SONICA FESTIVAL 2019: SENTINELS
»One proposed solution to the Fermi paradox is that intelligent species actively try to conceal their presence, to avoid being targeted by hostile invaders. Speaking as a member of a species that has been driven nearly to extinction by humans, I can attest that this is a wise strategy,« states the narrator in The Great Silence. The film presents parrots as the guardians of the values that could potentially save the humans, if only the letter listened. On the other hand, the deaf humanity is magnificent as well, even though pointing gigantic mechanical ears towards the universe instead of understanding the rest of the Earth species. It has built complicated technology to spy on the universe and send various signals into it. The response, however, is only a hum, the mantra of the vast nothingness.
The opening film The Great Silence is an introduction to The Sonica Festival 2019, entitled Sentinels. The inspiration for the film comes from another film Coda, in which we learn about the creative process of one of the most important contemporary musicians, Ryuichi Sakamoto. After the severe illness, cancer, he sees the creative process as inseparable from life and death. In the film, Sakamoto says: »It would be a shame not to extend my life as much as I could. I know I want to make more music. Music I won't be ashamed to leave behind. Meaningful music.« In search of special sounds, Sakamoto also shares the story of a tsunami-surviving piano. He interprets its »off-key sound« as a return to its natural, original state. A well-tuned piano is only adjusted to human ears. In the film, this tension between the »tuned«, human-like, technological, and the natural, off-key, portrays the ongoing contrast, necessary to achieve beauty.
This year's eleventh Sonica Festival focuses on revealing the challenges of new technologies and the modern world with the help of the sound. Kino Šiška will host one of the most radical and penetrating duos that initially started as the form of generative videos and online phrases. In one of the few interviews they gave, Amnesia Scanner described their project »not as an answer to the question of what the future holds, but as an interpretation of the present, and for it to feel like now, it needs to be exaggerated, cartoonish, and scary — as well as dumb and funny at times, as the contemporary experience is schizophrenic and contradictory.« Amnesia Scanner have created an artificial intelligence that on their album and live performances appears in the form of a disfigured, synthesized voice named Oracle. They will be accompanied by patten, another anonymous and genre-bending project, which rejects naming or categorization and focuses on the transition between forms. CoH, however, approaches music as dealing with a puzzle, he works isolated from others, researching the sound through years of masterful exploration. On Friday, the CD Club of the Congress Centre will host two evocative musicians. The artist behind the Abul Mogard project is anonymous. He builds his image around a fictional biography of a former factory worker and says that after retiring he has been using music to recreate the sound environments of his working days. He adopts musical devices as platforms for mechanical echoes. Lucy Railton, a renowned classically educated cellist, will present a project in which she combines cello and electronics to reflect nature – field recordings and biographical motifs.
After the before mentioned film Coda, The Slovenian Cinematheque – Kinoteka will host two concerts. Lifecutter and Iztok Klančar will present their audiovisual project Rapture. In it, they try to confront the eroticized motifs of nature with the machine's dying breaths. Tomas Nordmark will present his project Eternal Words, various compositions from the homonymous album, which was created in response to Mark Fisher's work Ghosts of My Life.
The final evening, organized in collaborating with the Ljubljana Puppet Theatre for the first time, will be held at The Stage under the Stars. It will host the long-awaited Alessandro Cortini, the guitarist of Nine Inch Nails and an exceptional solo artist. He is arriving just a day after the release of his newest album Volume Massimo. The record feels like a whispering echo of the family imagery from the previous album, and music is a definite map of emotions and life. He will share the stage with Slovene artists Kikimore and Gašper Torkar.
We have organized a number of discussions with artists and foreign guests of the festival. The talks will be held at SIGIC, the Slovenian Music Information Centre, as part of the PSSST! programme. They will be moderated by Andrej Tomažin, the talk with CoH will be hosted by Luka Zagoričnik, and the talk with the Kikimore collective will be hosted by Emily Bick, the journalist of The Wire magazine. The festival will also include three workshops: a zine workshop with LeaLudvik on the topic of the Sentinels, Sentinel of Arctic with Staša Guček, and a vocal workshop with an American mentor Peter Kirn.
The festival will open with the group exhibition The Antiphonal Action, for which we have collaborated with a curator and artist Sally Golding. The exhibition includes works by five foreign artists. All the art pieces were ordered by and created for MoTA's Temporary Museum Collection. The exhibition will also include works of this year's residency artists Tim Shaw and Tomas Nordmark. Normark has created a new eight-channel composition for the Arcade Gallery and Tim Shaw is preparing an installation that will be presented for the first time at MoTA Lab. On Saturday, Tim Shaw will also take us on an acoustic walk around the city, in which he will vividly compose city sounds, mixing them with his compositions. Saturday afternoon will conclude with a festival brunch, which will feature talks with Lucy Railton, Tomas Nordmark, Ira Merzlichin, Simina Oprescu and Sabina Barcucci.
The species that warn people of various dangers are called »Sentinel Species«. These include butterflies, fish, cats, dogs, birds, and some plant species. According to »the canary in a coal mine theory«, artists protect humanity with their sensitivity: they perceive the danger and warn about it much earlier than others. Sakamoto’s film recreates this parable, which was first pointed out by Kurt Vonnegut in one of his interviews. However, one journalist once responded and indicated the difference between canaries and artists: canaries die, but artists persist and continue to warn. They warn through their works, in which they carefully convey their vision of tension, creepiness, transience, euphoria. Sound, from noise to incomprehensible murmuring and from music to silence, may not portray the guardians' absence, but their protection.
"Why am I so lost?". These are the words sang at the end of the song Crawler from the album Proto, made by an American artist Holly Herndon. An album, which not only depicts artificial intelligence but was created with its help. What is the music of the future? Where is the end of the field of (purely?) technological representation (often referred to as cold, industrial, alienated) and the beginning of the newest technology? When have we started being afraid of it?
Noise, sound, field recordings, social engagement, extreme music, capital. At what point can different aspects of artistic activism sufficiently intertwine to break through the disinterestedness of the artistic? Letting go to the capital as its biggest criticism? Applying the sound into space or outlining it in it?