Aural Lighthouses: A Beacon from Radio Free Santorini
digital photography
Visiting Correspondent at PSi #21/2015 Fluid States - Performances of Unknowing

Day One

What does it mean that I am a correspondent? What is my mission? I imagine my task to be in many respects an extension of my own artistic practice, which is based on performance and the moving image. By recording events in a range of different media - video, audio and through writing and diagramming, I will highlight the resonances between them and map out a topography of the PSi#21 Fluid States event, Aural Lighthouses. The recordings are also a response to the call of the work presented and the site itself.

This afternoon, Salomé Voegelin very aptly put it that performance is itself a refraction through the own body. Whatever you as a performer want to present is transmitted through you. And so, as I report on this event it is through my own interests and focal points of visual scanning through camera work, the body and performance, touch and the landscape. Concept and material are both part of the equation. I act as field recorder, collecting samples of sounds and images to be posted together as an assemblage of parts, much like Salomé’s own practice of creating performances. She starts out with an abstract that is the catalyst for gathering materials from different sources. They are then assembled into a score, requiring delimiting choices, which must be made in the presentation of any work.

The experimentation of Salomé’s method comes from within the listening to the work itself, not from a priori theoretical knowledge. The experience of creating the work has a crucial bearing on the meaning produced within it and shapes the course of the research.

My aim here in Santorini is to create responses and draw parallels between the different events and activities, and their location in this specific site. The different talks and excursions reverberate beyond their allocated time slot and influence each other.

Just this morning at the Santozeum, before departing for the boat trip to the volcano the chirping birds caught my attention. They were scuttling around in the palm tree placed squarely in the sightline of the volcano, or Nea Kameni. In and out of sight their song was constant. Later in the afternoon we were invited to experience Alyssa Moxley’s and Ramona Stout’s artwork ‘Still Here - Radio Receiver Bird Cages’, in which bird cages are used to house little receivers hidden inside wooden boxes. The cages themselves apparently come from the local practice of catching songbirds and keeping them in the house. The eight cages are situated in a circle in a small cove-like room, where the sound fills it. Rather than bird song however, the sound emitted is a fluctuating drone-like sound based on the historic seismic activity of the region. The artists have considered the perceptive sensory systems of migratory birds using the Earth’s magnetic field. This same ability also serves as a warning mechanism in natural disasters. The birds can sense catastrophe and flee before the event has surfaced. Caged, the birds may sing beautifully while in fact anticipating disaster. This, along with the unpredictable and varied, low drone creates a sinister atmosphere. The small room feels like an engine room, but trying to find a pattern to the sound, it keeps escaping anticipation.

In the same way catastrophe unfolding cannot be anticipated. It remains unknowable in its becoming. Mute and explosive. As Raviv Ganchrow pointed out in the discussion with Salomé Voegelin and Rustom Bharucha, ‘fate’ or ‘future’ is what the present already contains, and by fetishising the future we are paralysing the present. In the present state of future-shock we are unable to fathom the catastrophe of our own extinction, unable to address global issues.

In Raviv’s example of the perception of a volcanic eruption the observer’s fear spills into the refractive gap created between seeing and hearing the explosion - between knowing and sensing. It is the distance from the event, a fore-knowledge and anticipation of the sensory/bodily impact to come that jettisons the body/mind into a state of petrification.

The anechoic is not only the lack of interference, it is also the absolute overwhelming of signal - it is one and the other simultaneously. A cacophony of sounds, or a droning like in ‘Still Here’, and silence, both contain a terror of homogeneity. A lack of discreetness that makes evaluation and explicit knowing impossible, inhabiting a seemingly never-ending continuum.

Catastrophe is not a sudden event, but rather an emergent occurrence, in Salomé’s words - “a silent anxiety that becomes a detectable warning”.

Day Two - Catastrophe Warning

The typical example of catastrophe theory is the landslide. Figure 1: a mountainside, immobile and static, figure 2: a mass of rock detaching quite suddenly. One moment it has one form, the next it has shifted into another. Completely unpredictable and beyond belief. Catastrophe is always unimaginable.

