landscape | sound | device | clothing | data | performance

Tactics Against Antiquity: the Contemporary Ancient Messene

By: Marinos Koutsomichalis
The project probes the making and unmaking of intra-personal and extra-personal place-hood, history, and memory by means of techno-scientifically mediated 'soundwalk' through the ancient Messene ruins.
landscape | sound | device | clothing | data | performance

Tactics Against Antiquity: the Contemporary Ancient Messene

The project probes the making and unmaking of intra-personal and extra-personal place-hood, history, and memory by means of techno-scientifically mediated ‘soundwalk’ through the ancient Messene ruins.

By: Marinos Koutsomichalis

Materials:
Portable loudspeaker, bespoke VLF receiver, RF analyser, hydrophone, field mixer, Geiger counter, text, audio synthesis, ultra-sonic recording system, ‘tactical’ silence

Duration:
variable, ~50m

Extent:
700m (length) / 100ha (area)

Commissioned by: 
Tuned City, Berlin DE

Produced by: 
Onassis Cultural Center, Athens GR

Produced at:
Solaris mobile studio, Ancient Messene GR

Produced in:
2018

Clothing design:
Giorgos Axiotis

Documented by:
Stelios Pantazopoulos, Helen Kavouki, Alexandros Drymonitis

Inspired by the ancient practice of  ‘peripatos’ – both as a political act and as a strategy for epistemic inquiry – the artist leads a walk through the ruins of ancient Messene, presenting the audience with audio documents of, and with creative responses to, his own personal (un)makings at play. ‘Tactics against Antiquity’ draw on found audio, folk traditions, abstract sound synthesis, dark ecology, politicised narratives, transgressive audioscape juxtapositions, tactical silence, speculative ethnography, and real time exploration of various acoustic, electromagnetic, and geophysical phenomena in-situ. In this manner, it intends to bring forth a post-historical and meta-phenomenological perspective of the ‘contemporary’ ancient Messene.

a contemporary, post-historical, and meta-phenomenological antiquity

The composed Soundwalk lasts approximately 50’ along the route shown above. In some detail, it comprises the following subparts:

Set Out: The artist welcomes the audience underneath a certain olive tree; announces that he was immediately drawn to this particular location on his first encounter with the site and that, as he later found out, there appears to be significant radio-frequency (RF) activity in the surrounding area.

RF: Employing a RF analyser, the artist moves around this particular spot, demodulating localised electromagnetic fields (EMF) and generating noises and clicks of various sorts.

Talk: The artist recounts a short essay of his on historical constructivism and on contemporary traits within archaeology that call for inter-disciplinary, creative and ‘new materialist’ methods.

Southwards: The artist leads the walk Southwards, alongside a small water stream, while the loudspeaker performs a precomposed audio-collage comprising excerpts from talks, interviews, and other material that somehow sketch the ruins as a contemporary habitat. For part of the route he also employs a DIY loop antenna to capture and sonify EMF in the very-low frequency range. During the final few meters, he more aggressively drags the loudspeaker so that it bounces on the rocky terrain, while the audio-collage concludes with excerpts from a talk in a nearby town by an infamous neo-Nazi politician—the excerpt concludes with him and his attendees singing the Greek national anthem.

Submergence: A hydrophone is submerged into a small waterhole on the Stadium’s entrance and left reproducing the sound of the water stream dying out there for a few minutes. The artist, then, recounts a piece of text briefly referring to the Greek civil war during the late 1940s and the loose historical links it has with this site.

To the Palaistra: Walking towards the Palaistra, while reproducing down-sampled ultra-sonic recordings realised in this area the previous days.

Tactical Silence:  The audience is led inside the Palaistra; the artist then sits down facing it and staying silent there for a few minutes.

Downhill: The walk proceeds downhill, towards the Mausoleum, under the crude sounds of sonified seismic activity data from the area and noisy synthesised sounds. Once downhill, the artist drags the loudspeaker firmly on the gravel so that a visible trace is left behind.

Radioactivity: The author sets up a vintage Soviet era Geiger counter and sits silently on the ground while the loudspeaker reproduces the irregular clicks with respect to naturally occurring radio-activity (existent due to the gravel and the processed marble).

Special T-shirts and hoodies have been produced for the artist to wear throughout the performance as well as while scouting and conducting field work in the area. The outfits have been designed by G. Axiotis of Bend; hoodie design is shown below:

Inspired by punk approaches to archaeology, the outfit has been designed with reference to Greek far-right nationalist signs/aesthetics (white text in black background, font inspired by ancient Greek scripts) still with rather contradicting semiotics; announcing in both Greek and English that we should adhere to “tactics against antiquity”. The imprinted logo bears semblance to both the symbol for anarchy, as well as to ancient Greek symbols that are often used by ultra-nationalists to promote their ideas. According to its designer, it stands for archaeology, but also demonstrating a dynamic movement against it and out of its confining circle/context.

Events
  • Performance, Tuned City Festival. Ancient Messene, GR (2018)