continent. maps a topology of unstable confluences and ranges across new thinking, traversing interstices and alternate directions in culture, theory, biopolitics and art.
Issue 5.3 / 2016:


Mark Peter Wright


It is high time we included in the notion of ‘acoustic ecology’ the anthropocenic sources that constitute the environments of an increasingly large swath of human experience that is born, lives and dies urbanised, industrialised, electrified and atmospherically regulated. Call up a neologist and he or she might name it, say, an anthroposcape? The Acoustiscene?

We, immersed as we practically always are within these human-reconfigured spaces and environments, the difference between ecologies and infrastructures is rendered infinitesimal. The standing reserve of audible energies available for creative modulation is prefigured by the banalities of things like microwave oven timers, iPhone-synthesized crickets, and the omnipresent drone cues provided by what building engineers and architects abbreviate as “HVAC”: Heating, Ventilation & Air Conditioning.

The fans, control systems, ventilators and other pneumatic contrivances that are responsible for the creation of artificial atmospherics all produce hums and whirs, spilling out over the entire spectrum of vibratory potentials we call ‘acoustic’, from subsonic to supersonic. It is vents that provide concentrated access to these sonic effluents, they are HVAC ‘speakers’; the sound we hear the end result of an entire control system, architectures, electronics, hydraulics and pneumatics in resonance — and ventilation is its sonification. These resonances are turned on and tuned up before we awake, in order to ease our transition into offices and shopping centers, precipitating labour and condensing consumption. They are turned off and tuned down, just after we leave these spaces, but only to an extent that maximises their power and hence economic efficiency.

Artist and researcher Mark Peter Wright understands these resonant new-natures we have created for ourselves, and how we might create along with them. His work presented here is a composition derived from a set of recordings of ventilation structures in various public/private spaces in and around the city of London, England. The piece was premiered as an installation at the Southbank Centre and later as a six-channel performance piece at Goldsmiths University. It is presented here, along with a poem written by Mark, as document of Mark’s own pedestrian research, an act of concrete composition concrete, a filtration and selection of the world’s still noisy attempts at controlling, containing and re-engineering the chaotic meteorology of the earth. These energies, ample as they are are, vent their grievances, shouting back to us as a “sonic ethico-aesthetic that swings from fear, to solitude, to urban-alien phenomenology to other matter(s).”[1]

— Jamie Allen



Air pushing space, pulling concrete, piercing bodies

You are always exposed to it

Invisible, felt pressure

Thickening the affective lining of a city tailored by humans and machines

Acoustic infrastructure as metallic Cthulhu

Alien expansion and contraction

Rattling, clanking, spitting

Streets, buildings, offices

Power, data

Economy, heat

Affective lacunas

Gaps, holes and cavities in brick and bone

Switch, control





[1] Wright, Mark Peter (2016), in email correspondence to the editors of continent.