Spectral Ecologies, A Courier’s Tragedy – Part One

I took part in the Spectral Ecologies, ‘The Couriers Tragedy’ at p-technic, a 3-day investigatory workshop from the 24-26 September 09. Run by artist Martin Howse, Artist, programmer, theorist and film-maker, the workshop investigated:

complex city-wide spectral ecologies constructed through subtle interactions between electrical and magnetic fields (EMF) emitted by all electrical equipment, physical materials, communication technologies (wireless networks, mobile phone networks, RFID, television, radio, radar), power lines, biological phenomena, and geological properties in Newcastle upon Tyne.

Named the Couriers’s Tragedy as it was:

concerned with a submission of the medium enacted by both ancient and contemporary communication systems. The messenger is rendered redundant (literally killed) on delivery; the message is that which really matters. The carrier can be discarded in favour of a meaningful signal, and this is precisely what all radio apparatus enacts, equally eliminating noise and uncertainty. Expanding a clear concern with electromagnetic [EM] phenomena as a question of substance, and extending the spectrum of artistic concerns to embrace modern data space, this workshop attempts to bridge this impossible divide between the physical (waves) and the protocol (code); asking how, within complex spectral ecologies, it is possible to examine and embrace both the carrier and the signal, to observe the subtle interactions and inherent abstractions? In this context, such an examination becomes a manner of revealing; revealing another city, revealing new modes of communication and transmission (hidden networks).

The workshop  aimed to investigate the electromagnetic fields that surround us, such as from computers, laptops, mobile phones and other every day electrical equipment and develeop a landscape of a chosen area using open source software, such as kismet, scapey and wireshark. Like ghosts which may have a message or meaning which needs interpretation. The day also investigated Open System Interconnection Reference Model, or the seven layers of OSI, in particular in relation to the course, the physical layer as an example of the messenger.

The first and second day consisted of building a Frequency Detector using a L15543 chip,with a dynamic range of w60db and a range of 50mk3 to 3GH3. We then attached a audio recorder and headphone to each one and went for a quick walk down to Newcastle and Gateshead Quayside, over the Millennium Bridge, up to Grey’s Monument, past the Laing Gallery and back to base at p-technic.

About Ben Jones

I am an artist and curator, interested mainly in web-based work, video, drawing and animation. I have exhibited locally, nationally and internationally gaining commissions as well as working with communities and in schools on projects. I have worked for a variety of different organisations from an artist run studio and gallery to a large contemporary gallery in a number of different roles. My practice deals with how the reality we live in is constructed by media, where there are many different beliefs, which can be accepted, rejected or modified. I am interested in the disintegration of traditional social discussion and debate, due to media saturation, and how it now manifest’s itself in many new and technological ways.
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