A message from the editor:
There was a point of time in the wild, as the wild was becoming less wild, when listening became not as much an act towards survival, and began to lean towards the aesthetic. It was likely many points in time. I wonder what that timeline would look like next to one of the act of hunting, and when it began to lean towards the (re)creational. Where might they meet? This is one thought provoked of many reading Erik DeLuca’s multi-media essay, The Call of the Wild. And listening, time, and hunting, are but three of many themes he addresses; at times conjures, woven together like fibers.
We follow DeLuca’s list of words with meanings formed with their “re”, that timely prefix connoting movement through time…again, back, repeat. Much of this essay is about (re)presentation: a disruption of a history, a transposition, a compelling heterogeneous meshing of contexts–recordings, art, monuments, memorials, marketing, wilderness. Time is conjured here, and woven, in this first essay for the series: Wayback Sound Machine, A constellation of sounding time…beginning with a bang of thoughts of time and sound:




             What follows is a commonplace book about relays, otherness, monuments, Nature (with a capital N), and Kurt. But first: a preamble on lamps. Focused light. What do we know about lamps? Well, lamps are ancient tools used by early humans 75,000 years ago. At the beginning of the 18th century the electrical lamp was invented. Charged carbon glowed. Another thing we know about lamps is that famous art stars use them during lecture performances. [1] John Cage, Joan Jonas—they use gooseneck and balanced-arm lamps. [2] Why? What are they trying to switch on and off? This essay has been switched from performance lectures I gave in Reykjavík, Iceland: one at the Hugarflug conference at Listaháskóli Íslands (02-09-18) and the other at the experimental performance venue, Mengi (05-09-18). Yes—during both circumstances—I used a gooseneck lamp.

Underneath the bridge
The tarp has sprung a leak
And the animals I’ve trapped
Have all become my pets
And I’m living off of grass
And the drippings from the ceiling
It’s okay to eat fish
Cause they don’t have any feelings [3]

               About five years ago I was sitting on a bench, on a secluded island, in the middle of Lake Superior—Isle Royale National Park. I was talking to wolf listeners. [4] They told me a story about how they called for wolves in the 60s: it involved playing 45-RPM records of wolf howls over a little, but robust, battery powered player. I bought one of these bygone players from an old man (via eBay), and read Jack Halberstam’s introduction to The Undercommons on the same day in 2017. “Listening to cacophony and noise tells us that there is a wild beyond to the structures we inhabit and that inhabit us.” [5] I was intrigued to learn that by playing 7-inch vinyl recordings like “Death Cry of a Crow,” “Kid Goats,” and “Mountain Lion Mating Cries,” hunters, photographers, and birders used a portable, dark green record player to make contact with the wild beyond. In the late fifties, the hunter Johnny Stewart invented and marketed this device—the first electronic animal caller: the “ELECTRI-CALL.”

               As a kind of shrine, I recently designed a solar powered micro-museum to invite speculation about how we call for the wild sites beyond the beyond. In fiction, “McGuffins” or “Big Dumb Objects” (better known as BDOs) are mysterious, sometimes extraterrestrial devices that a protagonist pursues with little narrative explanation. Examples include the anonymous briefcase in the cult classic, Pulp Fiction and the UFO spacecraft in the blockbuster, Arrival. The mysterious structure I built, “Johnny Box” is a kind of BDO / McGufffin. This box was also inspired by the portable art kits (or mini museums) of Fluxus.

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The Call of the Wild (mini-archive) complied by the author


This short documentary about Johnny Box was produced in collaboration with Somerset Community TV11


             For a brief glitch in time, lets speculate: What does postcolonialism (if there is such a thing) [6] and re-wilding conservation have to do with alienation and brokenness? What does the Cartesian dualism intrinsic to hunting—the bad or good, for or against logic—say about anthropocentric thinking? What are the relationships between sites of wild and non-wild? And how can we break, modify, or malfunction the circuits of technology to disrupt the assumptions of history?

