Crowd Control Vol 1

Crowd Control Vol 1 is a 22-minute installation, film and live sound performance examining themes of privacy and protest in the age of surveillance capitalism.

Our digital communications and social posts feel private but are in fact mined for information and predictive behavioural data by third parties, from supermarkets to state agencies. Similarly, crowds feel like a safe environment in which to find solidarity and take action, but are in fact intensely watched, with individual people identified and criminalised later on the basis of social media posts and video footage.

The Piece

A voltage-controlled laser is trained on a vase of flowers, lit candles and curiosities sitting on a silver tray. The movement of the laser is controlled by the sound waves created during the performance.

A film plays, heavily featuring the colour yellow. Wildflowers are inspected under a microscope; crowds of people process slowly through city streets.

A live sound piece is performed using my Innalog modular synthesiser and a drum machine. I open the piece by layering white noise over recordings of crowds gathered at social justice protests: the resulting mix of sonic data – ‘signal’ and ‘noise’ – is then sculpted over time using different types of filtration and FX, including granular and spectral processing. Melodic elements start to appear: oscillators bleep, rising and falling; drums; the sound of a female voice is looped to create rhythm. Gradually the mix is peeled back to the foundational building blocks of the piece: white noise and crowd noise, people and data, information littered across the digital panopticon; but who is controlling the laser?

The symbolism of the visual elements is deep: in particular, the colour yellow was chosen to pay my respects to Egyptian feminist and queer activist, Sarah Hegazi, who ended her life in June, two years after her arrest for waving a rainbow flag in a crowd at a music concert in Cairo. The flowers are an embodiment of the beauty and diversity of humanity in the first flush of youth.

Showings

Lock East, Sound City Ipswich, Friday 2nd October 2020 – livestream performance

TUSK Virtual, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Saturday, 10 October 2020 – pre-recorded livestream performance

‘Lateness Stage’ on BBC Radio 3, Friday, 2 October 2020 – an excerpt of the TUSK performance

HERE, The Art Station, Saxmundham, Saturday 21 November to Sunday 13 December 2020 – livestream performance; gallery showing; online exhibition; framed prints for sale

Buy

A live recording of Crowd Control Vol 1, including some preparatory studies, is available to pre-order on Bandcamp now. The release will drop on Saturday 10 October 2020 after the live showing at TUSK.

Framed prints of the Crowd Control Vol 1 artwork will be available to pre-order on Bandcamp in the coming weeks. Despatch date: Monday 14 December 2020, after the gallery showing at HERE.