White noise


The image above was made whilst listening to the sound of rainfall in earphones.  Rainfall is considered to be a natural source of white noise. The adjective ‘white’ is used to describe this type of noise because of the way that white light works. White light is made of all the different colours (frequencies) of light combined.  White noise is all of the frequencies of sound combined.

I was attempting to break down the gap between ‘reception’ and ‘transmission’ by transcribing as neutrally as possible the rhythm of rainfall into a sort of graph. The words ‘graph’ and ‘graphite’ come from the word ‘graphein’ which means ‘to write or draw’. The resulting image is like a visual form of white noise: a screen of static.

This is from a text about the sound artist Francisco Lopez’s ‘Sound Voyage Through the World’s Waters':

‘The sound of water is a prototypical example of broadband sound, that is, a sound that contains many different and simultaneous audible frequencies. In a sense, is a kind of sound material that contains, as a possibility, all the imaginable tones and harmonies.’ http://www.mediateletipos.net/archives/7711

I have always been interested in breaking down the ‘figure/ground’ relation.  In order to ‘focus’, the ‘signal’ – that is to say the thing that is considered important or meaningful – is isolated from the ‘noise’ of what is considered unimportant, superfluous, insignificant, undesirable, excessive. Clarity of focus demands no blurring or grey area. Grey area is an ill-defined situation or area of activity not readily conforming to a category or set of rules. It is an uncomfortable state where sense and non-sense are ambiguous. It is not a state conducive to ease of functioning.

I like to think of the staggeringly immense amount of data being generated by something like the Cern project, where the stream must be attended to in order to find possibly meaningful pattern in the chaos – but without clear criteria for what is ‘meaningful’ and without any clear idea of what they’re even looking for.

The following is an excerpt from a very interesting book ‘Reverberations: The Philosophy, Aesthetics and Politics of Noise’ (eds. Goddard/ Halligan/ Heggarty Continuum 2012)

‘We might think of noise as ground and meaning as figure rising from the ground, but caught within it’s field in order to function.  More basically, what any system necessarily excludes as noise are all levels of organization above and below it that include its own conditions of possibility, hence the informational account of noise as a lack of organization being a state of fundamental distortion.  Noise is indeed static or interference but not that of an unorganized chaos so much as patterns of organization alien to the norms of a specific system – that which Serres refers to as ‘the parasite’.’

In cinema the screen of static has been used as a portal for intrusions from the ‘beyond’. For example, in the 1982 film ‘Poltergeist’, the analogue TV screen, when not tuned in to a particular channel, would form a conduit for dark whispers in the static… and the trope continues even after digital technology pursues the grail of perfect clarity of signal.  The twilight has always been the half way state where forms drift and blur, where dream, fantasies and imaginings can disorientate and take hold.

There is now the digital technology to help you recreate with greater subtlety and nuance the ‘noise’ of celluloid.

Here is the artist Tacita Dean on the subject:

Analogue, it seems, is a description – a description, in fact, of all things I hold dear. (…) the film image is different from the digital image: it is not only emulsion versus pixels, or light versus electronics, but something deeper—something to do with poetry. . . . I should not eschew the digital world… but for me, it just does not have the means to create poetry; it neither breathes nor wobbles, but tidies up our society, correcting it and then leaves no trace.” (“Analogue”, exhibition catalogue, Schaulager Basel 2006)

Questions of tuning in, tuning out, retuning, broadband attention, creating the conditions for many voices, interruptions, disruptions, continuities, discontinuities seem to recur in Mirrorcity.  For example, Aura Satz speaks of drone, the ‘underlying hum of the city and the tuning in and out of human speech:

‘The dial tone plays when the telephone is off-hook, indicating that the system is live and a telephone number can be dialled, a sustained signal of ‘lines open’, awaiting transmission and connectivity. The composition suggests an experience of tuning in and tuning out, amplifying the multitude of voices in the ether, the meaningful and meaningless messages in a state of constant transmission.’

and Susan Hiller is described as

‘ (being) interested in the areas of our cultural collective experience that are concerned with devalued or irrational experiences: the subconscious, the supernatural, the surreal, the mystical and the paranormal. She engages with these experiences and phenomena that defy logical or rational explanation through the rational scientific techniques of taxonomy, collection, organization, description and comparison. She does not, however, apply systems of judgment to the work, refraining from ever categorising the experiences as ‘true’ or ‘false’, ‘fact’ or ‘fiction’.

While I worked on Choral Fields over the Summer there were some amazing storms. I listened to the rain while I worked on clouds of static. Here is a short video of the sight and sound from the studio:


Today’s post from Seth Guy is his Deeper River (v2)

‘Drone made from treating a prepared microphone recording with effects. Headphones recommended. Original recording made at a nature reserve below the A13 bridge near Canning Town, opposite City Island.’

