While the visual hyper-stimulus of mass media and advertising is an unavoidable aspect of daily life, there is another less considered type of sensory bombardment that is equally present, though invisible. These broadcast waves—emanating from radio, television and mobile phone towers, among other electronic devices—are the focus of ELECTROSMOG S.J.s.R., a new multimedia research project and installation work by Montreal-based artist Jean-Pierre Aubé. Developed out of artist residencies last summer and in January at Action Art Actuel in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, where Aubé employed an array of electronic antennae to capture and record sounds ranging from local broadcasts to satellite transmissions, the project reveals the hidden “soundtrack” of our media environment. It’s an audioscape, amassed from more than 48,000 sources captured at 10 frequencies per second, that shifts from the jumbled voices of radio or television programming to bursts of static dissonance created by relays of digital information.
In the past, Aubé has worked on the ELECTROSMOG theme in different locations, such as Tallinn, Estonia, and in various ways, including the issuing of a vinyl record. For his exhibition at Action Art Actuel, Aubé has further layered his locally produced soundtrack into a digital composition embedded in a two-channel video, which depicts the riverside site where many of his signals were captured. Here, the coursing river acts as a metaphor for the steady flow of electronic emissions while the background landscape is constantly interrupted by visual distortions correlated to the audio’s intensity. Considered in tandem with Aubé’s wall text– and vintage video monitor–displayed catalogue of the sources for these captured sounds, ELECTROSMOG S.J.s.R. manages to push an awareness of the immaterial signals that surround us to a tellingly critical saturation point. (190 rue Richelieu, Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu QC)