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June 5–6 Clandestino Festival Gothenburg. Installation made in collaboration with Richard Widerberg.
Opening hours: June 5: 17:30–19:00. June 6: 11:00–20:00.

June 11 The Harmony Group meeting 4

New June 1 2015
Me and Richard Widerberg will be next weekend making an installation at the Clandestino Festival in Gothenburg. This is a great festival with music from around the world, as well as a series of panel discussions. In the same venue as those we will build our installation, a chaotic network of feedbacked FM radio transmissions. We will be deliberately reworking the sounds of local radio stations and re-transmitting them live.
Here is an interview with me about it and my thoughts about the festival theme.

The Harmony Group continues on June 11 for the last meeting of the spring. It has been going fantastic so far, and we have many great members. Documentation will arrive in the summer, as right now there's too much going on to process it for this here website...

New April 13 2015
This spring I am involved with an open study circle at Skogen called The Harmony Group, here in Gothenburg. It is a collaboration between myself, Richard Widerberg, and Valter Nordqvist, expanding on ideas from "Silence, Noise, and Collapse" in order to discover more connections between the notion of harmony, control, nature, order, chaos, etc. We will meet four times during the spring, and also continue in the fall. See the link for more information.

News Jan 19 2015
Big update. I've now added a post about "Silence, Noise, and Collapse" with a mass of images and text describing the two days. There is also a separate post for the Norbert Wiener Memorial Feedback Orchestra, which will be updated with all of our new activities. I've also made a small post about my stay at Two Little Birds gallery at the start of last November.

The Norbert Wiener Memorial Feedback Orchestra also has its own Soundcloud page, which you should follow to get new sounds in your feed.

Coming up in the future: sounds from my exhibition last October in Wales.

Also, the Gothenburg Alternative Map has been updated a bit, just so you know I'm still keeping tabs on it.

Fall 2014 Schedule

Here's a run down of where I was last season.

Oct. 18 Performing compositions by Zbigniew Karkowski with GGR BETONG noise ensemble at GAS Festival, Pustervik, Gothenburg.
Oct. 25–Nov. 7 New installation of "The Room is Growing" in Cardiff, Wales as part of Paradise Lost. Live performance in the installation at the opening on the 25th.
Nov 10–13 Four-day in-gallery work as part of "Chain Reaction" at Two Little Birds, Gothenburg. All-day "quiet noise" session on the 12th, together with Richard Widerberg. Final artist presentations on the 21st.
Nov 22 Release of "Hate Lurks in Quiet Spaces" at Konstepidemin's online gallery.
Dec 6–7 Two day participatory performance "Silence, Noise, and Collapse" with Richard Widerberg at Skogen Theatre, Gothenburg. Presentation open to the public on Dec 7 at 6pm.
Dec 12 The Norbert Wiener Memorial Feedback Orchestra, in Bottna, Bohuslän, Sweden. Event.
The Harmony Group is a study circle led by myself, Richard Widerberg, and Valter Nordqvist, based at the art platform Skogen, in Gothenburg.

During the spring of 2015 we will met four times. Each meeting is open for anyone to join and is free of charge. Specific dates and booking can be made at Skogen's website.

So far we have been to:
Vävra berg (getting lost in the forest)
Götaverken (experiencing feedback in an abandoned industrial locker room)
Göteborgs Konsthall (many members performing on the Feedback Orchestra for the first time in public)

Documentation and collation of the group's activities will happen at a later date during the summer.

The Harmony Group is an open study circle exploring the idea of harmony and its relation to control. The group will meet regularly during the spring, where anyone can join at any meeting.

Our open artist group will meet regularly to investigate the theme “Harmony, Panic, and Collapse,” developing the work started in “Silence, Noise, and Collapse.” We will engage in practical activities concentrated on physical sensory experiences rooted in concrete research about systems, control, and chaos. These will manifest as experiments with, for example, sound, motion, travel, light, structure, and more. The research will be ongoing with the possibility of public events to invite an audience into the process.

Using the notion that the human being is itself a sensor in a system, we will elaborate on the ways in which we can use our capacities to feed back into the chaotic mechanisms steering society. Systems thinking has a broader role in the creative process, the social narratives that dominate our understanding of ourselves, and how technological structures influence our behaviour. We are driven by the complex interactions between ideas and events, and a fundamental element of our exploration will thus be to move our focus and draw lines of inquiry according to results from our research and experiments.

“Silence, Noise, and Collapse” was a participatory performance that investigated order and chaos by exploring both natural and electronic systems, contrasting a silent forest excursion with loud physical experiences of feedback. The exploration of feedback systems led to the creation of the performance group The Norbert Wiener Memorial Feedback Orchestra, a live manifestation of an attempt to control chaos.

