Actual Reality

“Actual Reality” (2011—Present) is a serial multi-media work that develops over the course of many iterations and forms: a scored performance, an improvised response, a piece of software, a libretto text, audio recordings, a video-in-progress… Each new version processes and re-synthesizes previous Actual Realities.

I’ve had a google alert for the words “actual reality” for several years now, every day receiving an email digest of newly discovered instances of the phrase in context. It is a candid and democratic view of the internet. The term is used by diarists, pundits, analysts, self-help gurus and angry blog-commenters alike, as a lets-get-serious reference to the common background against which imaginary things come together momentarily. Everyone should be able to recognize actual reality, or to compare things against it, to measure when we’ve moved too far from it.

“Little by little it comes into view like a condensing cloud; from the virtual state it passes into the actual; and as its outlines become more distinct and its surface takes on color, it tends to imitate perception. But it remains attached to the past by its deepest roots, and if, when once realized, it did not retain something of its original virtuality, if, being a present state, it were not something which stands out distinct from the present, we should never know it for a memory.”

– Henri Bergson “Matter and Memory”

We experience sound moving from live utterance to processed signal, amplified and diffused into the room. We enact a translation, listening and responding to the processed signal, attaching new layers to it, simultaneously forging and following a wave of sound that condenses into patterns and disperses into clouds. Video images form for us an anchor in time, progressing slowly, with action that is hard to perceive until gradual changes are made apparent. A flute, a lily, a newspaper, a triangle, a mirror, a discharge of smoke—-these visual elements provide a medium through which to perceive a specific speed, a dilated scale of time passing.

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