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Explanation


 

Wherever we are, what we hear is mostly noise. When we ignore it, it disturbs us. When we listen to it, we find it fascinating. 

John Cage Silence

 

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Explanation


 

Wherever we are, what we hear is mostly noise. When we ignore it, it disturbs us. When we listen to it, we find it fascinating. 

John Cage Silence

 

UBIQ’s ongoing public interventions - Black Friday, Crosswalk, etc – can be seen in two distinct lights. First, the Soundings comment on the absurdity of our intimacy with our personal technologies, especially the Apple iPhone. By using Apple retail stores as his performance venues, UBIQ subverts and undercuts Apple as a corporation, as well as our almost religious fervency for their products. 

Second, optimists and humanists, who receive his work with joy and wonder, experience these Soundings as examples of the beauty that new technology can bring into our lives. Spontaneous and loud, they offer viewers a rare chance to hear the sounds of their devices in a different context — one that interrupts the group at large and entices individuals to be silent, to listen together.

UBIQ is asking us to recognize and accept these sounds as symbols of our growing entwinement with technology. He is urging us to pause together, as group alongside machine, to listen, and celebrate, and consider how we can better harmonize with our devices. 

Further, he wants us to assess our agent role in the modern soundscape. Our cell phones, whether they vibrate or ring, create a chaotic, unregulated, and novel chorus from our pockets and purses and the palms of our hands. This is a brand new sound infrastructure, created solely by us and for us. In keeping with John Cage, let us hear it as “fascinating."


On the issue of  the Reproducer

Today, we live in a world where our online interactions are reproduced for purposes we never intended. Modern computational advancements that allow increasingly large sets of data to be quickly processed and analyzed have transformed our most mundane decisions and everyday clicks into priceless (or very valuable, depending on where you stand) data. 

Take, for example, the media-streaming epicenter Netflix. In his recent New York Times Magazine article, “The Post-Hope Politics of ‘House of Cards,’”(1) Adam Steinbergh wrote, 

Netflix knows a lot about what you watch. Not just generally, but in a granular, data-driven, clicks-and-duration-of-viewing time way. It knows what everyone on Netflix watches, and how much they watch it, and how all of this might translate into what people want to watch next. 

The key here is that Netflix not only collects all this data, but through its specialized algorithms knows how to turn our information (number after number) into something truly valuable (in this case, the series House of Cards).

As users, our ‘usage’ is used in the service of the success of the corporation. Though many frame this as a problem of free labor, a symptom of the digital economy, UBIQ wants us to perceive our role not solely as used user, but as agent user - a reproducer. Through awareness, users have the ability to question and influence this power dynamic. Within the privacy of our own homes, when we commune with our personal mobile devices, we must be aware and willing participants in this economic relationship. If not, he asks, how else can we move forward with the hope of harmonizing?

In his the gallery pieces iHear and iTonesUBIQ aims to redefine our relationships with the sounds of our ringtones and alerts. Both pieces utilize participant-based gestural interactive systems which transform the familiar sounds of the iPhone by manipulating their pitch and frequency. Giving these iconic noises yet another context, UBIQ asks a user to hear them differently, not with their cultural meaning, but rather as sounds given actual physical form. By leaving the public infrastructure for the privacy of the gallery setting, UBIQ speaks more directly to his audience-members; they are no longer passive and unknowing bystanders but willing participants. And by enabling users to manipulate the tones, UBIQ calls on them as empowered individuals. They make a choice to participate in the pieces in the same way they choose to use their personal technologies. Further, the experiences they have in gallery become a metaphor for the users relationship with the power structures at play in a digitized and abstract world of constant connectivity.


  1. Steinbergh, Adam. “The Post-Hope Politics of ‘House of Cards.’” NY Times Magazine, 31 Jan 2013.