Extagram 1/2 and Extagram/Oscilo by Tanja Vujinović

Extagram 1/2
Installation (objects, custom electronics, computer, live video and sound processing)
Production: Ultramono, 2007

Compilation of audio-visual works
1. Oscilo-DOE507, 6:15 min. / 2. Extagram-02, 1:47 min. / 3. Extagram-03, 1:56 min. / 4. Extagram-ST807, 3:15 min. / 5. Extagram 5, 3:22 min.
Production: Ultramono, 2007 

Extagram/Oscilo explores intrinsic signals and frequencies of electronic and early digital equipment.
Extagram 1 consists of six black textile objects with incorporated custom made electronic components. The exhibition’s visitors influence the quantity and quality of the audio-visual particles transmitted by these objects by touching them or moving in their proximity. Extagram 2 recycles digital particles from the Extagram/Oscilo audio-visual works. Extagram/Oscilo is devised as a collection, a digital library of recycled frequencies, mutating glitches, trajectories of test-signals and particles of toy sounds.

About the Discrete Events in Noisy Domains series of works

This page contains various studies from Discrete Events in Noisy Domains series, a succession of closely related media artworks within which I explored synthetic life forms, our attachment to gadgets, ambivalence towards technology, and the Internet of Things phenomenon.

Sometimes objects in the installations were collecting data from the spaces through multiple sensors, yet that fact was mostly ignored by the visitors due to their approachable interfaces.

For most of these works, I made custom software in Max/Msp/Jitter. For Oskop, I used the custom-made patch in Quartz Composer in combination with Audio Mulch. Within Blipstat, I used data sonification, and in Oscilorama data visualization and sonification. All work equally question contemporary media channels, glitches, noise, and invisible data trajectories and contain custom or ready-made electronic devices to form a temporary network of some sort that included the visitors. They are, in a way, transitory mappings of data fluxes and their oscillations and trajectories. Sometimes they were materialized as random locations of info-dust or anthropomorphized data-emitters, ranging from audio-visual installations and reactive environments to installations in public spaces, allowing visitors and passers-by to participate in the audio-visual reverberations. Works that belong to the Discrete Events in Noisy Domains series, as generative temporary probes, and as transformative structures, dissect some of the hidden layers of technology. The questions that these works open are, in my opinion, important and relevant questions regarding tweaking, networking, and sampling of contemporary media tools with all of their data-flows, channels, and grains of signals.

Anthropomorphic & Abstract Agents

Thinking about synthetic life forms related to the fast development of technology is part of the long history of anthropomorphization of non-living objects, including automatons with clockwork mechanisms, movable sculptures, and robots. Always provoking extreme reactions of both utopian and dystopian character, the rethinking of the long development of pseudo-life forms includes rethinking aspects of physical and digital technological being.

Throughout history, we have tried to create forms of artificial life that would execute in our name the boring or monotonous tasks, extend our life, and extend our reach in intellectual, physical and sensorial terms. In mythological, physical, virtual, mechanical or the domain of programming of anthropomorphic, abstract machines, and their combinations, these creations appear to become autonomous, from antiquity to today. We pack them with data and meaning in order to have them execute tasks on our behalf. Anthropomorphic machines (as a connection of consciousness with technology) have always been present in art and culture. Human physiognomy, characteristics, and behaviour were assigned to a wide range of objects; from deity figurines to non-living entities, to toys and dolls for purposes as diverse as religion or play. Whether it is art, religion, play or the latest technological discovery or entertainment, these projections of ourselves toward the outside world and shaping these projections into definite or fleeting humanoid forms have helped us move forward. Sometimes shaped and devised to function like an organism, software interfaces or telecommunication systems are based on metaphors of the human body. Through the whole of history, including today we are packaging data in anthropomorphic forms (as well as combinations of anthropomorphic and zoomorphic ones) as part of the process of conquering and the humanization of our surroundings. Mythological and religious statues and statuettes, homunculuses, Frankenstein’s monsters, automatons and robots, computer viruses and programmed personal assistants all belong to a wide but similar family of objects, ones gaining wider applicability and presence since they too possess inbuilt additional life in the form of computer programs. From benign algorithms to viruses, worms, and Trojan horses, abstract digital machines are omnipresent, and their external shells, housings or bodies are combinations of static and mobile hardware and operational systems. Anthropomorphization related to computer programs is happening on one level within so-called Eliza effect, which got its name from the chatbot Eliza, and it tells us precisely what we subconsciously assume that the behavior of computer programs is an analog to human behavior and reasoning. On the other hand, activities within the field of visual representation of humanoid agents are described through the Uncanny valley effect of Masahiro Mori, where a roboticist evaluates the degrees of imitation of physical characteristics of 3D simulations of human physiognomy (and within this scope also physical robots supported by engineering and software), as well as the degree of our willingness to accept those simulations.

