital representations tend to exhibit an abrupt breach into fail and thus silence. Decay is, however, inevitable to any representation. We therefore propose to tightly integrate it into the artistic practice and embrace its (seemingly negative) effects as aesthetic benefit.
By means of experimental digital audio toolchains designed to fail easily yet graceful, degradation turns from disastrous errors into transformational, generative elements, hence offering a palette of opportunities to the artist.
This disposition to (re)act to circumstances of unanticipated behavior asks for a certain capability to tolerate the unexpected and improvise.

Within the project, we are also exploring to integrate said perspective into both our decision processes and our documentation: The fact that concepts require flexibility to adapt to such complex context is a rather trivial insight. However, the dissolution of ideas, strategies or methods seems less easily digestible. We note that, analogous to our case of deteriorating media, there will always be a residuum that sediments and is researched for emerging follow-up concepts. One method to facilitate sedimentation and documentation is to assemble convolutes of media artifacts. Although we lose control about the exact form of such legacy, we leave a composting sculpture, anticipating the future form of our residues, to be rummaged through and re-interpreted by those who follow. The success of the prospection is depending on the coordination and motivation of the seekers.

Notably, our embracement of data loss is in obvious conflict with currently enforced “Research Data Management” policies, demanding sustainably stored research data. In the interest of our research topic and more generally, in the interest of artistic freedom, we must claim the right to let our data degrade, and, eventually, even vanish.