Further to our investigation into psychogeographic location as a way to inform our Noise synth/circuit and PCB design we are now sharing some of our background research which will form a basis for our new circuit.
Psychogeography was defined in 1955 by Guy Debord as "the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behavior of individuals." It has also been defined as "a total dissolution of boundaries between art and life".
The Chernobyl Decontamination Zone, and the wider Exclusion Zone, is to this day unfit for human habitation, although a few people returned to live there despite the dangers of radiation. Below are maps of the decontamination zone at Chernobyl, with some of the initial designs for the PCB artwork
The people who were required to work within the decontamination zone were known as "liquidators" and "bio-robots". It is their stories and the impact on their lives that we find to be at the core of this research as well as the land itself. Below are two videos with individual stories of some of the people most closely involved with the decontamination of this land. They also show some of the background information on the potentially disastrous effect on Europe which was was narrowly escaped, footage of the 'bio-robots' at work on the roof of reactor 3, and the extremities of radiation exposure to those working on the cleanup including the miners who tunnelled under the reactor.
We wanted to create a synth that explores this area both politically and emotionally. Neither of us have visited this site so we are using remote psychogeography by looking at maps, stories, documentaries and TV series made about Chernobyl to inform this project.
We want the noise synth to reflect some of the sounds associated with the reactor, the disaster and cleanup. Noises such as the draining of power to reactor 4 as it was switched off - followed by the explosion - are a key idea for us. The synth will also evoke the sound of Gieger counters, warning sirens and malfunctioning electronic systems. These crucial moments and those following are something we focused on when finding the kinds of sounds that the synth will create. The noisy dissonance of disaster, cover up and exploitation. How does something sound when it is about to change history for the lives of many, a decision made, mistakes, negligence by officials, a cover up of the true effects of the disaster.
We hope we can with this synth contribute to the dialogue surrounding this disaster, even if it is only a form of a dedication to those affected. The drawings which will be etched onto the PCB are ideas of mutations, currents and the spreading of the invisible radiation that was only felt as a metallic taste in the mouth.
Now contained within the Sarcophagus, Reactor 4 is for the time being under control, yet the decontamination and exclusion zones remain, accessible only by official tour, and have been inhabited by nature and wildlife.
Would anybody feel comfortable playing this instrument? Yes, because it is only an instrument, it is not supposed to make you feel comfortable but it prompts the history of its psychogeographical references. The voice of radiation amplified. The radiation was never supposed to escape but in the hands of the wrong people it did. It was a mistake but it was very preventable, it was devastating and is a warning of what corporate and government negligence is capable of. Just one of many examples. The land itself is wounded yet continues to be a beautiful landscape containing within it the discarded remnants of those left behind. Many people have explored this disaster in art and music, for example Pink Floyd have made this video showing locations within the exclusion zone, and the empty houses and remnants of those who once lived there. The interrupted lives and the loss of trust in the government are relevant today as we witness the negligence of various countries' responses to Covid 19.
At this stage we are sharing our initial research, designs, thoughts and ideas about this new circuit design which we have been working on for several months now. This is to be able to document the whole process as best we can for future reference and to share our process.
Published by Isn'tses - Lisa McKendrick and Tim Drage
We have opened an Etsy store where we are selling a limited number of fully-built Fort Processor synths, as well as unpopulated PBCs: https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/isntses
I like the idea that the Fort Processor is a mutation like those described in this quote.
Stanislaw Lem - Solaris
How this ties in with the Fort Processor may seem fairly obvious. The disruption of signals and fragmented frequencies was something that we hoped we could achieve with this synth.
In other news, we have the radio part of the circuit working very well now, amplified/distorted using a CD4049 Hex Inverter (another classic creative misuse of an IC, as popularised in Nicolas Collins book Handmade Electronic Music). It picks up both noise and discernible radio signals in an interestingly chaotic way and is highly playable by touching the circuit or even waving hands over it.
For our general research into radio-electronics-as-noise-instruments, and low-voltage tube amplifier + distortion circuits, radio expert Mike Kana very kindly sent us a wealth of rare and interesting vintage components which will be very useful for future Isn'tses circuits! Thanks Mike!
changed the resistor for a diode. In the making, getting ideas down for the synth we are building. As part of our performance at Fort Process this year Isn'tses are designing a percussive noise synth in the form of Newhaven Fort. Follow our progress and contribute ideas at https://isntses.weebly.com/blog #blogging #pcb #synthdesign #noisemusic #fortprocess #fortprocess2018 #breadboard #diyelectronics #experimentalelectronics #oscillator
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We researched some of the ways that body contact can affect pitch.
Martin Howse, who designed the Micro-blackdeath and the Dark Interpreter which we have used extensively in Isn'tses performances. Great sounding and highly original instruments with esoteric and alchemical concepts behind them.