Serenaded by the man on the cliff, watched over by tourists and despite warnings we descend onto the beach beneath the red rock.

Here we are beneath those cliffs, seemingly everlasting, never-changing - on sand made of smaller pieces of the same rock. Imagine the final entropy of the Earth being in a state of homogeneity, all sand at the bottom of an all-encompassing ocean. Instead it’s a metamorphoses between erosion, accretion and catastrophic events. The smooth curve of entropy is transpierced by discrete instances of catastrophe.

Beneath the cliffs people, doing what people do - lying down, sitting, eating and drinking, looking around. Kids are running, squatting and swimming. In this scene human time and geological time seem incompatible. The towering rock seems so alien to the transient life-form that is humanity. We are told now they have converged. Their convergence visible, or hinted at in the plastic bottles within the sand, the beer can in the grass - in the material consequences of our existence. Humanity frolicking in the blazing sun.

Holey Landscapes

Kinesthetic learning - learning through the physical carrying out of an activity, through touch. What about a kinesthetics channelled through the camera? A looking that is more like touching or like what Salome Voegelin writes about with regards to sound, the mode of looking. A seeing that engages the materiality of a thing, a “descending into the material properties” (Raviv Ganchrow).

I am engaged in a topographical scanning. I scan the ground with the camera, registering height and depth, even in the most minute detail - the porosity of the materials. This looking is similar to that of painting, except where the eye in painting focuses on perceiving colours and nuances in hue, my photographical scanning focuses on texture and depth. Both are a concentration of faculties, but like Michael Polanyi’s ‘indwelling’, mine is an extended touch.

Out of the catastrophe of volcanic eruption come holey spaces (holey rock). More than a surface, less than a volume - an elusive porous material consisting of swerves that deny a visual comprehension. The mind fills in the gaps.

Scanning a holey landscape is momentarily dropping into the void of the unknowable. There is an exchange between the unknown of the void of the holey space, and the extended touch of the surface. The unknown infiltrates that which is touched, while touch fills the void. At the instance when sight falls into the void, other senses take over to constitute a perception of an unknown and unknowable space. Elsewhere becomes this-place-here. Fragments of other places, elsewheres, occupy this blind space.


The Akrotiri archaeological site, a prehistoric settlement of the Aegean, is a space within a space. Buried by the Minoan eruption of Thera in the 17th century BC, it has been partially excavated and a shell built around it for protection from the elements and ease of access. We are strolling in this garden of ruins.

I am strolling down a road under construction. A pile of dirt, sand and rock.

Debris - dust - ruin - dirt - garbage - construction material - volcanic landscape. What distinguishes these different materialities?

Plastic embedded in gravel. Architecture (humanity) is a geological layer, sitting on top of the geological strata of the caldera.

Wall paintings found at the Akrotiri site are now on display, housed in the Santozeum. One space housing the walls of another construction.

In these places, space is acousmatic - the source of the space inferred by the wall paintings unseen. As the source is hidden, place itself becomes the focal point. The space becomes an impenetrable surface - floating, suspended, without time.

Gabriella Daris’ ‘Dancing Tubes Interventions’ and her artist talk both employed acousmatics, the source of sound veiled and therefore foregrounded. At the Santozeum the space of the performance is clearly defined, demarcated by her body crashing into/stroking/leaning onto/pushing off of the walls and resting on the floor between cycles of activity. As her body defines the space, the dancing tubes stir the air, made to dance through air compression. The room is a chaotic swirling chart of a topography of air pressure.

Gabriella’s artist talk takes place behind a screen, her body concealed. The disembodied sound of her voice makes up the space here, and creates a suspension of a space with no boundaries.

The talk is a mirroring of her performance where the dancing tubes are hung from the ceiling. One space without distinct boundaries, another consisting of walls. A disembodied and an embodied space.