Retro-Musings of the Quantum Brother in the Listening Post
You hepcat Bureaucrats probably know of this already but last Sunday I discovered the Listening Post, the digital installation created by Mark Hansen & Ben Rubin at The Science Museum in London. It is the perfect audio-visual signifier-system for "the ultimate urban infinitive'' (line from one of my own half-forgotten ill-begotten poems). The Museum describes it thus:
Listening Post is a ‘dynamic portrait’ of online communication, displaying uncensored fragments of text, sampled in real-time, from public internet chatrooms and bulletin boards. Artists Mark Hansen and Ben Rubin have divided their work into seven separate ‘scenes’ akin to movements in a symphony. Each scene has its own ‘internal logic’, sifting, filtering and ordering the text fragments in different ways.
The urban iconography of the work becomes apparent from the way it's physically configured as an installation, as a high curved wall of tiny monitors in a darkened space, the embodiment of those modular glass walls of Canary Wharf and the Dockland Towers, the zone where James and myself had been been staying that weekend. The screens flash on and off, like the lights in a million apartments, each little blip of space desperate to make contact, to share its real time and constantly mutating obsessions - I LIKE JESUS/I AM FIXING THE HARDRIVE/I AM A HOT BABE/ARE YOU ALSO HUNGARIAN/THE MARKETS KEEP GOING DOWN...
The fragments of text flash, scroll and disappear like electronic banners in Wall Street, Times Square, like bulletin boards in airports and subways, like the text displays in our phones and the text-boxes of our ever-changing passwords. Yet , orchestrated in sequence around basic grammatical structures or formal visual patterns, the flux of text is, briefly, stabilised before disintegrating and reforming in new sequences.
These texts also speak, sometimes in a precise, almost English accent, that measured masculine automated voice that warns us that our possessions may be destroyed by the security services, or often in a counterpoint of silicate chirps and drones, the choirs of the post-human.
James and I sit there for a long time in the semi-darkness, watching the evanescence of the screens and listening to the global city in full cry. James is fascinated by the programming skills and sampling strategies that must have been used to hold the whole thing together. I'm mesmerised by the flux. "The light gleams an instant and then it's night once more..."