Muffled Deep Time Contagion 128 kbps Objects, 2012
Muffled Deep Time Contagion 128 kbps Objects, 2012

Muffled Deep Time Contagion 128 kbps Objects, 2012

- shared MP3 files for download
- radio broadcast






Series of 4 field recordings (30 seconds each) made in deep geological repositories (for the long term storage of nuclear waste): Yucca Mountain, Nevada (ignimbrite rock); HADES, Mol, Belgium (plastic clay); Gorleben, Germany (salt dome); and Forsmark, Sweden (granite)



Deep Geological Repository sites are currently being developed for the long-term storage of nuclear waste.

The engineering of the sites acts as an interface between the deep futures of nuclear decay and the material construction process in the present, forcing the question of how timescales of billions of years can enter the design process.

Research at the sites produces simulations of future nuclear decay, using machines which must themselves anticipate becoming obsolete and radiated as geological materials and plastic casings erode. Magnetically stored data files will be erased as particles are recalculated and absorbed into digital coding chains. Further simulations are built to anticipate the effects on machines and the behaviour of resultant radioactivity-data combinations.

Spaces, deep underground, have been chosen strategically for their geological make-up to remain 'hidden' from public access for many years.

The ambience of these spaces was modelled and captured as an audio signal through the use of a hand-held microphone left at the sites. This was stored as a bitstream of data in a 1,411kbps .wav file on a microSDHC card in my Zoom recorder, and smuggled above Earth. These files were then converted into 128 kbps mp3s using a lossy compression algorithm, uploaded to this site alongside this text, dispersed and transmitted via radio in timed broadcasts.


(from or-bits Basic FM radio show)

I’ve been interested in how thinking about these sites and long term radioactive decay forces a confrontation with times in excess of predicted human timescales, creating an affect of ungrounded panic which the work builds as 'fiction' through sound.

The broadcast draws on two inherent characteristics of internet radio and the 128kbps object. Firstly, the erasure of visual language and discursive content, combined with the compression of the sound file and cancelling out of frequencies creates a ‘de-sublimation’ where any presentation of the experience as grandly and sublimely unknowable is undercut by its necessary conceptual and affective poverty. The sound becomes something unnoticeable, camouflaged into everyday life as a rumbling background semi-awareness.

Secondly, stripped of its content and force, the work comes to be defined by its reception and viral dissemination, spreading an unnamed anxiety. If networked communities are formed around the threshold point of 128 kbps, then the piece provides a muffled reminder of the frequencies that such communities are immunised against.