The architecture of Canary Wharf tube station

To add the next strain to the daily polyrhythmia of West India Dock, here are fifteen architectural details from Canary Wharf Station.

Canary Wharf

I catch a bus from Charlton to North Greenwich station every morning and then take the tube to Canary Wharf. I’ve taken many photographs of the stages of this journey.

Graphite allows for the building up of multiple space, it is a material for palimpsest thinking.  Graphite is made of layers that shed easily, it is very sensitive to touch of any sort, from the quietest to the violence of marks made by pencils hammered percussively or loaded into electric drills and jigsaws.  Graphite can be erased or sanded away to ‘give ground’. Giving ground is what creates the conditions for divergent spaces to coexist in the space planes of the drawing.  I attempt to make a grey area or middle ground where any possible space or rhythm can be incorporated. I try to find passage between divergent spaces such as bird-flight and the architectural.


Seth describes the following sound recording ‘Railing encircling Sluice Gates at East India Dock Basin':

‘This is an excerpt from a long concrete recording made by walking in a large continuous circle and a then a figure of eight with a stick held against the railings next to the sluice gates and pedestrian bridges at East India Dock Basin. The park here is extraordinary; mainly concrete save for the hundreds of iron railings surrounding the sluice gates and Thames path, the water in the Basin leading into the river and a tiny scrap of grass and scrub for dog owners. It was mostly deserted when I visited, except for a few joggers. In the river there’s three connected concrete jetties on spindly stilts, strangely reminiscent of electronics components, (giant microchips, capacitors, resistors), as though the the river’s current serves to provide them with some mysterious purpose.’

Cuban Classics: A Night in Havana

On Tuesday 2 December, Latin Rediscovery presents a special evening at Southbank Centre’s Purcell Room with a Cuban flavour.

Young Cuban pianist Marcos Madrigal, who has won many international prizes for his interpretation of Latin American music (most recently in Jaen, Spain and Panama), makes his Southbank Centre debut alongside opera singer Ann Liebeck and the great Cuban jazz virtuoso violinist Omar Puente.

From the left: Omar Puente, Ann Liebeck, Marcos Madrigal

From the left: Omar Puente, Ann Liebeck, Marcos Madrigal

The Cuban composer Ernesto Lecuona is the focal point of this evening of solo music for piano, Spanish songs and works for violin and piano by contemporary Cuban composers Guido Lopez Gavilan and Omar Puente.

The theme of the evening is a journey through Classical Spain in songs by de Falla, Granados and Rodrigo, and piano works by Lecuona that are inspired by the sounds and colours of Spain. At the end of the first half of the concert, we cross the Atlantic Ocean and reach Argentina through songs by Ginastera. Madrigal is a noted interpreter of the music of Ginastera and recently received the special Ginestera Prize in Panama from the composer’s daughter.

The journey continues though Brazil in the second half of the concert, with the gorgeous Songs of the Amazon by Heiter Villa-Lobos, a composer who uses classical structures imbued with the colours and textures of folk music and African beat. The concert ends in Havana in a feast of Cuban piano music, songs and violin pieces by Lecuona.

Soprano Ann Liebeck has worked with Madrigal many times, performing Latin American and Spanish repertoire. She recently performed with Puente in tango/opera fusion show Violetta’s Last Tango, presented to a full house at Purcell Room at Queen Elizabeth Hall in May alongside bandoneon player and Olivier award-nominated composer Julian Rowlands, who was guesting with Omar Puente’s tango band.

After a long career in Italian opera, it was natural for Liebeck to fall into the Latin American repertoire and she has now been dancing tango regularly and on stage for 2 years. Dance is vital to the interpretation of this programme and Liebeck asserts that ’Madrigal and Puente are both star Salsa dancers!’

This theatrical evening is set to evoke the glamour of 1930s Havana, one of the richest cultural centres of that time. Madrigal is preparing to release his new recording of the Complete Piano Works of Lecuona in Autumn 2015.

Tuesday 2 December
Cuban Classics: A Night in Havana
Purcell Room at Queen Elizabeth Hall, 7.45pm
Find out more / Book tickets

The White birds of West India Dock

While I have been working at West India Dock I have become increasingly attuned to the daily rhythms of the area.

The White Birds of West India Dock

The white birds seen in this photograph routinely sit together at the head of the jetty. If the tide is coming in, the wind moves towards the jetty too and the birds all sit with their backs against it.

