Waveform is a 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, remote coastal landscapes are photographed from a vertical vantage using an airborne camera drone, before analysing the images gathered using software 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 software program that generates text resembling free-verse poetry, which is curated so as 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.
In the spring of 2018, Waveform featured in But There is No Land Near the End (2018) 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 a more detailed overview.
A short blog post concerning the early work on the project is available on the online literary journal, The Writing Platform.
The initial collection of images and poems for this project has been compiled into a dedicated artist’s book, a preview of which will be included below shortly.