Participant is a project that seeks to continue a research made —through music and sound objects— with my alter-ego Ex Continent; with which I had previously delved into topics such as connectivity (Península, 2015), or a transition to post-humanism and the inability to escape new realities and structures (Residual, 2016), or the search for essential answers, questioning reality itself and our individual relationship with it (La perspectiva racional, 2017).
The grounds for Participant consist in emphasizing an inability to choose in whether or not we want to participate in certain events that give rise to new social realities that occur almost unconsciously around us. The project explores the consequences of millennial change on a cognitive level and it observes how it manifests itself through the population thus revealing the realities that arise in the form of hallucinations, mental illness, social isolation, individualism, etc.
This sound object was created in a period of isolation, and was nourished by an imaginary created in this unconscious cognitive process in which I did not differentiate between reality and illusion. The sounds from the street blend with the sounds created in the studio.
The album was recorded in Barcelona between July 2017 and June 2018 and mastered by Jack Callahan in NYC, 2018.
Bhob Rainey — Saxophone
Nate Davis — Guitar
— May 10th 2019 — Participant Design and introduction to Context, perception – In search of hyper-mediations and community @ Hangar.org, Barcelona
— November 10th 2018 — Ex Continent with Lag Os and Rafa Romero – Live / Audio Visual Event as part of Anòmia ACC012 @ Hangar.org, Barcelona
— September 15th 2018 — Ex Continent presents PARTICIPANT — Live Audio Visual Event / Round table discussion as part of MRB_AMM @ Huarte Centro de Arte Contemporáneo, Navarra
UNA REALITAT QUE ES FA INSUPORTABLE
(a reality which becomes unbearable)
—by Arnau Sala Saez and Alex Hampshire
As humans, we are always involuntary participants in the events around us, often giving the impression of barely taking part in these events all the while, yet completely unable to avoid doing so.
Although “Participant” began simply as a full length album, the project was quickly informed and inspired by both ephemeral ideas, and factual events. The realization of these elements added the necessary texture to expand the material. At first glance, this juxtaposition may appear careless or without correlation, but through acute observation, fundamental links are revealed accordingly.
As the dawn of a new millennium arrives both as symbol and historical landmark, we are unaltered, and this effect can be felt in retrograde. As observers, we should perceive this phenomenon as a revelation. Now I wonder; does this realization trigger new perceptions capable of altering our consciousness?
Through this unconscious cognitive process of sifting through realizations (or perhaps illusions), I have experienced what can only be closely related to overexposure; constant consumption of media, video-games, religion, dreams or even hallucinatory experiences. Of course, now I wonder, what could unfold into a new parallel reality? “Participant,” raises questions.
In a timeline of embracing reactions, hearing ideas, and becoming fully immersed in studies dedicated to this very subject, yes, of course, I recognize there is a global awareness attached to this phenomenon.
Many testimonials upon first realization of this truth describe feeling an unrecognised sense of chaos due to exposure to unconnected realities. These experiences are not only induced by the overwhelming feeling that it is us experiencing them, but that they are indeed happening in real time around us.
These events occur not only in our immediate environment but are broadcasted directly into our consciousness by way of long distance communication. Our direct exposure to multiple forms of information as we consume massive amounts of data mutates our reality into something completely unrecognizable as a consequence of pure outside elements.
The musical component of “Participant” is a testimonial of development. “Participant” started as a work-in-progress reaching out to the masses, hoping to connect with individuals and groups alike. It is defiantly true that the audience for “Participant” has dealt with these issues as we all have in this life.
At a time when culture is either galvanized without sparing a moment for digestion, or over-conceptualized and limited to an elite few; “Participant,” generates pure and utter detachment.
“Participant” is a continuation, an observation that perception carries with it immense detachment. This detachment aligns itself with the rise of the individual, a loss of altruism, and the final blur of reality — raising the question: “Where do we find ourselves? How ‘real’ is our experience? Was our experience more ‘real’ before we were aware of these changes?” Each question is a tiny shattered visit to a different island of perception. An island where awareness of existence is questioned from ultra-local to macro-cosmic.
