Boris Shershenkov

Art Project Depot - Interviews - Boris Shershenkov

The Etheroforming observatory project considers the parameters of the visible as conditional categories. While we think in the models of everyday understanding of the world, there are many invisible worlds and fields of information that remain beyond the limits of human perception. In one of the descriptions of his way of making art, Boris Shershenkov says that he “studies the phenomenon of electronic synesthesia of teletransmitters, arising from disturbances in the reception of an analog signal”. In his project for the Gallery Gallery, he used a similar method, which included "anthropogenic traces observing the etheric environment, which arose on the basis of the signal of the central Soviet television". The nature of the captured sound has laboratory characteristics most directly related to the description of the idea of time. Changes in the frequency and volume of the sound create the illusion that there is some linearly evolving sequential narrative that misleads the listener into making sense of it within certain time limits, but these limits are far from commensurate with ordinary human understandings. In practice, sound describes a field without beginning and end. This methodology is analogous to the experiments from the beginning of video art, when a significant interest in the aesthetic possibilities inherent in the video signal itself developed. Although Boris Shershenkov is an engineer, sound artist, media archaeologist and designer of musical instruments, his method of working in this virtual exhibition reminded me of the work of Norwegian video artist Tor Jørgen van Eijk, who explores the aesthetic possibilities inherent in a video signal reproduced with analog technology. This provoked my conversation with Boris about the specific analysis of the "invisible" information environment around us.

What is the focus of the media archaeologist's work?

I think there are two most important concepts for understanding the methodologies of the media archaeology. The first one is the idea of Marshall McLuhan that content of every new medium is always previous medium or combination of them. The second one is the concept of cultural topoi as interpreted by the Erkki Huntamo, the existence of persistent cultural formulas which traces could be found in past and present in the different areas of our living, including media technologies. As an artist, I am working more in the field of applied media archaeology and primarily interested in the features of analog audiovisual media which are an attempt to preserve the events of the surrounding world in the form closest to them in terms of the temporal component. I am using the original Soviet technological artifacts, which are now obsolete as information carriers, as the instruments for the creation of abstract audiovisual works documenting the search and discovery of hidden interconnections between and inside them and decoding the messages of their medium. For me these artifacts are a kind of "time capsules", containing the signals with special inadvertent properties formed under the influence of technological, political, social, economic and aesthetic prerequisites of their time. Understanding these properties allow us to see how the old media influenced our present and suggest the ways of dealing with the new media which will determine our future.

What do you think is the place of the traces left by the communication of human-made machines in the analysis of the world that makes art?

The constant acceleration of the various social and industrial processes by means of new electrical communication technologies during XX-XXI century made things we are usually counting as immaterial, such as ideas, ideologies, words and thoughts, to make great impact on our world leaving noticeable traces in our environment. And the technology itself became the integral part of this environment, much more natural for everyday experience than the nature itself, especially in the big cities. It is hard to imagine even a day spent without the electrical devices and digital media, which are so complex nowadays that they are already closer not to the machines of the past, but to the primitive living organisms, forming their own technological universe with specific laws, ecological and technobioacoustical communication systems. Our dependency on this universe in turn define the ways of our perception of the world around us, leave the traces first of all in our minds. This kind of traces are most noticeable in our modern culture between the interpretation of the art of the past and the techniques of contemporary art trying to work with these new ways of perception.

When do images appear in your projects, before or after the sound?

For me sound is very special medium suggesting different quality of sensory experience of the inner and outer world phenomena uniting the categories of time and space, living and non-living, natural and artificial, social and individual, human and non-human, consciousness and subconsciousness. In my works sound always the result and they are intended to be experienced first of all as auditory sensation as the foundation for other senses. In my audiovisual projects such as “Etheroforming” and “infra” I’m developing the concept of analog synesthesia when the image is not the sound visualization or instrument for sound producing, but the part of the same process in electrical medium which we could perceive as sound and image simultaneously by means of analog audiovisual technology. This processes happening in different frequencies and some events in them could happen less than 20 times per second, others – much faster, from 50 to 20 000 times per second. The parts which are too slow for our ears and we could only see, other parts which are too fast for the eye – only hear. And in this kind of extended temporal perception audial and visual are not competing but complementing each other.

Do the technical parameters of the way machines communicate and the signals they leave in the information space create a language that can be understood unambiguously compared to the many symbolic modes of communication that people interpret in countless different ways?

The media technologies are the new kind of post pigeons which, by the way, also used the electromagnetic waves to carry the human messages. We know everything about the content of the message, its language and material from which it is made, we know everything about anatomy, physiology and behavior of the pigeon and could use this knowledge. But we don’t know anything about his/her thoughts, feelings, social communication and language and don’t try to understand them. The same we could say about the attitude to any kind of complex organisms such as plants, symbiotic bacterial colonies or distributed electronic systems. So it is already a great leap forward to even consider the possibility to think about this hidden communication as actual language and trying to study it in that way developing the empathy to Other and revealing the “genetics” of the technology based on human topoi. It looks like the importance of this approach are more and more appreciated nowadays indicating the non-human turn of modern arts and sciences.

The visual part of the Etheroforming Observatory describes the motion of planets that seemingly take place on a single plane, but the play of shadows and colors that intersect them actually creates the idea that they move simultaneously in many parallel worlds. Is this picture related to the idea that we are part of an indivisible whole, which is difficult to understand and perceive quite limited within the framework of three-dimensional thinking and our relative notions of time and space?

Yes, indeed, the etheric media are existing not only in four dimensions – three-dimensional space and time, but at least has one hidden dimension, the fifth dimension of frequency domain. In Russian language the word “ether” is still widely used in the context of media as kind of spatial characteristic of parallel reality and when somebody is on air via radio or TV we usually say that they “went into ether”, they are “in ether” or even “sailing in waves of radioether”. The cyclic movements in the etheric space are the different modulations connecting the radio technologies and etheric topoi with the Music of Spheres, the Pythagorean theory understanding the world through the vibration and harmony, traces of which we could find in the most advanced physical theories of our time. In the Etheroforming Observatory: Program One by means of virtual space and auralization algorithms we could perceive these cyclic planetary movements as visual stimuli and modulations of audio signals representing the etheric waves as orbital revolutions in the numerical ratios and symbolic harmony of CST emblem.

Interview by Irina Batkova