When I was in Norway in the summer of 2006 interviewing a motley bunch of philosopher-mountaineers, I encountered a great deal of anti-technology sentiments. One philosopher, Sigmund Kvaløy, admitted that he was once a fan of computer music, but he assured me that he quickly became disillusioned with it. I asked him if he ever listened to computer music anymore, and he said with a snort, “No. It all sounds the same – just effects.”
Instead, Kvaløy prefers jazz, which, he says, “offers real creativity or organic existence. Jazz offers us the opportunity of genuine personal creativity, but through a tightly woven collective." The interactive performance environment I have created aims to use the technology Kvaløy criticizes to create the sort of “ecological” interactions and collective performances Kvaløy admires in jazz.
The environment involves eight computers, each connected to the same network, and each with the same screen: a picture of eight philosophers and a control panel (see below). Up to eight people can then join the conversation, choosing a computer, choosing a philosopher, and then making that philosopher speak (using recordings from my interviews). The philosophers can then enter into a sort of surreal dialogue, with subtitles accompanying their speech. The participants can add audio and visual effects, so the tone and style of the conversation can range from straightforward to psychedelic – it’s all up to the participants to create their own world.
A few glimpses of the work:
When you enter the interactive experience, you get to choose one of the eight philosophers pictures pictured above.
The different participants use keyboard shortcuts or the control panel pictured above to make their philosopher speak, add audio effects to their speech, and change the formatting of the subtitles that accompany the speech.