—by David Sutton
Disillusioned, peppering yourself around the metropolitan sprawl you call home; the one that used to bellow experiential void filler? A common malady of these days, in times of such velocity. “Participant” conjures perfectly the feeling of when the city you have called home becomes an unfamiliar and alien place. The initial broad stroke of the record echoes that drifting feeling of wandering around streets layered and dismantled in objects of context, motions towards something lost and gone. Classic synthetic waves drift between an evenly dispersed field of phasing pointillism beckoning the listener into fluorescent passages and steam filled corridors. You can hear our familiar human breath in the distance, the same angry yard dog- but there is a recognizable gap between the wanderer and the landscape. The effectiveness of “Participant”’s active paradox is its inclusion of the near world of our five senses, through field recordings passing into and out of focus, but also its acknowledgment of our growing unnaturalness through the sleekness of synthetic movements in sound; closing in perfectly on our separation into convoluted virtual spaces that often direct our motives more than the physical spaces we inhabit. “Participant” does not present a monolithic anthem of our tech infused new world but instead soundtracks its strangeness and the sociopolitical situations it can further unsettle and moreover leaves a pathway for the human to interface with this varied landscape as so much of its contemporaries do not.
—by David Menestres
The world is more connected than ever, or so we’re led to believe. I can tweet from my current home on the east coast of the United States to someone in Spain or Hong Kong and receive a nearly immediate reply. I can jump in an airplane and be anywhere in the world in a day or so, assuming I have the cash. I can have a video chat with almost anyone anywhere in the world at the click of a button, assuming that person has internet access, something that’s not guaranteed even in industrialized nations.
We have at our fingertips an almost unlimited amount of information, assuming it’s been digitized. You can access almost any movie or album ever made. You can dive deep into medieval illuminated manuscripts or conspiracy theories about Bigfoot, Marilyn Monroe, and aliens. You can watch around the clock news, fresh as it happens in real time. You can see what political party has decided to sell out the human race today, and then you can check back tomorrow to discover it’s someone else’s turn to sell their humanity to the highest corporate bidder, same Bat Time, same Bat Channel.
We live in a commercial nightmare. Ads blare constantly from televisions and radios, they hang on the wall in the toilet of your local pub, they flicker on your computer as you look at cat videos, they’re on the bus trying to get you to use the latest hook-up app to fleetingly fill the need for contact. Pollution of all kinds fills our eyes, our minds, our skies, and our waterways.
How do these instantaneous worldwide connections with people and information inhibit our ability to connect with people in real life? How does this stop us from saying hello to the people we pass on the sidewalk, or sit next to on the subway, or stand next to in line at the coffee shop?
The Participant project grew out of a desire to rethink these unsatisfying connections, to rethink how we interact with each other both in person and in virtual spaces, to rethink how we deal with the never-ending torrent of information, political upheaval, growing fascism, and other nightmares we’re constantly faced with.
The music pushes and pulls, filled with micro-movements in every direction as the music surges forward. Moments of noise and slivers of cyberpunk nightmares break like fish jumping out of a mountain stream. The underlying crush heaves the music forwards, pulsating like a stuttering heart. Sometimes the music stumbles, leaving you sprawled on the ground with gravel ground deep into your flesh before picking you up and tossing you forward again, pulling you back towards the deep before slamming you into a shell encrusted beach.
The music isn’t going to show you how to be a better person. The music isn’t going to hold your hand and recite mantras from the latest self-help craze or provide you with financial advice. The music might clear a place for you to take a break from the constant information flowing around us. Perhaps the music will show you a different way to interact with the people around you, both those living on your block and those on the other side of the world.
In The Owl’s Legacy, Chris Marker states, “In order to be a real individual the community must evolve. And it can only evolve when each member becomes different. These two conditions go together.” Ex Continent is Participant showing you his evolution. Give it a listen with friends and with strangers, in your car and from a boom box while walking down the street. Then make your own path towards becoming the Participant.
“You’re Not Stuck In Traffic—You Are Traffic.”
— Kevin Slavin says (Design as Participation)
An Attempt to Go Beyond the Surface
— by Mattin
This record is connected to its time in a weird way, it is at the crossroads of many thoughts and different genres of music. It tries to think of an epoch which is marked by rapid changes, confusion and the consequent, unfulfilled thirst for clarity. Here we have a synthesis of these elements through electronic means, a document which troubles its own temporal nature and locality. Kingston, Chicago and Berlin are present but it is recorded in Barcelona. In fact it includes recordings from Barcelona and the complexity of the record matches the complexity of the political landscape the city has been going through in the past few years. In times of flattened screens, mass production of music and little time to listen to it, it is difficult to achieve depth and it is even more difficult to think historically. Nevertheless Participant is constantly trying to do this by pursuing a dialectic between the abstract and the material, between sounds of a familiarity to the experimental dance listener and the hard asphalt urban texture of Barcelona – which penetrates the rhythms and textures through street recordings of drilling and is the subject of the album’s artwork.
