Victor Mazon

Except of the conversation on locative audio, design and pedagogics of open technologies. interviewed by Stefanie Wuschitz

Can you tell a little bit about your research on low frequencies?

Moving out of the city into the mountains or isolated places, reveals a hidden natural space, where I go to capture and record natural phenomena. Tectonics, the Aurora Borealis or different wavelengths on very low frequencies of the electromagnetic spectrum: as spherics, tweeks and whistlers coming from outside and inside the earth. They are getting reflected in the ionosphere and then the signal gets redirected back towards the surface of the earth. It travels for thousands of kilometers to bounce back on the magnetosphere. It is a different part of the spectrum than high-frequency receivers, called natural radio, its behavior differs from human-made microwaves like GPS, Bluetooth or WIFI signals. When you are in the city center, micro and radio waves get the loudest and mask the natural radio, so it’s necessary to move to a natural isolated place.

You were developing special receivers for these signals?

I´ve been researching on and designing those two kind of receivers, as one was becoming alive in urban areas, where there is lots of wireless human machine communication, where the natural radio gets masked by the strength of this human activity. I´m interested in developing different tools to capture these electromagnetic soundscapes and document these activities; from natural radio to human-made radio, which both seem absent in our perception. What I’m trying to address in my personal research relates to the non-visible. I intent to develop perception and create installations, multiples or performances with those results. In the last years I have mainly worked with light and sound, wavelengths that we cannot see or perceive through our senses. The eyes dominate most of our perception and how we appreciate the world. Through these technologies, we can experience, analyze and study our environment.

Should we embrace this kind of technology as extension of our bodies and our perception?

Technology offers us a lot of possibilities, but at the same time, it’s important to know that you gain something, but you lose something. I mean that they don’t come free of charge. It is important to find a balance between what you gain and what you loose, as the abuse of commercial gadgets creates dependencies. They are very sophisticated and designed to seduce us. If you do not use it in a considerate manner, all this constant flow of information and upgraded technology, can make you easily loose your free will and your focus or make you dependent and unproductive. Even if we are constantly online, we feel more and more alone. Many people publish a lot personal content to platforms for users they don´t know at all. This is distracting us from our most proximate reality, in which we live in, and precisely this permanent connection is what makes us lonely beings. Zygmunt Bauman wrote: “We are lonely in permanent contact”. I think the interesting part about the do-it-yourself or the open technologies might be your close connection to the community and the development, which enables you to perceive and involve yourself in different stages and on different layers in the development of this technology. In contrast to a closed product, where you become a user/consumer.

What role do workshops play in your art practice?

In the workshops I’ve been involved in during the last fifteen years, the emphasis was not on the technology itself, but rather on allowing you to experience certain concepts and gain knowledge about them. An example would be the workshops covering radio waves and non-regulated transmitters for low range community radio. Here the importance lies not in the HF transistors, variable capacitors and resistors involved in the circuit, but rather the question what the impact of a community radio might be? Or when and through which platforms it becomes tactical or illegal to share information? How was radio used in the 50s to the 60s, when radio was broadcasted mainly from universities? What will happen with the FM broadcast after the analog shutdown if it’s not interesting anymore for the commercial market?

What is your methodology when developing your work?

My work deals with sound, but my brain works visually. When I’m trying to find a strategy to present some information or to discuss a topic, I always work with graphics or maps. When I’m researching or designing electronics, these graphics allow me to remember how they work, and for some complex terms I usually make drawings. Or I relate the concepts to the ones I studied, which mostly come from the field of art. In my drawings I many times connect the concepts of the designs to specific moments in art history. I enjoyed my art history classes lot: how information was transferred from oral communication to drawings on caves to printmaking. These simplifications of humans and animals are what motivates me in each project. Normally in a project, I start with collecting sketches and drawings, creating a database of papers, data sheets, visual documentation and then I scan all these different materials. As I´m using CAD software, I vectorize the images and modify them, and adapt them to the designs. I see it as an evolution of my speciality on fine arts which is lithography and engraving. In the end my main interest lies in printing memories into materials. When I was making lithography, I was using a stone that was much older than me, printed with a lot of stories, but then I needed to erase it. I had to refine and polish it in order to create my designs, to be able to print it on paper, through the use of acids and erosion. It has a very close connection on how our memory works and how we store stories in our brain - through moments that motivated us, seduced us or made us feel things. This also happened when I started to work with sound, from a very visual perspective. I was using contact microphones and recorded the friction between different materials. The results were specific editions or multiples on tapes, later also on vinyls, through a custom lathe cut machine.

Do you produce everything by yourself in your lab?

Today, I still make the electronic designs and the etching of the pcb´s in my own lab, but for the workshops I use industrial production. The cost of industrial production for pcb´s in short runs has been lowered so I can get much more precision and the designs work more efficient. Within a workshop environment it’s been more easy to debug and predict what will happen. This offers a better experience to the participants and a finished device that will prevail for a longer time.