Waveform is a speculative instance of ‘drone generated poetry’, meditating on the role of digital sensors in contemporary environmental monitoring. In this project, coastal shorelines are imaged using an airborne camera drone. The data gathered is then analysed using a machine vision algorithm that attempts to trace the nebulous boundary between wave and shore—a process whose inherent ambiguity exposes the functional contingencies and encoded thresholds of the system. The marker points that define this boundary then supply variables for another algorithm that generates short, enigmatic statements, which are curated to engage themes concerning the maritime environment, the perils and absurdities of life in a rapidly degenerating climate, and the interrelated acts of sensing, measuring, and knowing.
Both the process and its outputs entangle and unsettle the varied liminal markers distinguishing land and sea, the visual and the textual, and machinic versus human modes of sense-making, in order to inspire reflection on their combined roles in mapping, across science and culture alike, the epochal threshold of the Anthropocene.
A collection of images and poems for this project was first compiled into a dedicated artist’s book in 2018, which has never been released. In 2020 this collection was updated and reprinted in a large-format edition for exhibition at the British Library, and subsequent public sale.
In 2023 a free, online edition of Waveform was compiled, derived from the 2018 and 2020 editions, and it can be viewed by clicking on the cover image below, or through this link.
In 2019, a version of Waveform was produced as a short artist’s film. The ambient soundscape for this film was created specially by Dr. Mariana López. This film version is discussed in-depth as part of a special issue of IJCMR “Digital Ecologies: Fiction Machines”. DOI: https://doi.org/10.33008/IJCMR.202017.
An abridged version of the film also featured as part of the online Computer Vision Art Gallery for the 2021 IEEE Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR), as part of the “Ethical Considerations in Creative applications of Computer Vision” (EC3V) workshop. Gallery page available at this link here.
In 2022, the film version of Waveform was included as part of The Electronic Literature Collection, Volume 4, compiled by The Electronic Literature Organisation. The entry can be browsed at this link here.
Waveform features in a chapter of Dr Jeneen Naji’s book Digital Poetry (2021) (specifically, in the chapter “Eco-writing and Drone: Digital Poetry During the Anthropocene”, alongside work by Shelly Jackson and Pip Thornton). It can be previewed and purchased at this link here.
Waveform is cited as part of Dr Lai-Tze Fan’s chapter “Digital Nature”, in Nature and Literary Studies (2022). DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108872263.023.
Waveform is due to be featured in a dedicated chapter written by the artist, entitled “Drone Poetry”, in Ambient Stories: Digital Writing in Place. Ed. Amy Spencer. Emerald (forthcoming).
The film version of Waveform was discussed by the artist in a special issue of IJCMR “Digital Ecologies: Fiction Machines”. DOI: https://doi.org/10.33008/IJCMR.202017.
Waveform is cited in the article “Electronic Literature and the Anthropocene” for Electronic Book Review. DOI: https://doi.org/10.7273/rt06-ts14.
The first edition of the Waveform book publication has been discussed in the article “The Book and its Algorithm” for Artist’s Book Yearbook 2020-2021. It can be purchased here.
A detailed article, covering the early 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 an output from 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 in 2017. It is available here.