Subsoma: Beneath the Surface

Filed under Calendar Event, Event Dates
Oct ’10
6:00 pm

What is Happening:

CSIRO Discovery Centre in association with Powerhouse Museum and National Science Week presents

Subsoma: beneath the surface
Dr Michaela Davies performing with Kerri Ambler

An installation and artist discussion
Friday 29 October 6pm to 7pm

Admission free. No RSVP necessary.

Subsoma explores human interaction with the environment in a performance work where seismic activity controls movement in the human body.

Since the 1970s, scientists have tracked rapid uplift and subsidence of the ground and significant changes in earthquake activity. The Earth is responding to climate change as a single integrated system, yet behaviour change in relation to these issues is notably absent. Individuals develop a series of psychological barriers to justify why they should not act to mitigate climate change by creating socio-psychological denial mechanisms that underestimate the danger of environmental events and emphasize doubts regarding the immediacy of personal action when the effects of climate change seem uncertain and far away.

Subsoma attempts to make real these perceptually abstract external forces. The surrender of control places the performer in a state of submission to the earth. Human agency is removed and the body is manipulated into a state that is not mediated by human consciousness but controlled by seismic events. The human is released from the burdens of agency and responsibility.

The dissolution of the boundaries of self and environment created by Subsoma makes room for new construction of meaning by questioning metaphysical assumptions affirming the existence of an intentional inner self, and the physical realm as an expression and reflection of this.

The Seismic data used in Subsoma is collected via the Earthquake Data Portal (<, a portal providing a point of access to diverse, distributed earthquake data provided by observatories and research institutes around the world. This data is converted to an audio file using a program developed in Python. The sample rate of the audio files generated from the collected seismic data varies from 1hz to 40hz per second, depending on which station they were collected and the resolution of this information. This waveform data is resampled at a higher rate (2205hz) to be audible. Subsoma uses approximately 20 compressed quake files collected prior to each performance.

Seismic data controls motor function via Electrical Muscle Stimulation (EMS).

The seismic audio files are interpreted in Max/Msp to control EMS hardware via midi, sending electrical impulses to nerve points on the performers body and triggering involuntary muscle movement.

The amplitude of the seismic waveform controls the pulse rate (hz) of the electrical impulse sent by the EMS hardware to the nerves, so that the intensity of seismic activity corresponds to magnitude of muscular response.

Subsoma: beneath the surface is the hit installation from the 2010 Ultimo Science Festival, and plays one show only at CSIRO Discovery Centre Friday 29 October 2010. Drinks from 6pm, performance from 6.30pm. No bookings necessary. Admission is free.

Subsoma: beneath the surface is touring thanks to National Science Week and the Powerhouse Museum.

Where is it On?:

CSIRO Discovery Centre, Clunies Ross Street, Canberra


Contact Details:

Cris Kennedy
PH: 02 6246 4602 mob: 0429 914 049


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