GIF created from visual output of Wet Signal Voice Gardens by Kari Robertson
Wet Signal Voice Gardens is an online landscape, built as a tool to explore the many aspects of the human voice; its non-linguistic properties and its position in the digital world. It is brought to UP Projects' digital commissioning programme This Is Public Space by Netherlands-based artist Kari Robertson.
Wet Signal Voice Gardens invites international participation, to explore how hierarchies of value present in the offline world might persist, or could be subverted, online. In highlighting which voices are ordinarily more and less able to traverse and communicate within digital space Wet Signal Voice Gardens subverts the prejudices of the offline world and, in so doing, attempts to create an inclusive space. In her research for the project Robertson examined how dominant technology such as Alexa or Google Assistant promote a sense of vocal perfection, leaving no room for the many deviations of the embodied human voice.
The artist states: “Typical vocal avatars, such as Siri, are absent of speech defects such as stutters or slips of the tongue. They do not get laryngitis, toothache or social anxiety. Therefore, they almost always resemble impossibly able-bodied members of society, with highly limited representation, of age, race, accent, physical disability or neurodiversity.”
Wet Signal Voice Gardens is a virtual landscape where audiences are invited to speak into the microphone built into their laptop or smartphones. The audience contribution is recorded and the sound is translated by Flask and P5js software into a visual avatar. The form and visual characteristics of these avatars are determined by attributes of the voice such as pitch, length, nuance, and volume. The artwork then creates an online visual representation of diverse voices and, in so doing, performs a potential counterpoint to the typically seamless ‘smoothness’ of the digital voice.
Wet Signal Voice Gardens relies on varied audio properties in order to playfully critique and subvert, rather than replicate, established power relations. Robertson’s artwork seeks to highlight forms of vocal prejudice that exist on- and off-line and opens a space for other forms of relation beyond the divisions of language, dialect and ableism.
The voice plays an important role in the offline world. It can establish power dynamics or uphold existing power structures that shape societies and outlooks. Recent research by Casey A. Klofstad, Rindy C. Anderson and Susan Peters (of the University of Miami and Duke University respectively) demonstrated that while “higher-pitched female speakers are perceived as more attractive … Both men and women find lower-pitched female voices to be more competent”
The ability to link visual imagery to verbal speech has been shown to enhance reading and listening comprehension. It also helps cement understanding of the meaning of the words in the user’s memory and is a technique used when teaching very small children how to read and speak. By highlighting prejudice, difference, and the non-linguistic properties of vocalisation, Robertson’s artwork provides a gateway for new learning and comprehension, as well as the unlearning of pre-existing personal biases.
Kari Robertson b. 1988, Scotland, is a visual artist who lives and works in Rotterdam. Robertson works with time-based media, primarily sound, analogue film and digital video. She received an M.A in Fine Art from The Piet Zwart Institute in 2016, and undertook a residency at Deltaworkers New Orleans through the Mondriaan Fund in 2019.
Selected exhibitions include; Showroom MAMA (Rotterdam), The ICA (Singapore), The Banff Centre (Canada), Radiophrenia (Glasgow), Killjoy Collective (Portland Oregon), The Showroom (London), The CCA (Glasgow), TENT (Rotterdam), Flat Time House (London), LUX Scotland, and Transmission Gallery (Glasgow).
In her work Kari takes a ‘sci-fi’ approach to subjectivity, using narrative as a tool to re/un-think the sovereignty of our bodies, identities or minds, and as a means to access forms of ‘radical empathy’ (what it might be to empathize beyond the familial bonds of identity, similarity or equivalence). She playfully explores how post-digital constructions and distributions of the subject impact on what we consider explicitly ‘personal’ or ‘subjective’.
Kari currently co-runs GHOST with Madison Bycroft and Natalia Sorzano. This is a nomadic curatorial project who programme bi-monthly screenings at WORM Cinema (Rotterdam) and monthly reading group Improvisation, Policing and Opacity at Tender Centre (Rotterdam). GHOST has recently programmed exhibitions at Galerie HLM (Marseille), Microscope Gallery (New York) and MIAMI (Bogota).
