Network Music Festival

Sound without Borders // 15-18th July 2020

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Erin Gee and Jen Kutler // Presence

Presence is a telematic sound performance for two bodies, inspired by isolation and a need for human connection met with networked, electronically simulated touch. Through transcutaneous nerve stimulation and custom biosensors that track the autonomic nervous system, Gee and Kutler embrace the unconscious and autonomous nature of “feeling.” Data is collected from Gee and Kutler (cardiac, respiratory and skin conductance) to instrumentalize their inner worlds at a distance. This data is used to activate sine tones, granular synthesis and electronic touch in a real-time, networked, feedback loop. Custom hardware translates the biosignals into transcutaneous electronic pulses. These networked pulses further immerse the artists in each others’ biosignals through an uncanny “touch.” The performance is driven by samples of vocal suggestions performed in the style of ASMR that are triggered by moments of confluence in the biodata. The voice of this work encourages the listener to consider their own relationship to touch and sound during isolation.

During the performance, endoscopic video footage is taken of each performer in real time, shared through abstracted representations of the ongoing physiological data. Through these visualizations, the artists explore the limits of phenomenological intimacy over networked technologies, privileging the performers’ inner bodily worlds as primary visual content of the piece. All technology used (biosensors, transcutaneous touch simulator, tools for data transmission on puredata) is open source.

Erin Gee and Jen Kutler are composers and artists who have never met physically, who are now using telematics and the mail to collaborate across the US/Canadian border. Co-constructing instruments for digital music as tools for reconfiguring human embodiment, the artists materialize queer and feminist structures for quantification through instrumentalized affect and touch.

Gee (Montreal) is an artist who uses musical systems and instruments as responsive fields for probing the human body in communication. Gee foregrounds the autonomous nature of sensory cognition, emotion, and empathy as mediated through works in ASMR, VR, synthesizers, and robotics.

Kutler (New York) is an artist and performer who modifies found objects as cultural signifiers of power, gender, queerness and intimacy to create atypical instruments and sculptures. Her performances feature custom instruments incorporated with immersive field recordings to explore common and discrepant experiences of familiar social tones in immersive sound and media environments.