Minutes of the Meeting & Winnie Soon

Image: Winnie Soon in collaboration with  Helen Pritchard

Title: Recurrent Queer Imagainaries
Year of production: 2019 (forthcoming)
Medium: Installation

Following last week’s research and theory lecture, the group converged to discuss potential next steps for the Computational Arts Research project.

In terms of the subject of our research topic, we concluded that investigating sound in an environmental context was a useful point from which to start our research journey. We had been intending to focus on the idea of the cellular as metaphor for describing the macro in terms of health (bodily health as a description of environmental health). However, we found this focus was potentially too expansive and we feared without more specialist medical/biological knowledge we might make unfounded assumptions or sweeping statements.

We decided that the essential questions at this stage are:

a.    What is sound ‘pollution’ and how is it classified as such?

b.    How does sound effect us in ways that are invisible/we are not aware?

These questions allow us to approach a range of sub-questions in a way which does not prescribe our findings (i.e. how is sound quantified? What is good sound v bad sound, and for whom? What is our own understanding of these concepts given we are in London, all are hearing able etc).

At the next meeting the members will discuss their findings and understanding of these questions in the context of the environment, but also in terms of technology/computation. It may be worth identifying key findings which are particularly surprising before the meeting.

At this point, suggestions for final projects should be considered speculative and meant to spark discussion – unless explicitly stated otherwise. We agree at this stage we should not commit to make a specific work but rather see what emerges through collaboration.

The lecture led by Winnie Soon was particularly emboldening from this perspective. Her emphasis on process rather than prescribed outcomes allows the unexpected to potentially enrich rather than derail.

The discussion with Winnie was dense – not in the sense that it was impenetrable, but more that we discussed a lot in a relatively short space of time. This in conjunction with the set reading I’m struggling to fully synthesis all we considered without skimming over quite weighty topics or clumsily paraphrasing. She spoke about her body of work, and how her background as a computer scientist informed her practice and interest in the intersect of the technological and social. We discussed how we might make visible aspects of technology which are mistified or blackboxed. It is this aspect which I feel is key to all of her work and many of the discussions we have in class. We are becoming more consistently aware of technology in relation to transparency, privacy, bias and mythology.

I’m particularly interested in how existing technological structures can be repurposed or subverted. Winnie spoke about her interest in Chinese characters and how their pictorial nature allows writers to layer meaning both in the content of their words but also the form. Soon described how users of the Chinese microblogging site Weibo were circumventing censorship by using characters which visually resembled objects, like 占占人 which resembles tanks approaching a person, a reference to the Tiananmen square protests in 1989, and the famous image of a man standing in the way of tanks.

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