Dhvāni, meaning resonance in Sanskrit, is a responsive and self-regulating sound sculpture that incorporates Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to challenge human agency in sounding art. The work is part of an artistic research project Connecting Resonances that aims to create an interest and cultivate new knowledge in “other” ontologies and epistemologies (disrupting a predominantly Eurocentric context of canonising knowledge in sound studies), decolonisation of listening and sound, histories of media art, as well as studies of globalisation and cultural exchanges between the West/Global North and its ignored counterparts, advocating for reciprocity and equality in sound and media studies. Taking an Indian epistemology-informed approach to sound and transcendental listening, the work underscores the role of the listener, inter-subjectivity and situational context of listening as the primary triggers towards construing an artistic experience, and examines the role of the “self” against an overarching emphasis on artistic object embraced in the Western art tradition. Departing from the object, the exhibition of the work aims to create fertile, evolving and autonomous “auditory situations” where the subjectivity of the listener can be considered in an inclusive manner to encourage a participatory approach in a shared artistic production through a network of traditional sounding objects, such as temple bells or indigenous wind chimes. This shift in perspective and approach towards contingency and new temporalities helps develop an understanding of the role of chance and indeterminacy in sound experience. This alien agency is addressed by creating temporal disjuncture for a “divine intervention” as Indian musician Gita Sarabhai informed John Cage in 1946 helping to shape Cage’s subsequent work with chance composition (Cage 1973: 158, 226).

As method, Dhvāni incorporates current research in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to produce an automated environment within which traditional sounding objects are re-posited, re-listened and re-lived. Through this temporal coalescing, the project historicises pre-modern sounds and re-locates them in the contemporary machine society, advocating for a decolonisation of sound and listening. A swarm network of individual ritualistic sounding objects are developed in the installation forming a collective autonomous sounding that depends on each unit of the network and also responds to the presence of the listening subject as a self-regulated system. The ML algorithm acts like a conductor of this contingent experience, consolidating disparate inputs, from real-time inputs of audience engagement to data sets of ritualistic sounds and a pre-existing composition performing them in random sequences with a machinic alien agency. The aim is to bridge a psychic distance between humans and machines, and a social divide between tradition and modernity, global north and south, East and the West, espousing interplay and reciprocity between these binaries.

Budhaditya Chattopadhyay

Sound artist, researcher, writer