When a loud engine sounds from a fast motorbike crossing the bridge, it’s sonic blast propels the birds into the air and they circle for a while over the water before returning to their position on the jetty.  I like this sort of relationship across ‘categories': the sonic waves and the airborne birds. The rhythms of flying birds and traffic sound have certainly been transcribed in the drawings’ polyrhythms.

Today I am going to post Seth Guy’s Floodtide (Tidal Sonification)

A field recording made beneath the Floodtide machine beside a car with its engine running.

Floodtide (Tidal Sonification) is a sound sculpture by John Eacott and Andrew Baldwin at Trinity Buoy Wharf which translates the tide of the Thames into sound.
For more info see: www.floodtide.eu/play

The surface of the River Thames

One hundred photographs of the the river from outside the studio at West India Dock jetty on Monday morning (24th November).
It has been such a pleasure to work in such close proximity to the river over the last few months. I’ve started each day drinking coffee and looking at it’s moving surface for a long while before I start drawing.

The drawings I have made for Mirrorcity are called ‘Choral Fields’. The word ‘choral’ points to the idea of ‘Khora’ as well as to the idea of the many-voiced and multi-rhythmic. I am trying to draw entanglements of rhythm that enfold as many ways of thinking about rhythm as possible within the space and time of the drawing – including the geometries of the city, the flows of data, telecommunications, transport systems, water, weather, the movements of birds, aeroplanes across the sky leaving contrails in their wake.

Looking at the surface of water is a way to think about the multi-rhythmic – or the ‘polyrhythmic’ as Lefebvre calls it (Lefebvre wrote widely on politics, philosophy and sociolgy. He is best known for his writing on everyday life, cities and the production of space).

The following is an excerpt from his book Rhythmanalysis which I have been reading recently:

‘To grasp rhythm and polyrhythmias in a sensible, preconceptual way, it is enough to look carefully at the surface of the sea. Waves come in succession: they take shape in the vicinity of the beach, the cliff, the banks. These waves have a rhythm, which depends on the season, the water and the winds, but also on the sea that carries them, that brings them. Each sea has it’s own rhythm..But look closely at each wave. It changes ceaselessly. As it approaches the shore, it takes the shock of the backwash: it carries numerous wavelets, right down to the tiny quivers that it orientates, but which do not always go in it’s direction. Waves and waveforms are characterised by frequency, amplitude and displaced energy. Watching waves, you can easily observe what phycisists call the superpositon of small movements. Powerful waves crash upon one another, creating jets of spray; they disrupt one another noisily. Small undulations traverse one another, absorbing, fading rather than crashing, into one another. Were ther a current or a few solid objects animated by a ovement of their own, you could have the intuition of what is a polyrhythmic field and even glimpse the relations between complex processes and trajectories, between bodies and waveforms ..’

Seth Guy is an artist who works with sound. He has kindly agreed to contribute to this blog with sound he has collected from the vicinity of the studio. We went for a lovely walk recently in the direction of Trinity Buoy Wharf, I took photographs and Seth recorded. Since then he has been walking long tracts of the riverside paths and making further recordings.

This first is called ‘A Deeper River’ (version 3). It was made using a prepared microphone at East India Dock Basin.

To finish, here is an excerpt from Chloe Aridjis’s ‘Sleep Institute’ (via the MIRRORCITY newspaper, edited by Tom McCarthy.)

‘As for the reflections on water, these include glitter patterns, wake patterns and cat’s paws. All manner of caustic networks – patterns produced by sunlight projected onto undulating water surfaces – have been glimpsed by the insomniacs under observation.

Various individuals have reported seeing messages refracted in glitter patterns on the Thames; these ensembles of sun glints, instantaneous flashes of sunlight reflected for a moment on a sloping wave and then gone, must be read quickly before they vanish. The messages, duly recorded by the institute’s sleep technicians, are too confidential to share with the general public, but apparently have something to do with carbon tax, council tax and bicycle tax.

Others have mentioned an extreme susceptibiltiy to cat’s paws – dark regions of water where wind touches down and tenses the surface – and claim to spot them not only on water but on the sides of buildings, the concrete suddenly appearing dimpled and dark. Every surface, they say, is at the whim of the wind.’

Web We Want – digital art and online creativity


The second weekend of Southbank Centre’s Web We Want festival is dedicated to the creative opportunities the Web has afforded. Across two days – Saturday 29 and Sunday 30 November – we present a diverse programme of digital art and online creativity – interactive installations, technologically enabled performances and vintage computing, to physical installations and workshops which investigate themes of data, privacy and surveillance.

The entire weekend programme is free and is listed in full on the Web We Want website.

What does the Web look like in real life?

This second weekend of three focuses on digital creativity, interactivity and play and features artistic responses to living in a connected world. The festival includes works which explore what physical communities look like online and ask how we make the Web, and the issues surrounding the Web, tangible in real life, as part of a physical festival.

