Dhvāni, meaning resonance in Sanskrit, is a responsive and self-regulating sound installation that at its core draws on an Indian epistemology-informed approach to sound and transcendental listening. Underscoring the role of the listener, inter-subjectivity and situational context of listening as the primary triggers towards construing an artistic experience, the project examines the role of the “self” against an overarching emphasis on artistic object permeating in the Western art tradition. Departing from the object, the project aims to create fertile and evolving “auditory situations” where the selfhood and subjectivity of the listener can be considered in an inclusive manner so as to encourage a participatory approach of a shared artistic production in terms of a networked inter-subjectivity. In doing so, the project develops an understanding of the role of chance and contingency in sound experience as a mode of creating temporal disjuncture for the “divine intervention” as Indian musician Gita Sarabhai informed John Cage in 1946 helping to shape Cage’s subsequent work with chance composition (Cage 1973: 158, 226).

As method, Dhvāni incorporates current research in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to produce an automated environment within which traditional sounding objects, such as temple bells are re-posited, re-listened and re-lived. Through this temporal coalescing, the project historicises pre-modern sounds and re-locates them in the contemporary machine society, advocating for a decolonization of sound and listening. A swarm network of individual ritualistic sounding objects are developed in the installation forming a collective sounding that responds to the presence of the listening subject. The ML algorithm acts like a conductor of this experience, consolidating disparate inputs, from real-time inputs of audience engagement to a pre-existing composition and data sets of ritualistic sounds of the temple bells in random sequences. The aim is to bridge a social divide between tradition and modernity, past and present, East and West, humans and machines, espousing interplay and reciprocity between them.

Premiere: EXPERIMENTA Arts & Sciences Biennale, Grenoble, February 2020.

Supported by: Artists + Machine Intelligence Grant, Google Arts And Culture and Google AI, New York, 2019 – 2020.