Photo: BJS (left), Henrik Landén (right)

“Silence, Noise, and Collapse” was a two-day performance made by Richard Widerberg and myself, with a small group of participants on the 6th and 7th of December, 2014. The first day consisted of a long and silent walk through a dense old forest, punctuated by a campfire conversation about silence and chaos. On the second day participants experienced noise by building unstable electronic systems, leading to a public performance of a new group named “The Norbert Wiener Memorial Feedback Orchestra.” Skogen theatre in Gothenburg hosted us and helped us with some of the production, and it was financed by a grant from the Gothenburg City cultural fund.

The unusual format of the performance allowed us and our participants to have an immersive exploration of the topics and to understand how they interact. Planning for this performance took place over the previous year, and we were focused on examining the dynamic relationship of noise, silence, and instability, what it means to people in the context of society, and the stories we make and are told about order and chaos. We wanted to create a structure where it was possible to explore more than just the simple associations that come to mind when thinking about these subjects. Below you can find more images, sounds, and a detailed description of the two days.

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We sought a small group of participants via an open call circulated within the city. Richard and myself would act as guides, and the entirety of the two days were carefully planned. Participants met us at the theatre in the morning of the first day, and we then drove in a transport van to a nearby city, chatting with each other on the way. However, we then stopped at a roadside café, explained that from that point on we would be silent, and the participants were asked to wear blindfolds.

We drove further out into the countryside, the group still blindfolded, to an isolated and rarely visited forest on the top of a mountain. We had chosen this forest several weeks before, after scouting different locations in the Västra Götaland region. It is a surprisingly silent place—free of road noise at its deepest point—and very diverse despite not being a nature reserve of any sort. For the first weekend of December, we were lucky to have such sunny and calm weather, as we were prepared for something much more challenging.

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Removing their blindfolds after leaving the van, the group were guided into the forest, where one after another they met a guide who gave them wood and a sitting mat, and were asked to walk further on their own to wait by a lake (though we did not specify how far that would be). After everyone was once again together, we departed the shore for a slow, silent walk into the forest. At the entrance of the forest, some noises from society were still audible. However, over the next hours these noises dropped away as we descended into a lush valley. Throughout this entire time no one was to speak unless it was important. This allowed for an atmosphere of calm concentration, and at various points in the forest we would stop simply to listen.

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After having to hop over a couple of streams, we reached as far as was practical, broke our silence, and built a fire together. We provided a simple picnic lunch to cook, and then had a long wide-ranging conversation about silence. We had prepared a series of questions to direct the conversation, but knew that people would provide their own unique ideas as well. Topics covered included the different meanings of silence; noise pollution; preservation of natural spaces and our intrusions within them; rights of animals to have their own silent spaces; people with noise sensitivity; different kinds of mental states; the relation of silence and chaos as a “natural” state; if silence means lack of progress, or if it suggests refinement; questions about the values of being a chaotic person; self-regulation in order to cope with stimuli; silence as restorative but also as dangerous; comparing this to a so-called “silent retreat” and why one would want to purchase a trip to one; if stability is at all possible; and so on. This discussion was meant to fuel thoughts for the second day of the performance.

We extinguished our fire and left the fireplace, aware that it will remain for a long time to come. We resumed our silent hike until we reached the van. Driving back to Gothenburg, most fell asleep because of the long hike and fresh air. Returning to Skogen theatre, we arrived to a freshly warmed sauna in the basement, where we could warm up and relax. We left after, but participants would return the next morning for the second day.

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The second day took place entirely within the theatre, a closed and synthetic environment. The weather was incredibly rainy, providing a perfect excuse to stay inside. Over the last months, Richard and I had assembled a large amount of electronic equipment, mixers, speakers, and many cables. We had this set up in the theatre on the morning of the second day. To start things off, we had participants sit or lay down in the dimly lit theatre, while Richard and I performed an extremely loud noise improvisation on the equipment, taking advantage of the theatre’s ample sound system. Wearing ear protection, the group perceived this as a rather comfortable physical experience. Afterward, we engaged the group in another wide conversation, this time about noise and systems. Topics this time included the physical reaction to noise as therapy or terror; losing one’s self in an ecstatic noise; defining noise versus other sound; the obsession with keeping noise and chaos at bay; the science of control systems; how society is built upon controlled systems and their supposed stability; questioning the self-regulating system and stability in general; is balance natural; whether we look at chaos differently now than we used to; whether balance exists in nature or not; and more.