The quotidian social conflicts of Zona Franca, the neighbourhood from Barcelona where this record was produced, also phase heavily into the recording but their meaning is constantly collapsing into a frail web of movements and percussion which hangs perilously over the historical context this record is beckoning the listener to concern with. Participant is confronting Barcelona’s current and historical sociopolitical strife by presenting every common denominator and generic place as historically and contextually implicated to past events. But here we find no resolutions. As we listen to it, a troubling thought creeps in; there is a problem, in both in our relation to the present and in our relation to the past. But as the next track bounces in uncertainty wavers and the confusion of enjoyment, catharsis and contemplation all must be reconciled.
There is a linearity to the form of current consumption which is contrasted by the possibilities available through the internet as if we were
constantly trying to catch the latest cool trend as if our identity building is absolutely dependent on it. Nevertheless this identity never comes or when it comes, it is deeply unsatisfactory. It generates depression and discontent. Ex Continent knows that and deals with this problem in a way that is not obvious. As a matter of fact this is a record of this struggle, a crystallization of thinking and feeling that goes between the personal to the universal, between solitary despair and the longing for a collectivism that never comes but the idea of it is always there, even in its most textural qualities.
The angel of history is trying to turn its head, but it cannot, because it is forced to look at her latest message in the screen of her mobile phone. However she still has her ears to hear the catastrophe of progress in the background. Still rarely pays attention to it, but while listening to Participant on the headphones, she is reminded that the noise behind it will haunt her until it goes beyond the surface of history in order to gain some collective perspective. And who knows, this might only happen in the dance floor!
In order to effectively respond to the significant scientific challenges of our times, I believe we must view the world as many interconnected, complex, self-adaptive systems across scales and dimensions that are unknowable and largely inseparable from the observer and the designer. In other words, we are participants in multiple evolutionary systems with different fitness landscapes at different scales, from our microbes to our individual identities to society and our species. Individuals themselves are systems composed of systems of systems, such as the cells in our bodies that behave more like system-level designers than we do.
Instead of trying to control or design or even understand systems, it is more important to design systems that participate as responsible, aware and robust elements of even more complex systems. And we must question and adapt our own purpose and sensibilities as designers and components of the system for a much more humble approach: Humility over Control.
We could call it “participant design”—design of systems as and by participants—that is more akin to the increase of a flourishing function, where flourishing is a measure of vigor and health rather than scale or power. We can measure the ability for systems to adapt creatively, as well as their resilience and their ability to use resources in an interesting way.
Resisting Reduction — Designing our Complex Future with Machines
by Joichi Ito
Images from the film ماء الفضة — Silvered Water, Syria Self-Portrait (2014)
Unknown: The Nightmare of Future Wars (Russia, early 1900’s)
From All Tomorrow’s Parties
—William Gibson, 1999
September 1st, 2018
In the times of globalization we have learned that we are dependent on everything that happens around the globe—politically, economically, ecologically. But the Earth is not isolated in the cosmos. It depends on the processes that take place in cosmic space—in dark matter, waves and particles, stars exploding, and galaxies collapsing. And the fate of mankind also depends on these cosmic processes because all these cosmic waves and particles pass through human bodies. And the position of theEarth in the cosmic whole determines the conditions under which its living organisms survive on its surface.
This dependence of mankind on cosmic events that are uncontrollable and even unknown is the source of a specifically modern anxiety. One can call it a cosmic anxiety: the anxiety of being a part of the cosmos—and of not being able to control it.
One can cite Georges Bataille’s theory of the “accursed share,” for instance. According to it, the sun always sends more energy to the Earth than the Earth, together with the organisms living on its surface, can absorb. After all efforts to use this energy for the production of goods and raising the living standard of the population, the reremains a non-absorbed, unused remainder of solar energy. The rest of this energy is necessarily destructive—it can be spent only through violence and war. Or, at least, through ecstatic festivals and sexual orgies that channel and absorb this remainder of energy through less dangerous activities. In this way, human culture and politics are also determined by cosmic energies—forever shifting between order and disorder.
From Cosmic Anxiety: The Russian Case — Boris Groys (e-flux, 2015)
“people cannot grasp the fact… that the true individual can only exist in a certain kind of community. Of course we are all individuals. […]
In order to be a real individual the community must evolve. And it can only evolve when each member becomes different. These two conditions go together.”
From The Owl’s Legacy — Chris Marker, 1989