               For a brief glitch in time, I reckon we imagine the prefix requiem of “re-”. [R][E]…in the matter of, again and again, going back…remembrance, regenerate, refurbish, retrace, revert, rewind, renew, rebuild, reunite, remarry, redundant, redeem, redact, reverberate, rejoice, reject, remix, request, realise, revival, recycle, RELAX. But most of all: Re-wild. What does it mean to re-wild? Conservation biology or anarchism? Do we bring back megaherbivores or carnivores? To what time period does the “re-” in our “re-wilding” refer to? Do we want to [re]place lost behaviors to manage particular species or just the overall affective experience of ecology? How does re-wilding relate to issues of environmental justice and racism: like the situation in Flint, hurricane Katrina, and the Standing Rock debacle. In Iceland, re-wilding is happening. The government has determined that the country should (re)trace one thousand years back, to a time when Viking settlers axed down the forest. [7] But why? One good reason is to fight climate change. Trees are carbon offsetters. Most of these new carbon offsetters are “genetically modified, well adapted material.” [8] Lets talk about a different sense of scale. [9] A different kind of carbon offsetting that deals with mobilized capitalist economies.

             At the conclusion of all WOW airline flights—you may be coming back from LA, for a mere-250 Euro round trip ticket for instance—a flight attendant will get on the intercom and ask: please consider donating your extra change to “SAVE ICELANDIC NATURE.” When I hear this, I think about all my Icelandic friends. I hear the flight attendant saying “SAVE ICELANDIC PEOPLE.” People are wild nature just like non-human animals–like goats, glaciers, mountains, streams, and the wild growth in the cracks of a Brooklyn sidewalk. [10] What if the government in Iceland spent their energy on “re-wilding” humans instead of luring in data farms? [11]

             For a brief glitch in time, lets imagine the heterotopic space of circuits. But first we must remember: “If there is no church in the wild,” writes Jack Halberstam, “if there is study rather than knowledge production, if there is a way of being together in brokenness, if there is an undercommons, then we must all find our way to it.” [12] Circuits. Brokenness. Circuits break. Imagine life inside a tiny circuit. For a brief glitch in time, lets imagine art as a circuit breaker. If you think about the history of telecommunications, you’ll potentially think about the electric telegraph. If you think about the electric telegraph, just know that it worked because of an electrically operated switch or amplifier known as a relay. This relay is a circuit breaker, it turns things on and off. Art turns things on and off. The poetics of art is a circuit breaker of habit that disrupts the assumptions of history. The “small gesture” [13] of switching the light in your home—acted out by a relay—disrupts. Coaxial relays, Force-guided contact relays, Latching relays, Mercury relays, Multi-voltage relays, Polarized relays, Reed relays, Static relays, Time delay relays, Vacuum relays. During a performance lecture of this commonplace book, I asked the artist Sihan Yang to interrupt me at some point and ask me a question of her choosing (the artists TORA, Tim Darbyshire, and the composer Björn Jónsson were also present with tuning forks, their voices, a horn, and a guitar). This is what happened:

              We build monuments to remember, and build memorials to not forget. For a brief glitch in time, lets imagine Johnny Box—this malfuctintioning [14] speculative design aura [15]—to be a counter-monument, or perhaps a kind of nostalgic, kitschy memorial for all non-human species. Marita Sturken writes, “while a monument most often signifies victory, a memorial refers to the life of lives sacrificed for a particular set of values.” [16] I grew up going to Richmond, Virginia to visit my grandmother—a Jew who fled Nazi Germany. She lived on a road called West Grace Street. The next street over from her house, running parallel, is Monument Avenue (managed, ironically, by the National Park Service). The concrete bodies of Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson are monumentally sculpted in long-lasting stones at points along this monumental street: a street that commemorates the confederacy, continues its memory, and materialises the intangible past. [17] Up Interstate 95, about one-hundred miles north from my grandmothers house—and Monument Avenue—is the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC, dedicated in 1982 (managed, ironically, by the National Park Service). This memorial is a counter-monument. Thank you Maya Lin. [18]  Lets imagine memorials and monuments as screens—surfaces to be projected upon. What does this surface hide? What does it protect? [19] If we consider the art object as a kind of memorial or monument or screen, what are the long-lasting traces of their stones? Art objects are really just tiny, brief, tangible moments—happy endings—of an artistic process. [20] Right? A revealing process of making an object to place it in a situation. An event. A Moment. I wonder if the poet, Fred Moten would opt to remove these confederate bodies on Monument Avenue? Halberstam on Moten, “[he] wants not the end of colonialism but the end of the standpoint from which colonialism makes sense. In order to bring colonialism to an end then, one does not speak truth to power, one has to inhabit the crazy, nonsensical, ranting language of the other, the other who has been rendered a nonentity by colonialism.” [21]  On Monument Avenue one inhabits the crazy, nonsensical language of the confederacy: a reminder of slavery, war, death and segregation. One thing is clear: both monuments and memorials stand in the pliable space between conflicting values (most of which are managed, ironically, by the National Park Service). [22]

