In the run-up to the Aesthetica Art Prize 2015 exhibition, we speak to shortlisted artist Matt Parker about his piece The Cloud is More Than Air and Water. This video-sound installation offers an insight into the hidden connections between every-day technology and our environment. An audiovisual artist, Parker is interested in creating immersive experiences which comment on the acoustic ecology of modern living. His explorations into the data driven society captures the acoustic footprint of the internet and reflects on the existence of our ‘digital selves’.
Inspired by soundscape artist R. Murray Schafer, Parker’s research investigates the ways in which sound and space influence both our individual and collective experiences. He has studied for a MMus at the Birmingham Conservatoire, specialising in acoustic ecology and visual music. The Cloud is More Than Air and Water can be seen at York St Mary’s from 26 March.
A: Your audio-video piece The Cloud is More Than Air and Water has been shortlisted for the Aesthetica Art Prize. Can you talk about the key themes behind this work?
MP: The aim of the piece is to highlight the fact that whilst our smartphones sit silently on our dresser tables as we sleep, somewhere in the world a physical hive of noise, cables and chaos maintains our ‘digital selves’, with real analogue consequences to the sound and environment in and around it.
A: How easy is it to translate your research in acoustic ecology into visual and audible mediums?
MP: Combining my interest in electroacoustic composition with visual work has been something I have become increasingly interested in. I think the challenge is to create an audiovisual language that speaks across the two mediums with equal temperament.
A: Did you encounter any difficulties when making the work?
MP: Due to the sensitive material stored on the physical drives in data centres, the locations are generally highly secure and often secretive. The greatest challenge I faced was earning the trust of the businesses and engineers who take care of the data storage facilities in order for them to grant me access and time in the space.
A: As a shortlisted artist, you will be exhibiting in York St Mary’s later this month. What does this opportunity mean to you?
MP: I’m thrilled to be exhibiting this work at York St Mary’s. I am looking forward to seeing how people react to the notion that ‘the cloud’ might not be a big, white, fluffy pillow of knowledge floating over our heads after all.
A: Are you working on any new projects?
MP: I have started an artist’s collective called The People’s Cloud, where as a group we are looking for new ways to express the social-environmental impact of the internet. Personally I am working on a new audiovisual work that will investigate the locations of where the world’s data lives and the lives of those who work to maintain it. Visit www.thepeoplescloud.org to find out more and get in touch if you want to join us.
To see more of Parker’s work, visit www.earthkeptwarm.com.
Aesthetica Art Prize 2015, 26 March-31 May, York St Mary’s, Castlegate, York YO1 9RN.
Additional details can be found at www.aestheticamagazine.com/artprize.
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1. Matt Parker, still from The Cloud is More Than Air and Water.