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Liam Young, 18 02 15



This new publication by Sonic Acts is inspired by geosciences and zooms in on planet Earth. Fundamental to The Geologic Imagination is the idea that we live in a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene. For the publication author Tim Maughan interviews Liam Young and Kate Davies on board a container ship travelling through the South China Seas during the Unknown Fields Expedition. You can order the book here.

Human activity has irreversibly changed the composition of the atmosphere, the oceans, and even the Earth’s crust. Humanity has become a geological force. Consequently, the perspective has shifted from humans at the centre of the world to the forces that act on timescales beyond the conceivable. These ideas challenge us to rethink our attachments to the world, and our concepts of nature, culture and ecology. With this book Sonic Acts examines how art and science map and document new insights, and how the changes and transformations that occur on a geological scale can become something humans can feel, touch, and experience.

The Geologic Imagination features new essays by Timothy Morton, Douglas Kahn, Paul Bogard, Michael Welland, and Raviv Ganchrow; there are interviews with Dipesh Chakrabarty, Matthew Coolidge, Liam Young, Noortje Marres, Kodwo Eshun, Kurt Hentschläger, and Mario de Vega; and visual contributions by Femke Herregraven,Mirna Belina, Ellsworth & Kruse, the Center of Land Use Interpretation, Marijn de Jong, and BJ Nilsen & Karl Lemieux.

You can read a few fragments from Tim Maughan that didn’t make it into the final piece-

Liam: Because like I was saying, it is quite extraordinary, like I was talking about the technological sublime. We see it in all these places we go to, we stand at the world’s largest gold mine, it’s a hole in the ground the size of the Grand Canyon, so big it generates its own weather system and planes have to divert around it otherwise they’re sucked into the wind vortex that it creates. We’ve done this…we’ve built the machines that have dug this fucking hole. People travel from all over the world to go and see the Grand Canyon, to go to this fucking hole in the ground. It’s the same kind of thing, it’s actually more impressive because that took millions of years of wind and rain and erosion to create it and we did this in 15 years ‑ that’s pretty amazing. So we used to paint the sublime which was about the fear and order of nature, and now we have the technological sublime where we approach the same kind of landscapes, we have the same kind of feelings about technological and industrial landscapes that we once did looking across the savanna, or looking across the grand canyon, or standing on a peak and seeing the amazon jungle unfolding in front of us. We stand underneath of a crane in a mega-port and we have that same sense of awe and wonder.

Tim: I was standing on the bridge, and the lights on one of them suddenly fired up and it slowly passed over me…a dozen little suns beaming on me, bringing daylight to the night.

Liam: And you get fucking goose bumps, you know what I mean? Like the artificial night when you see a factory on the horizon…it creates this strange kind of synthetic aurora and it’s desolate ‑ it’s utterly seductive. That’s our era’s great art…people used to do the Nazca Lines and we go to the oil pipelines.

Tim: That’s funny you say that because I went to Machu Picchu back in April, and it was fantastic. And then a few weeks later I went to Detroit. And that was fantastic too. And they both seemed strangely similar to me. And I couldn’t quite decide which impressed me more.

Liam: [laughs]

Tim: And they’re two of the same things, right?

Liam: Yeah. Two ruins of a civilisation.

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Liam Young, 20 03 14


On April 4 +5 Liam Young will be hosting  Data Drama: Crunching, Chunking and other Novel Data Technologies to Better Help us Escape From the Present at Princeton University School of Architecture. Across 2 days 20 speakers will be discussing the spatial possibilities and consequences of big data and the network. To accompany the presentations Andrew Blum, author of Tubes: A Journey to the Centre of the Internet, will be coordinating a field trip through the wilds of New Jersey to visit a series of local data centres and critical engineer Julian Oliver will be running a workshop on the tools and tactics for asserting and defending civil liberties in the networked domain. For details head over here where the event will also be live streamed. Use #datadrama to contribute to the conversation.

James Bridle [Artist and founder Of Dronestagram and the New Aesthetic]

Kevin Slavin [Founder of the Playful Systems group at MIT's Media Lab]

Tim Maughan [Science Fiction Author]

Ivan Poupyrev [Project leader at Google’s Advance Technologies and Projects Division]

Ben Lewis [Director of Google and the World Brain]

Kate Crawford [Principal Researcher, Microsoft Research and Visiting Professor, MIT Center for Civic Media]

Metahaven [Designers and Editors of Black Transparency: The right to know in the age of Mass Surveillance]

Joanne McNeil [Techno political Writer and Researcher]

Scanlab [Specialists in Large scale 3D laser scanning]

Benjamin Bratton [Director of The Center for Design and Geopolitics]

Carlo Ratti [Director of Senseable City Lab at MIT]

Usman Hasque [Founder of internet of things data infrastructure Pachube]

Adam Harvey [Countersurveillance fashion designer]

Mario Carpo [Architectural Historian]