Sparkles Is Gone

“Sparkles is Gone” is an audiovisual work that explores the symbiotic relationship between the material and virtual realms through found footage, video game soundscapes, field recordings, and text to speech programmes.

Created as part of my MMus Portfolio.

“... It was as if I was watching something from a television drama, not real but viewed through a
screen.” - Your loving and very regretful wife

“Sparkles...” is an audiovisual work that explores the symbiotic relationship between the materia and virtual realms through found footage, video game soundscapes, field recordings, and text to speech programmes. Where works like Jon Rafman’s “Mainsqueeze” expresses the huma condition2 using this method, I am using it to assert sound practice as a means to elucidate upon the interactions of the material and virtual realms, uncovering a hypereal, “demythified time and space”3 laced in Baudrillard’s Simulation - Just as the regretful wife describes her experience as being “... from a television drama”, she is perceiving the real against the screen, the simulation.

If “what constitutes the body spans both virtual and material realms”4 - that a level of interactio between the two states is how we have positioned the perceiving body to operate, then we are already in a posthuman phase of existence - disembodied at least in part through the internet. This rests value in using transhuman and posthuman discourse in examining the effects that the virtual realm has on our existence. In “The senses have no Future”, transhumanist Hans Mauravec describes the dependency that a disembodied mind has on simulation: “To remain sane,a transplanted mind will require a consistent sensory and motor image, derived from a body, or from a simulation.”5 As information (motor image, simulation) is being prolifically uploaded and virtualized in an effort to live this virtual realm, we are unwittingly inscribing a decaying feedback loop upon the meaning and signification of this information

. We are begining to read

the simulation as the real.

This paper will explore the following aspects of the piece: sound, time, the birth, and how the are used to reveal the connectivity between the two realms, and the production of simulation.

The piece’s script is a collage of Reddit threads between various users that have been assemble to constitute an exchange between two unseen characters. The resultant script was sonified through a text to speech programme. The two unseen characters were given their own voic timbre (one a man’s, the other a woman’s) to trigger what Truax refers to as the “concept of the voice as the whole person”7: The listener hears two distinct voices, which feeds the illusion of the
presence of two fully formed characters, each telling fragments from their life. As “Unsee Acousmaitres” the characters “... are neither [in] the interior of the filmic stage nor the proscenium-a place that has no name”8 The “Unseen Acousmaitre” becomes an allegory for the
posthuman body, one that walks between the material and virtual realms.

Real and game soundscapes blend seamlessly (save for the humorous hint of a dragon’s growl) as the mind generates connectivity between dislocated sights and sounds. Softly, a breath from another place is heard: this duality of place is an extraction from Chris Marker’s “La Jetée”. The film portrays the simultaneity of a man’s body in two places through the use of sound: We can hear the world of the past which he has been sent to from the future, but we also hear this future
through the muffled voices of his captors in the dystopian world which is body also inhabits. It is in a similar way that we explore the virtual realm as our bodies remain here, next to the noise of the Internet router, at home or at work.

The film represents the space of the virtual world as we move in it. A place, fractured to the extent that our nature desires to wander: We become psychogeography’s modern child: the
cyberflâneur,9 the epitome of one who travels where space and time are in crisis10, lost to machinic rhythmicity11. The cyberflâneur visits moments past in an instant, reliving a moment of loneliness in perpetuity, rereading conversations, and the anonymous confessionals of others on Reddit - reconstituted vestiges of the material realm. Like the sound of our surfing from site to site, sounds in the piece stop and start abruptly between each space and bleed over eachother.

Sourced from YouTube, the birth represents the implosion of meaning in the media12. A birth has its emotive qualities – it ties communities together, a body to embody socialization; the birth footage embodies the media’s hand in the implosion of meaning: a moment of intimacy in this context becomes a “throw away” - trivial to the viewer, void of meaning if only resulting in discomfort. The scene is accompanied by a saccharine underscore and textualized thoughts –
abstraction upon abstraction in attempts to rid the experience of any veracity. Does even the sound of the mother’s joy and relief at the end survive this?

Where Foucault’s The Utopian Body13 brings a nostalgic face to the subject of the body and the virtual realm, I would rather end in a cautionary fashion, on one hypothetical evening where Sitegler and Baudrilliard meet, in the latter’s dreamless, posthuman twilight:

“All this televisual conditioning: make-up, spotlights, image feed, monitors... anguish. Never any silence, any slip-ups or sighs. You switch on your tele-prompter and set yourself to automatic pilot. The studio lights and the night in your head.
Exactly the opposite of the night hours when ideas are close to waking dreams.”14

Is this the posthuman which we seek?