Participants were then introduced to the equipment: how it works, how it is set up, and how to connect it. Quite simply the set up was many individual audio mixer boards, each wired to produce internal feedback. This feedback is chaotic and difficult to predict, yet the nature of a mixer allows it to be manipulated and controlled in a creative way. We all engaged in a “free play” of our electronic instruments but further, and crucially, the group was shown that each mixer could be connected with another by both sending its own signal and receiving another. By interconnecting all the mixers with a mass of cables, the creation of a large feedback instrument—controlled by several people at once—is possible. Moving between consoles, the participants came to understand that the feedback system travels throughout the system and could be controlled from several points. These points, however, are constantly changing. While absolute control was impossible, a collective improvisation grew from selective, subjective control. In this system, noise and order is certain to collapse, yet both group work and individual action allows for the creation of new orders. The complexity of the system and its inherent instability allows for a boundless range of sound textures.

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Photos: Henrik Landén. First image shows myself (left) and Richard Widerberg (right).

We would perform on this system for an audience in the evening, and together as a group decided on a way to present. In addition to a simple program for our performance, we also agreed to present to the audience some keywords related to our two days together, to be written on large sheets of paper before the audience. Ahead of the performance the theatre provided dinner, during which all the pictures taken during our forest walk were projected.

The performance itself can be seen in the pictures and also heard below. We began in darkness, with only very quiet sounds coming from many small speakers. Slowly we built up, raising the light level as the volume increased and transferred to the larger amplifiers and speakers, reaching a high volume for only a moment.

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After the concert, we talked with the audience about the performance and answered their questions. We offered for them to try out the system, and to our surprise everyone was very interested and many people played with the instruments (above), resulting in a second recording this time made by the audience.

While that was the end of our two-day adventure, it ended with the creation of a performance group, The Norbert Wiener Memorial Feedback Orchestra—named after the famous cybernetic theorist—which includes Richard and myself as well as some of those who participated in this event. We will continue to perform in the future and hopefully have more events like this. See the dedicated page on this website for more.
An orchestra of pilots steering unstable systems.

Following "Silence, Noise, and Collapse," myself, Richard Widerberg, and some of the participants of that performance decided to continue the project and deepen our involvement with these unstable noise systems. Founding members include Cha Blasco, Valter Nordqvist, and Patricia Vane. Our mission statement:

The Norbert Wiener Memorial Feedback Orchestra is an unstable ecosystem, networks of electricity and movement which achieve precarious balance before collapsing into ever new orders. Through chaotic control and feedback we achieve harmony and complexity. The Orchestra is a participatory performance, opening up to new controllers in order to promote biodiversity and communication.

Membership is open and flexible. The Orchestra is also open for workshops in other places to extend our mission. Anyone can pilot an unstable system because mastery is not possible nor necessary.

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Photos by BJS, Markus Nordgren

The first performance took place on the 13th December in Bottna, Bohuslän, Sweden, as part of Koloni's day-long festival "Trollsejd och Mörkermakt," in a small house situated in a forest. The audience had just arrived from an hour long forest walk.

At the beginning of November 2014, just after returning from exhibiting in the UK, I began a four-day in-gallery residence at Two Little Birds, a café/gallery in central Gothenburg.

They had invited me earlier in the year to the "Chain Reaction," a series of consecutive four-day residences by four different artists. Each artist was to work on art and themes the previous artist had started (with exception of the first, of course). I was the second guest. I picked up a theme of travel from the previous artist, and having just been traveling, ran with that, altering the things she left in the gallery to suit and making new wall drawings.

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Each day I did something different, working for about 6 or more hours, as it was a very nice place to work, especially with the changing audience of a café.

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In addition to drawing I also presented sound. At the entrance to the gallery I had two portable radios hanging on each side of the door frame. I had set up an FM radio station transmitting my album "Hate Lurks in Quiet Spaces," and guests could borrow the radios to hear it, using their headphones if they wished.

I had also taken one of my large old tube radios into the gallery, and tuned it to various noisy frequencies in the AM band until I found an interesting one towards the end of the band. This one had dynamic, irregular bursts of some kind of electromagnetic noise. These sounds turned out to be the sound of tram motors starting up at the large tram interchange 300m away from the café! This was a nice way to bring a kind of local sound we normally can never hear into the space.

Photo: Richard Widerberg

On the final day of my residence I invited Richard Widerberg into the gallery. During this time we had been planning our performance "Silence, Noise, and Collapse" so I suggested we have a work meeting at the gallery. After the meeting we set up a sound system and many electronic instruments, practicing some of our ideas for the performance.

I left all of my drawings in the gallery for the next artist, and was really happy to see how she had altered them (unfortunately I have no pictures of that yet).