The exhibition title of Marina Rosenfeld's new work for Portikus, Deathstar, refersed to an unrealized line of research conducted in the late nineties in the last days of the sound laboratory at AT&T (formerly Bell Labs). Before it was abandoned, researchers explored the possibility of formalizing the subjective and transitory nature of sonic experience through a proprietary microphone configuration and set of calculations. So-called “perceptual soundfield reconstruction” aimed to allow users to reproduce a subjective, sensory account of the experience of space, foregrounding a kind of de-centered, high-fidelity subjectivity rather than portability and standardization. The “death star,” the device's informal nickname, referred more to the appearance of the structure, but the device also pointed to an alternative future, a future where listening was closely tied to cognition and the body.
Marina Rosenfeld takes up the “death star's” idea of environmental recording but inserts it back into a more immediate and complex temporality. The gallery is co-opted as a site of continuous simultaneous recording and playback, a fluid and recursive acoustic environment where a constant production and dispersal of data is subject to a series of delays and to the native distortion of Portikus' architecture. Indeterminacy in this system is a function not of philosophy, but the inability of the apparatus to fully grapple with the quantity and complexity of the signal that is continuously collected, translated, and redistributed through a set of shotgun microphones, an interface and four speakers.
Part echo chamber, part unruly machine, the Deathstar ultimately achieved a kind of legibility through another recursive gesture, the conversion of its collected sound back into musical notation, which was performed on March 31 in a 5-hour performance, but noted pianist Marino Formenti. In that sense sound was neither an abstraction nor a means to an end, but rather a material condition connected to the formation of music.
More info and edition at Portikus.de