On May 21st, I’m premiering my newest work Sonotopia – A Memory of Shadows (Extinction Symphony) at Meta.Morf 2022, the Trondheim International biennale for art and technology. This is presented under my composer profile as Gisle Martens Meyer, in a combination of material from my Sonotopia, Ugress and Nebular Spool projects.
Sonotopia – A Memory of Shadows is an audiovisual real-time live performance and installation. It investigates the atmosphere, sound, and musicality of extinction. The work explores vast ruins and specific memories, in the scope from singular phenomena currently under threat of extinction or abandonment, all the way up to civilizational collapse.
In an overgrown post-apocalyptic landscape, a cautious figure explores broken detritus, lost media, and memory fragments from the ruins of a familiar civilization. Small sounds, tones, and videos gently flicker and glitch to life among the giant mobile phone tombstones and scattered clusters of dead screens and tablets.
A fragile tonality appears in the unstable memories. A shadow of melody takes shape. From a future mirror echoes the music of everything we lost.
The post-apocalyptic ruin as our beloved monster
Every era has its monsters, springing from our collective subconscious. Monsters are our hive fantasy of punishment for contemporary anxiety, a symbolic cultural threat communicated through myths and stories. We called them gods for a long time. Now they are the biggest slice of the CGI budget. The 50ies had their atomic ants and teenage mutants, the 60ies and 70ies alien encounters. The 80ies and 90ies gave us amok networks and cybernetic lawnmowers.
What is our contemporary monster? We have the post-apocalypse. We knowingly destroy our world. Our anxiety shaped into myth is the planet hitting back at us.
The ruins, the deserted cities, the abandoned and overgrown suburbia where we scavenge for mundane nostalgia amongst the weeds – this is the biggest trope of the last two decades. Sometimes there are zombies roaming, sometimes robots patrolling, sometimes MacGyverish conflict over scavenged resources… it doesn’t really matter what IS there. Ultimately what is most important in these fairytales, is that which is already gone.
To remember shadows
We are in the era of accelerating change. The annihilation of the past is always inching closer to the present, possibly brought upon us by climate crisis in the physical world and attention-devouring algorithms in the digital. How can we notice everything that disappear when disappearance is exponentially increasing?
The last of an endangered species, a melting glacier, and ocean drowning in plastic. Blue collar skills lost to automation, white collar skills lost to AI. Friends lost to algorithmic radicalization, online communities absorbed by corporate platforms. Cultures, stories, truth.
What is their song? What is the music of all we abandon?