Play Your PlaceBuild the Web We Want game  – is ongoing open artwork and online game-building platform which invites participants to create, remix and share games about the Web We Want. Previous iterations of Play Your Place have asked people to build games about the issues facing their neighbourhood. Now Play Your Place invites the Web We Want audience to create a game about the global Web community.

James BridleRorschmap: Streetview Edition is a digital artwork which bends images from Google Streetview into kaleidoscopic new shapes. Artist James Bridle describes the work as a ‘love letter to London’, and visitors to the Web We Want festival will be invited to create unique digital artworks from the Google Streetview API by entering their postcode. James Bridle is also currently artist in residence at the Hayward Gallery Mirror City exhibition.


Play Your Place – ‘Play the Web We Want’


James Bridle ‘Rorschmap: Streetview Edition’

Two new commissions: Stefanie Posavec and Jeremy Bailey

Another example of a physical manifestation of digital in the real world is a new commission designed by information designer and data artist Stefanie Posavec. Open Data Playground is a collection of floor-based games and interactions based on open datasets (collections of data) from the digital space. Stefanie was previously artist-in-residence at Facebook.


Stefanie Posavec ‘Open Data Playground’

Tackling the issue of rampant objectification of the body online, ‘Famous New Media Artist’ Jeremy Bailey creates an online performance for Web We Want investigating the objectification of the body and wearable technology.


Jeremy Bailey investigates body objectification and augmentation

Artist responses to privacy and surveillance

Artist Adam Harvey has developed various counter-surveillance artworks and privacy products which are displayed in the Privacy Gift Shop exhibition. Adam will present two workshops: CV Dazzle; which explores how hairstyling and make-up can be used as camouflage from face-detection technology and Privacy Happy Hour – which invites you to make a piñata in the form of a security camera, and destroy it.

Aram Bartholl is an artist who invites you to Kill Your Phone; by sewing a handmade pouch which blocks phone signals and prevents tracking (functioning as a Faraday cage). A second workshop designed by Aram –  What Is A Pixel? – introduces young people – now living in a pixel-invisible, retina-enabled world – to the concept of pixels by making swords inspired by the the incredibly popular online game Minecraft.


‘CV Dazzle’, Adam Harvey’s CCTV-baffling make-up designs


‘Kill Your Phone’, making a signal blocking pouch for your mobile

Hayward Gallery – End User: exhibition, tours, performances

As part of Web We Want, the Hayward Gallery presents an exhibition which sees contemporary international artists take a critical approach to the complexities of the internet.

End User includes work by Cory Arcangel, Aram Bartholl, Ami Clarke and Richard Cochrane, Tyler Coburn, Jon Rafman, Erica Scourti and Liz Sterry. Their artworks examine how the web alters social relations and raises questions about identity, privacy, and the ownership of information.

End User runs from Thursday 27 November in the Hayward Gallery project space. Throughout the Web We Want festival weekend, there are a number of End User tours, from Ami Clarke and Richard Cochrane, and Liz Sterry and show curator Cliff Lauson. Additionally, Tyler Coburn will present Postscript on I’m That Angel, and Erica Scourti will create a new digitally-enabled performance.


‘Kays Blog’, artist Liz Sterry recreates an online blogger’s room from Tumblr posts

See the full programme online

In addition to the above, The Centre for Computing History present the Gaming Lounge and WWW.TV installation, there are workshops on How To Build A Website and an invitation from the World Wide Web Foundation to shape a Magna Carta for the Internet.

For the full Web We Want programme including details of all free installations, workshops, digital art and performances, please see: southbankcentre.co.uk/webwewant


I (Emma McNally)  am currently showing drawings ‘Choral Fields 1-6′ as part of MIRRORCITY at Hayward Gallery.
These drawings were made in a small space at West India Dock jetty right beside the Thames (kindly facilitated by the Canal and River Trust).
I’ll be regularly posting things made, seen and found in the vicinity of the jetty on the Southbank Centre blog for the duration of the show.

So, to start, here is a great video, ‘The London Evolution Animation’ (via Adam Greenfield):

The LEA was developed by The Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (UCL), as a partnership project between Dr Kiril Stanilov -The Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction (University of Cambridge), Museum of London Archaeology (with the Mapping London and Locating London’s Past projects) and using data from the National Heritage List for England, courtesy of English Heritage. It was initiated and directed by Polly Hudson (PHD).
The London Evolution Animation (LEA) shows the historical development of London from Roman times to today, using georeferenced road network data brought together for the first time. The animation also visualizes (as enlarging yellow points) the position and number of statutorily protected buildings and structures built during each period.

Further information on its production can be found below.