Das Superpaper 33
Edited by Caleb Kelly
In the mid-1980s I vividly recall teaching myself Atari Basic from a fat manual. I wrote exceptionally basic code for my Atari 800XL, code that miraculously produced large pixels that moved across a screen, controlled by my joystick. These brightly coloured squares appeared, quite bizarrely, on the family TV set, and I was proud and excited that I could create this very simple ‘painting’ program.
The possibility of writing a simple program that was not all that far from more professional programming is very different to our present day situation. I cannot teach myself in a short time how to make a useful painting program, and why would I when we have very powerful applications available to us? In the ’00s we got used to having applications such as Photoshop, Pro Tools or After Effects do the work for us and most of us have no real sense how they do this work – I have absolutely no idea of what is behind the interface of these applications.
In recent years there has been a tangible shift back to making simple electronics and writing code, and with it a return to handmade electronics. There is an abundance of hardware and software available that helps us to build electronics and code; from Arduino to littleBits, MaKey MaKey to Ototo, Scratch to Python. Even the kids are getting into it, shoved along by the adored and addictive Minecraft game. The maker movement is swiftly gaining momentum, opening spaces for people to meet and learn to hack, make, share and hang out in tool sheds and around tables filled with electronics components. Recently I heard about a board game scene in Sydney where people not only design games, they laser cut the board game’s elements! This hands-on turn is pushing a return to material thinking after a decade of blankly staring at screens.
My specific area of research interest has, for a long time (20 odd years), been sound. Sound is not often thought of as material; it is after all created by wave-making events. Yet we often have a physical response to sound; we can feel it if it hits us hard enough. Recently, at the faculty formally known as COFA, two very physical sound events occurred within the Liquid Architecture 2014 festival. The first was the installation Bunghole, erected by Eric Demetriou. The work is an installation in which metal drums implode, producing a loud short sharp bang. The sound hits the audience and yet it is produced by the inward crumpling of the drums. This explosion/implosion has a strange effect on the mind and body, which expects such a sound to have an outward result. The second physical sound occurrence was produced by Hard Hat, the band of Peter Blamey and Kusum Normoyle (both represented in this issue of Das Superpaper). Hard Hat utilised two mighty guitar amps and the courtyard PA to produce a violent and physical noise that could be heard blocks away. As is always the case, some of the audience protected their hearing from the outburst by plugging their ears, yet there was nothing we could do to plug our bodies from the palpable sound waves massaging our inner organs.
In this issue of Das Superpaper the authors have approached the theme of materials through an array of practices including art, media, music and text. The issues draws together a series of dialogues and conversations, short articles and page works that engage materials in a discourse that is multitudinous and far reaching. Most hail from Sydney and many are associated with the UNSW-based research group Sound and Materials. The group is focused on making and thinking about sound as a material component of arts practice. For the most part these researchers are producing sound not from within a ‘digital studio’ but rather through physical and material means.
Sound and Materials | UNSW Art & Design