Copyright © Wet Signal Voice Gardens by Kari Robertson is commissioned by UP Projects for This is Public Space and supported by Stimuleringfonds and Arts Council England.
You have been travelling for four sunrises. Your flask is nearly empty and there are just scraps of dried fruit left in your pack. Your feet drag over ruptured chunks of tarmac and uneven paving slabs, through which tough and resourceful plants push their heads. Deserted grey buildings are your companions, their broken glass eyes lifeless under the midday sun. Your head hangs low with tiredness and heat.
You stop. Through a buckled gate you see the unusual sight of a flickering electric sign hanging from a post in the middle of a long stone courtyard. You clamber through the twisted metal turnstile to investigate. The sign points to an open doorway, through which you see a host of electric lights blinking in a pale rainbow of colour. You enter. The room is bare apart from the lights and a descending spiral staircase. Two doors lead off to the left and right of the room but they are locked shut. Through the small glass windows in their surface you can see only darkness beyond. The room is cool, a welcome respite from the searing weather outside. You decide to follow the stairs downwards. Wide stone steps cause your footsteps to echo upward. You hold the cool metal banister, its black turned surface guiding your descent. Debris litters the less trodden parts of the steps, scraps of fabric and browned paper nesting amongst piles of dust that have gathered in corners where the stone meets the flaking painted walls. You soon find yourself on a narrow landing. Doors to your left and right have been sealed up with scraps of wooden board. In front of you is a large metal door, onto which are scratched the letters ‘H R’. You gently push the door. It swings violently inward at your touch, causing you stumble through. The door closes again before you are able to regain your balance. You spin round and try it but it will not open. There is no visible lock or handle and the door is far too thick and sturdy to break open. You sigh with resignation. It is time to explore your new surroundings.
You are stood in a dimly lit reception area. The walls are black and covered in chalk glyphs. There is a set of double doors ahead of you. To your left is a market stall, bedecked with hundreds of hand-painted wooden necklaces. Each necklace features a symbol consisting of two circles, one on top of the other. The upper circle features a skull-like robotic face, the lower a pair of staring eyes. On top of the stall sits a small, brightly-coloured robot, surrounded by a cluster of electric candles. You step forward to look more closely at the robot.
“Welcome to Happy Redoubt, friend!” The robot turns to look directly at you. Lights flicker across its face as it speaks. “Please rest a while here in the marketplace. You can do jobs and earn currency. You can spend the currency on things you like. You can rest and do jobs. Please enter the market place. Be productive. Earn currency. We are watching. Welcome friend.” The robot gestures towards the doors ahead of you, its arms and head twitching constantly as it does so.
“Have been here before? You seem familiar. Each visit is different. The options are endless. Welcome.”
Restless traveller seeking adventure, knowledge, and happiness.
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3"11' high. Loves to tinker and fix. Was a watchmaker in a grand city. Once tried to fix a nobleís large clock and found it too complex and too unfamiliar a design to repair properly. Widely scorned for 'letting the gnome folk name down'. Still scraping a living.
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£1 family from Stoke-on-Trent - we like gardening, growing salads and visiting the green spaces in cities. There are three of us, two with strong fringes and one with a beard. We live next door to a large brownfield and an oil refinery. We are keen bird watchers.
Torridon Croft was born into a life of privilege and quickly developed an insatiable appetite for destruction. It is said that great power demands great responsibility ñ not for young Torridon. Last rumoured to be peddling the Dagger of Xian around Kensington's least reputable antiques dealers. The world turns on Torridon's wretched axis.
Follow nine players as they navigate their way through Happy Redoubt, a post disaster marketplace run by the remnants of the former technological age. They will be entering their moves in real time and will receive bespoke responses from Juneau Projects. Their game will form a unique story as they navigate the marketplace, using arts and crafts skills to survive in a new economy of making and creativity.
Three players will begin, followed by subsequent rounds of three players at a time, each making their own journey. The game will run from 19th May to 22nd July.