You are always already in the thing that you call for and that calls you. What’s more, the call is always a call to dis-order and this disorder or wildness shows up in many places: in jazz, in improvisation, in noise. The disordered sounds that we refer to as cacophony will always be cast as “extra-musical” precisely because we hear something in them that reminds us that our desire for harmony is arbitrary and in another world, harmony would sound incomprehensible. Listening to cacophony and noise tells us that there is a wild beyond to the structures we inhabit and that inhabit us. [23]

                For a brief glitch in time, let’s imagine a recent essay I wrote called Selling Nature to Save It. [24]  In this essay I quote cultural anthropologist James Igoe’s work on the residue of exchangeable nature. He writes: “For modern consumers, spectacular images of nature appear as compelling visual evidence that their individual purchases, and their lifestyle in general, are connected to positive environmental effects at locations that are usually distant and exotic (from the perspective of the consumer). The push of a virtual button, or the swipe of a virtual card appears to initiate a chain of events ending in the protection of a family of arctic polar bears or an acre of tropical rainforest.” [25] Some ecological art—most actually—presents a mode of environmental fixing which sells nature to save it— “exchangeable nature for contemplation.” [26] This closely models the moral self-licensing practice of carbon offsetting, described by Igoe as “nature that can be made exchangeable for the purposes of investment by channeling exchange value for ecological and social good.” [27] While I am not arguing that ecological art and the kinds of “nature” it represents are a “defective” commodity, I rather want to illuminate Igoe’s point that “modern culture and capitalist value making are the source of [abstract, universal,] awe-inspiring nature” that often detaches the history from which it sprang. [28]  Lets again tune back to Kurt Cobain of Nirvana:

And I swear that I don’t have a gun No I don’t have a gun
No I don’t have a gun No I don’t have a gun No I don’t have a gun [29]






