Since the early days of techno, music of machines and visual aesthetics of electronic producers have been connected to scientific discoveries and speculations about the future. Techno culture has been greatly inspired by the stories about the outer space and our innate desire to travel to other galaxies and seek a better future.
An especially committed and elegant example of such a space trip was conceptualized by Dasha Rush, a Berlin-based artist, techno producer and DJ, who runs her own label, Fullpanda, and is also a member of the curatorial board at the 4DSOUND Institute. Back in June 2016 during MUTEK festival in Montreal, Dasha presented Dark Hearts of Space, her audiovisual deep-listening performance created in collaboration with videographer and visual artist Stanislav Glazov.
Katerina Rakitskaya: Do you remember when your fascination with Space began?
Dasha Rush: When I was a child, I played a game called ‘Infinity’ with myself. The rule was as simple as it gets: you just sit down wherever you want, close your eyes and imagine the infinite. Then you create the starting point from where you sit, and go further and further with your mind — you pass a tree, the sky, clouds, stars – your imagination flies up and up. It can last forever until you reach the point where you start feeling uneasy, it makes you a little dizzy. At some point your brain cannot take it anymore — it gets intoxicated and your body receives a response. Nervous connections and cells in your nervous system just go nuts trying to generate information while you visualize the infinite. That was my first contact with the outer space, a real ‘physical’ starting point. I was about seven.
KR: A black hole is a mysterious phenomenon in outer space that neither sound nor light can escape. How did it become the subject of Dark Hearts of Space, your audio visual performance and installation created together with the visual artist Stanislav Glazov?
DR: I’m interested in astrophysics and I really like the subject of black holes, it’s so imprecise and emotional. It is such a large aggregation of rules and elements that we know, but there are no proven theories, everything is a bit vague and obscure. To me it’s the same in music. The project Dark Hearts of Space draws from a very concrete idea. Musically, I wanted to work with silence within a composition, to enter the void. I figured that I could visualize the void by creating a story about a black hole: making an audiovisual composition that enables us to experience a trip through the formation and development of a black hole, rotating faster and faster, then reaching a point of singularity – a relative nothing. I expressed the singularity with a very low frequency that can only be transmitted with a proper sound system. It’s as low as I can go, you can’t hear the audible level, only feel the pressure. At the same time, visually, we follow the explosion through the formation of the black hole and different further stages, textures and speeds, finally approaching the state of singularity. The initial idea was to make an installation and to build a tunnel, which people could enter and just stay, meditate, and hang out in the singularity. Unfortunately, it’s much more technically complicated and requires more tools, a variety of things. It’s still pending and I’m not in a rush – there are still no programs or machines that let you experience a black hole!
It took me about two years to find this interpretation of silence. The project could have stayed even longer in its incubation phase if it weren’t for some important milestones on the way, like Patti Schmidt (the programmer of MUTEK), and the people I met at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity in Canada, who proposed some key ideas. Overall, it was a long process of thinking and combining small pieces of a big puzzle, it did not happen spontaneously.
KR: How did you collaborate with Stanislav Glazov and manage to find common ground inside a black hole?
DR: We worked together on my previous project, Antarctic Takt, and I felt comfortable working with Stas. He’s able to understand what I am trying to do. And still it took awhile to understand each other when we started working on Dark Hearts of Space, even though he speaks my mother language, Russian. Translating the idea of the void musically and visually, the progression and extension of a black hole, and every single bit of our collaboration was a long process.
KR: And in reality, would you not be afraid to enter a black hole? Stephen Hawking firewall might await you on your way to the singularity.
DR: The funny thing is that if I consider entering the black hole realistically, I know that it would be the last moment of my existence. For the sake of experience, I would do it. But I wouldn’t be able to share my experience and tell anyone how it was! Even just going to space sounds intimidating but it’s way less scary than knowing that I can’t tell anyone about it. I would not mind dying, but only if I’d be able to come back to life and tell everyone how it was. That would be great — then I would definitely go towards a black hole.
KR: Another Hawking’s theory says that an exit from the black hole might exist. Maybe you would meet someone to share your experience with when the hole spits you out? Do you believe that there might be aliens on the other side?
DR: Even if you are able to exit it, you would not be you anymore — your shape would be transformed a lot! For sure, after the singularity there should be someone, but you never know in what kind of form and in how many dimensions this someone or something exists, or how this creature communicates. You probably would never realize its existence, because it’s outside of your perception.There are probably some other things and creatures around us right now, but we don’t know about them because we cannot perceive their dimension. It’s crazy.
KR: There are many artists who are inspired by scientific research, especially by the visual findings made by physicists, cosmologists, chemists, biologists because things they observe in telescopes and microscopes are visually extremely fascinating. How do you think scientists and electronic musicians could learn or benefit from each other’s crafts?
DR: I have a perfect example. One astrophysicist came to our performance at MUTEK Festival in Montreal, because she had just read the news about black holes being visualized, which happened to be her main research subject. She did not know anything about electronic music and generative visual art, but she was curious to see how it could be interpreted. She was very open towards our interpretation. Unfortunately, scientists and musicians don’t cross paths very often, except during a few panels aimed at provoking artists’ interest in science and scientists’ interest in art. Scientists are those crazy guys trying to understand how the world works. So are artists! They could greatly help each other to materialize and embody knowledge and ideas. We would inspire each other if we would work together.
KR: The opening sentence on your website says: “There was a sound that felt like Love.” That sounds very romantic! Is your ‘trip’ to the black hole also romanticized?
DR: How would we exist, if we did not exaggerate or romanticize things? There would be only dry facts. That’s boring. Maybe not for scientists, although even astrophysicists have to romanticize their subjects. It’s a part of the approach whether we speak about space, machines, robots, or the future. It’s sort of romanticizing the unknown. In Dark Hearts of Space I romanticize the black hole as a subject as well, because space is cold and rough but I make it beautiful and fascinating.
KR: By the way, NASA has recently revealed some recordings of space — they sound really ominous. Not romantic at all.
DR: Harsh growls and cracks, I know! The same thing comes about with the essence of the ocean: we romanticize its beauty, but in reality it’s a rough, boisterous element of nature that can kill you within a second. Same with black holes, they are monsters.
KR: It feels like techno aesthetics are often generally based on dystopian visions of the future. Do you think this can come from a disinclination or maybe inability to imagine a beautiful and colorful future? Maybe it’s simply easier to imagine our fears playing out?
DR: Of course it’s easier to talk about problems, and much more risky to create and propose something ‘beautiful’ for humanity. Nobody would believe you and your rosy views of the future! Reality is harsh, and the only way to save ourselves is to imagine something good. Paradoxically, you’ll be called a dreamer.
KR: What is the future for you then? Dark or bright?
DR: Neither. It’s actually silence, singularity. We cannot predict it yet, but we will enter the future with a combination of positive and negative views, depending on our perception and changing perspectives on time and place. We will make it bipolar, always running from one extreme to another. Personally, I have both dark and romantic visions of it.
KR: Are you personally ready for our expansion into space, exploration of new galaxies, and invading other spaces, in a physical and psychological way?
DR: We are already in space, as a part of something that is stretching or contracting, depending on a theory.
KR: If your could choose one place around the globe where you can set up Dark Hearts of Space permanently, where would you do it?
DR: Thinking spatially and rationally, I would say Kraftwerk would be that place. But if I didn’t have any special constraints, I would do it somewhere in the Australian desert.