Peripheri.es has evolved into an online streaming platform that broadcasts what I have come to think of as mundane audio. This is often the sounds created by objects in and around my home or on the way to work captured in moments when the pressures of life have eased or have been momentarily suspended. It is generally in these moments that I should sit down and begin to make ‘Art,’ note the capitalisation, but such are the pressures of daily life that this is almost impossible. Instead, I began to make these small and unscheduled broadcasts as a way of doing something and connecting to a world outside of my routine. When I am not broadcasting an archive of sounds play automatically.
There is no singular mode of broadcast or platform that is being broadcast from. I use different cheap mics to pick up signals from whatever I can find that is making them. This varies has varied from sounds, to vibrations or electromagnetic signals. These mics connect to smartphone app (MediaCast) or laptop (BUTT) to broadcast. Each broadcast is recorded on a publicly available spreadsheet here. Sometimes I will broadcast over consecutive days and nights while sometimes I will not broadcast for weeks at a time. The broadcasts are largely unannounced, but I sometimes post to Instagram to let online friends know they are happening. I try to avoid looking at ‘listener data’ as I know the numbers are vanishingly small, but am comforted by the occasional comment by someone who is listening.
I am often filled with concern that the broadcasts lack the monumentality that Art requires. Even within the narrow confines of the parctice of ‘life casting’ as an artistic practice, these occasional broadcasts don’t have the discipline of their antecedents – like Franco and Eva Mattes ‘Life Sharing’ or Stelarc’s Ear on Arm or the breadth of their contemporaries that explores the Acoustic Commons. Yet, somehow, a couple of months in, the project persists. I think one of the key reasons for this is summed up by a quote I read a while ago from an essay about, arguably, the first lifecaster, Jennifer Ringley of Jennicam.
I was in my dorm room Saturday night doing laundry. I was a nerd! And I got an email from someone who said “I’m doing laundry too and I just looked and saw that you’re doing laundry on saturday night. It’s funny cuz I felt like a loser. I’m sitting at home doing laundry on Saturday night, but I saw you are too! So now I don’t feel so bad.” and that kind of just did it for me.
There’s something in this quote that suggests a solidarity between people caught up in mundane moments. Given my circumstances, I’ve found the switch into the ‘romantic’ mode of artist almost impossible. I’m cycling through my responsibilities, happily, I might add, but don’t have much left for anything else. Yet, the act of putting a mic by the TV, or attaching a contact mic to the washing machine, and launching an app so the sounds can stream to anyone who navigates to the site, feels curiously satisfying. The results are varied and any sort of aesthetic coherence is by no means guaranteed, but I am learning to accept this. Nor am I aiming for incoherence either, and have recently introduced a cheap loop pedal that I can use to build more textured sounds. The sounds are what they are in that moment.
Working with digital audio over this last year I have noticed that the word ‘capture’ crops up a lot. The mic is a ‘capture’ device. Yet, I am not interested in ‘capturing’ anything. I understand that these devices are mostly concerned with recording, but perhaps with that recording and playback comes the loss of that moment of solidarity mentioned above. I wrote in my PhD about Cartier-Bresson’s ‘decisive moment’ in photography, in which the movement of the camera and the subject align and ‘there is a moment in which elements in motion are in balance’ and held immobile, or recorded, on film. There is a focus, and the details of the image are subordinated to the alignment between the technology, human hand and subject. I think the purpose of my practice might now be the opposite of this – looking for ways for the complexity of the world to leak out to hint at all of the other stuff that is happening, while we focus on the ‘decisive moment.’
It is early days for Peripheri.es but this post marks it’s birth as a thing. So watch this space.