Abstract agents are also here, intertwined within our operating systems, in our software, invisible, but always present. They are small machines within larger ones, creating and sorting noise at once. In cyber-worlds they generate clouds, they form flocks and simulate groups of people. They search, collect and sort data.

Special focus on both abstract and anthropomorphic machines within my work is where these notions overlap and expand towards the technological uncanny, the contemporary media of memory, data storage, and the differences and similarities between human and machinic perceptual apparatuses.

Throughout history, the emergence of every new form of media has provoked a variety of ambiguous responses within society. Just as the technological “uncanny” emerged as a reaction to electrical tools, photography, and telegraphic communication, nowadays it appears as a reaction to the latest digital tools.

These streams and segments of contemporary technologies are located in computational black boxes, within programmed overlapping streams of algorithms, in deep webs of social media and other dark corners of the internet, within semi-functional leftover satellites and other forgotten technological junk, in-between software updates and in archived software, among many other places.

Randomness & Noise

The exploration of the poetry of noise is one of the most significant aspects of my work, where I explore the structures of noise or randomness that here serves as a vehicle towards mutations and unexpected.
Noise might be seen as a vehicle towards mutations and poetics within the digital and electro-acoustic world, where, as some sort of an agent of serendipity, it enables new discoveries. Noise as a primal principle, such as Brownian noise, is one of the structural rhythms of nature and social emergencies, and when transferred to the domain of the digital, it has long served as a tool in forms of various algorithms for countless generative tasks that might resemble organisational principles from real life domains of natural or social fields. Within artworks, noise appears as both the substance and as an organizational principle of various digital or physical elements. Noise can be understood as a specific part of the signal that is generated by the communication mechanism itself. The relationship between noise and signal also inspires my work in a sense that all accidental discoveries and occurrences in previously defined routes of channel processing might represent a new road of development for the whole work or additional substance that adds to the richness of the structure.

Noise occurrences are an intrinsic phenomenon of every channel, virtual or analog.
Within media arts, the elements of noise are the side effect of each tool used, and sometimes they appear in works as either traces, substantial formal elements, or distinct accents with discursive roles.

Vilém Flusser acknowledged that the tendency of all information in nature is towards its diminishment. All information floats on the way to its own extinction. According to him, an impressive example of an anti-entropic activity is biomass re-emerging in various shapes and forms, and through these processes of the reproduction of biomass, mistakes, which we can also understand as noise, occur occasionally and grant evolution through the mutation of copies.

Noise, as the negative pole of information, might serve an agent’s critical questioning of the quality and availability of information and its carriers within media arts and society in general. Taking into account the entangledness of information and its material base, the communication noise generated by both the material base of information as well as its users might lead towards a mode of liberation from destructive "techno-nihilism" through letting in the unknown, the instinctual and experimental content, and openness towards the not immediately perceivable.

As Arthur Kroker proposed, the essence of new media art lies in reversing the technological field. The theory of electronic art becomes the art of electronic theory and manifests itself through three "anti-codes". The aesthetics of "digital dirt" becomes the ontology of art, "technologies of otherness within everyday cybernetics" become the political focus, and "digital incommensurability" an antidote to the age of "ubiquitous" and "calm" technology. The resulting digital art, with its technologies of otherness, opposing the "will to virtual hygiene" evokes shocks of excitement through the cracking, humming, and digital static of microcircuits. As a leading and animating force of digital life, the art of "digital dirt" brings about, as Kroker puts it, waste, accidents, and liquid distortions in systems and mutations, data crashes, and noises in the machines.