Posthuman Performances: Giving Attention to Machine Songs in Public Places

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In this article, droning sounds produced from electrical machines are considered as posthuman performances. In viewing machines as non-human agents, they are understood to influence the aural architecture of public places. Despite the fact that continuous hums are typically zoned-out from human listening, these sounds impact our psychological landscapes and the formation of space. A methodology of field recording machines proximately is proposed here, to consider the importance of machine noises in the formation of atmosphere and sociality in public spaces. When a machine is recorded closely, and the microphone moved around it, intricacies of the machine’s standing waves can be uncovered. Through this recording practice, the human becomes with the non-human. This act of field recording machines highlights our entangled living with multiple agents and allows the unheard or underheard to be focused on.

Four sound recordings of machines found in public spaces are presented, alongside their location on an interactive world map. This sonic and visual combination encourages the reader to speculate about those sites and similar ones from their experience. Topics of non-places, noise infiltration into green spaces, mobility through places, and hidden purposes of machines are discussed relative to the four recordings. The sites recorded – gas stations, parks, escalators, and supermarkets – are important landmarks of contemporary life. By considering how machine noises contribute to a sites’ aural architecture, a better understanding of human cohabitation with non-humans may be elucidated.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages9
Specialist publicationComparative Media Arts Journal
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2020

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