[1] Patricia Milder, “Teaching as Art: The Contemporary Lecture-Performance,” PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art 33, no. 1 (2011): 13-27.
[2] I also recently attended a lecture performance by the American choreographer, Ralph Lemon that was framed by Bruce Nauman’s 1968 Wall/Floor Positions and, as you might guess, a balanced-arm lamp.
[3] Kurt Cobain, “Something in the Way” (CD) DGC Records, 1991.
[4] Erik Deluca, “Wolf Listeners: An Introduction to the Acoustemological Politics and Poetics of Isle Royale National Park,” Leonardo Music Journal 26, no. 1 (2016): 87-90.
[5] Jack Halberstam, “The Wild Beyond: With And For The Undercommons” in The Undercommons, Ed. Moten and Harney (New York, NY: Minor Compositions, 2013) 7.
[6] Early April 2018, Reykjavik Art Museum: Through a microphone, and amplified out from a speaker, the artist Jeannette Ehlers moved particles of air in the echoey space I was in—her words passed through our bodies. “There is no such thing as postcolonialism.” A couple days before Ehlers said this, my good friend, Michelle Kisliuk (one of my favorite writers of sound) sent me a New York Times article with the headline: “Denmark Gets First Public Statue of a Black Woman, a ‘Rebel Queen.’” Ehlers, and her collaborator, La Vaughn Belle made this statue—the most powerful counter-monument I know.
[7] Henry Fountain, “Vikings Razed the Forests. Can Iceland Regrow Them?,” The New York Times (New York, NY) Oct. 20, 2017.
[8] National Geographic, “Iceland Is Growing New Forests for the First Time in 1,000 Years,” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, Jan 13 2018.
[9] The next few lines of thought come from a conversation I had with the philosopher Timothy Morton on scale—collapsing time and space. At the time I was flying a lot, to and from Iceland, and thinking about the Houston-based musician DJ Screw’s influence on music technology—how he slowed down records.
[10] William Cronon, “The Trouble With Wilderness” in Uncommon Ground, Ed. William Cronon (New York, NY: Norton, 1996), 89.
[11] I direct this question to the Icelandic government in light of their recent campaign to lure data storage companies with cheap renewable energy and chilly, windy weather. Check out the Reuters headline, “With abundant energy, Iceland woos power-hungry data centres.
[12] Halberstam, 12.
[13] Nikos Papastergiadis, “Spatial Aesthetics: Rethinking the Contemporary” in Modernity, Postmodernity, Contemporaneity, Ed. Smith, Enwezor, and Condee (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2008) 369.
[14] The word “malfuctintioning” here is a direct reference to Jack Halberstam’s use of the word in his book, “The Queer Art of Failure.” This book is a manual for “finding alternatives to conventional understandings of success in a heteronormative, capitalist society.”
[15] Walter Benjamin, The work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction, 1936.
[16] Marita Sturken, “The Wall, the Screen, and the Image: The Vietnam Veterans Memorial,” Representations 35, no. 1 (1991): 120.
[17] The only representation of an African American you will find on Monument Avenue is a stature of Richmond native and tennis great Arthur Ashe. In an interview on CBS with Anderson Cooper the historian Julian Maxwell Hayter said of the Ashe statue, “It was unveiled in 1996 in some ways as a proverbial middle finger to the other monuments. And believe me, this town exploded when they told the public that they were gonna build the– the Arthur Ashe– statue on Monument Avenue.”
[18] The architect Michael Sorkin, writes, “perhaps it was Maya Lin’s ‘otherness’ that enables her to create such a moving work. Perhaps only an outsider could have designed an environment so successful in answering the need for recognition by a group of people—the Vietnam vets—who are plagued by a sense of ‘otherness’ forced on them by a country that has spent ten years pretending not to see them.” (Michael Sorkin, “What Happens When a Woman Designs a War Monument?”
Vogue, May 1983, 122.)
[19] Sturken, 118
[20] Nicolas Bourriaud, Relational Aesthetics, (Dijon: Les @Presses du reel, 2010), 54.
[21] Halberstam, 8
[22] Sturken, 138
[23] Halberstam, 7
[24] Erik Deluca, “Selling Nature to Save It: Approaching self-critical environmental sonic artOrganised Sound, 23, no. 1, 71-79 (2018).
[25] James Igoe, A Genealogy of Exchangeable Nature. In S. Paladino and S. Fiske (eds.) The Carbon Fix: Forest Carbon, Social Justice, and Environmental Governance (Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press, 2016): 13.
[26] Igoe, 12
[27] Igoe, 1-2
[28] Igoe, 10
[29] Kurt Cobain, “Come As You Are” (CD) DGC Records, 1992.



About the author:

Erik DeLuca is an artist who explores sound as historically entangled and evolving. He has lectured, performed, and exhibited at international venues, including MASS MoCA, Emily Carr University of Art + Design, Art Basel (Miami), School of the Arts Institute Chicago, The Contemporary Austin, The New School, Skowhegan School for Painting and Sculpture, Society for Ethnomusicology, Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, Issue Project Room, Fieldwork: Marfa, SXSW, Danspace Project at St Mark’s Church, and the International Computer Music Conference. DeLuca received a PhD in Composition and Computer Technologies from the University of Virginia, was recently an American-Scandinavian Foundation postdoctoral fellow, and will conduct 4-months of field research in Yangon, Myanmar in 2018 with the support of an Asian Cultural Council grant. DeLuca teaches at the Iceland University of the Arts and Brown University.

Maile Colbert

Sound artist and designer, intermedia artist and filmmaker, teacher and researcher