Waveform is a speculative meditation on the role of digital sensors in contemporary environmental monitoring, exploring modes of capturing and expressing sensory data that depicts it not as an autonomous mirror of the observed, but as emerging out of exchanges between different sensing and interpreting agencies, both human and nonhuman.
In this project, coastal shorelines are photographed from a vertical vantage using an airborne camera drone, before analysing the images gathered using an algorithm that traces the edges of the shoreline—a process whose inherent ambiguity exposes the functional contingencies and encoded thresholds of the system. The resulting data points provide a supply of variables for another algorithm that generates text resembling free-verse poetry, which is curated to engage themes concerning the ocean, a changing climate, and the interrelated acts of sensing, measuring, and knowing. These actions are not autonomous, being subject to human intervention at each stage, but the result is a creative practice that acknowledges the intersecting agencies involved.
The intention is that the process and its outputs can provide a vehicle for deconstructing the remoteness often associated with the airborne perspective, as both a detached, disinterested ‘view from nowhere’, and as a ‘God’s Eye’ vision, with the power relations this suggests. Waveform is thus a speculative instance of how airborne imaging and digital sensing can be recast in ways that resist the prevailing discourses of abstraction, omniscience, and control that so readily attach to them—attitudes which are implicated heavily in contemporary ecological and climactic challenges.
The initial collection of images and poems for this project has been compiled into a dedicated artist’s book. In 2019, Waveform was turned into an animated short film for the Peripheries: Electronic Literature and New Media Art exhibition held at the Glucksman Gallery, Cork, as part of ELO2019. Programme entry here.
A dedicate online version of Waveform now also available, and it can be viewed here.
A detailed article, covering in-full the technical and conceptual background to the project, has been published by the journal Arts, in their special issue “The Machine as Artist (For the 21st Century).” It is available here.
In the spring of 2018 Waveform featured in a publication entitled But There is No Land Near the End by A+E Collective. This publication showcases the work of over twenty internationally based contemporary artists, poets, and writers whose practices engage with ecological questions. Both the publication and the launch event were named after a poem included within the Waveform collection. Poet Maria Sledmere (@mariaxrose), whose work is also featured, wrote a guest blog for Creative Carbon Scotland that offers an extended overview.
A short article concerning the initial work on the project was published by the online journal The Writing Platform. It is available here.