Wi-Fi networks, radio communications, and chemical signals fill the air around us, mostly undetected by the human senses. We engage with networks through icons on hand-held devices, assuming that they will ‘work’, but rarely questioning their histories, technical bases, spatial distributions and politics. Given that the airwaves conceal information to some while revealing it to others, how can invisible communication systems be conceptualized, repurposed or manipulated? Asking this and related questions, and looking at the relationships between technological signalling and the chemical semiosis evolved by animals and plants, the artists explore and disrupt the flow of information travelling through water and air, examining what it means to interfere with network communications.
Emily Rosamond presents a new series of works that think through what it means to listen to ‘background noise’ and tap into hidden communication systems. Through diverse media including a bookwork, video and kinetic sculpture, she assembles a constellation of stories and material reflections about transmitting, detecting, and concealing signals. From Hollywood actress Hedy Lamarr and avant-garde composer George Antheil’s invention of a ‘Secret Communications System’ to help the Allied naval effort during WWII, to acacia trees warning each other to defend themselves against predation by sending ethylene distress signals through the air, from frequency hopping radio waves to plant hormones, the series explores how the ability to predict the future or detect risks often has to do with developing complex forms of ‘listening’ for faint signals – or, equally, with creating distributions of predictability, whereby some are left out of the loop.