Whispering Waves (or… Spooky Action at a Distance)

‘All the birds sing harmonies / to the top line of the breeze / while the ocean breathes his name / on whispering waves’
(Donna Summer, ‘Whispering Waves’, 1975, written by Giorgio Moroder & Pete Bellotte)

Our studio / workshop this semester will focus on modes of transmission, conversation, transposition and projection across geographies and temporalities, and on the material traces that such processes generate and leave behind.

Donna Summer’s oceanic disco ballad, ‘Whispering Waves’, will serve as our spirit song and class title, as we approach work in search of a kind of intimacy and presence within transmission / in spite of distance — the ‘whisper’ of our whispering waves. And, more speculatively, for a sense of ‘spooky action at a distance’, to borrow Albert Einstein’s description of quantum entanglement (the process of two particles becoming inextricably linked, with whatever happens to one immediately affecting the other, regardless of how far apart they are). As Vahni Capildeo asks: ‘What dynamics of intimacy, boundaried and transgressive, grow when one is aware of the fixity of one’s own speaking body while hearing the sounds of a different environment, perhaps a different time zone, around the other’s speaking body? What is the border between truth and lies in maintaining or creating ‘presence’?’

‘No man is an island; except when he’s having a bath.’
(Norman Lovett, stand-up routine)

As we commune across our archipelago network — in various forms of collective isolation, dislocation and ‘remoteness’, each from ‘the egospheres of our confinement’ as Lydia Kallipoliti puts it — my aim here is not to for us to make work ‘about’ the present situation, but to use the themes, issues and concerns that resurface / bubble up as a jumping off point (a diving board? a launchpad? a satellite ground station?). We will work through two open-ended prompts / projects (plus a brief prelude project to start with); the first oriented towards interconnection and transmission between ‘sites’, and the second on platforms and tools to converse and conjure across time (projecting forwards or calling backwards) — ‘the murmuring and whispering of unconscious oracles’ (as Friedrich Kittler writes of the gramaphone as medium). Each prompt (A and B) will begin with reading / listening / watching discussions and culminate in critiques, both of which you will have agency over and take the lead on.

‘The message not only involves, it ‘is’, a ‘relationship’ between speaker and hearer.’
(Ursula K. Le Guin, Telling Is Listening)