67 Blind scapes

Zehar #67

67 Blind scapes

Antonie van Leeuwenhoeck was born and lived in Holland in the 17th century. He left school early and was employed as a porter at Delft town hall. Yet, Leeuwenhoeck spent his free time polishing and grinding small lens. This hobby became so absorbing that over time he improved his tools and managed to grind small lends that could amplify the object 300 times. He did not invent the microscope, as that instrument had been invented decades earlier by Galileo Galilei as some believe, while others accredit the invention to Zacharias Janseen. Even though he had no formal scientific knowledge and was only guided by curiosity, Antoine was the first to observe things that had never been previously seen: for example, globules of our blood or the sperm of some species, along with the protozoan and bacteria that live in the water. In short, by taking and improving optical technology of that time, he was the first to discover the microbiological landscape that had been previously unknown.

We define landscape as the expanse of land or space that can be seen from a given spot. If this definition is taken in its literal sense, any acceptance and definition of landscape is inexorably based on the subject that observes and the object that is observed. There is no landscape without those two elements, even if the space remains. Therefore, it is reasonable to say that the landscape is a cultural construct, as in the last instance it is a more subjective way of depicting our environment. Thus, we would not be on the wrong track if we said that the technologies used to analyse our environment over the last 200 years have blurred the always sketchy boundary between reality and representation. This gives landscape a veracity –credibility– that is not justified and it sometimes provides incessant exercises to idealise our vital space. Many of these exercises have irreparably conditioned the very idea of landscape and we have also often converted them into essential tools to understand our environment.

In the same way that Leeuwenhoeck can be said to have invented microbiology with his lens, we can also claim to have invented and improved the concept of soundscape, thanks to the opportunities that microphony offers to analyse and understand the sounds that make up our environment more precisely. And that is just one example, as similar conclusions can be reached about all the appliances that we carry around with us.

Nonetheless, now we have begun to use concepts such as interactive, virtual or augmented reality as a result of the digital technologies, we find it hard to determine what is and what may be the landscape, as we are still not able to imagine how many new landscapes those inventions will open up for us. In other words, we still cannot work how many listening place and panoramas will ensue. Yet before we become obsessed with a staunch defence of technology, it is essential to analyse the relationship that we create with technology, particularly with the appliances that we accept and use to understand our environment. In his article in this issue, José Luis de Vicente thus suggests that maintaining the collective capacity to improvise with technology can become a fundamental struggle. Or rather, he accepts the pre-designed representations in the leap of space to the landscape, yet vindicates the capacity to play with the technology, by putting on one side the disagreements that arises between these two uses and thus looking for new authentic landscapes. This is precisely what Leeuwenhoeck did several centuries ago.

The texts and sounds that you will find on the following pages focus on the landscape and perspective starting from varied and contrasting experiences, whether from fiction, personal diaries, the vantage points that history or philosophy offer, or from listening at the boundaries to which our sense of sound does not reach. In short, they show a series of blind landscapes, along with the rigid depiction of the official landscape.


Hots!Radio#32: "Various: Blind Landscapes" 

is available for listening from the website.

With pieces by Orquesta del Caos, Stéphane Garin Slavek Kwi, Iñigo Telletxea, Nader Koochaki, Xabier Erkizia, Tzesne, Hildegard Westerkamp, Juan Cantizzan and Slavek Kwi

Issue Number 67 of ZEHAR, published regularly by Arteleku, is given over to the theme of landscape. This podcast contains the tracks in the CD distributed with the magazine. It is partly intended to illustrate or sonorize (and even sonify) some of the texts using different kinds of field recordings made by a number of different phonographists. To get a copy of the magazine (+ CD), just contact Arteleku. You can also download it in PDF format by following the links you can find in the link to HOTS!Radio.


ZEHAR_67_EN.pdf — PDF document, 3969Kb
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