I comment on Janet Cardiff‘s work, etc.
I find the reading interesting because it was written 15 years ago on the topic of sensory overload, at a time when that concept had barely begun to enter the public consciousness. According to Jacobson, the audio played from Discmans and television screens constitutes a “dichotic dissonance in our individual being.” I wonder what she would have to say about the phenomenon of smartphones, about Facebook and Twitter and WhatsApp and Instagram, about how the real world and “cyberspace” have melted together into some kind of conglomerate Frankensteinian abomination?
The concept of sensory overload is not new. Blade Runner in 1982 imagined a future of neon-lit streets and innumerable advertisements. Walk through 1990s Hong Kong and you will be assaulted by a million glowing billboards and a million radios out of sync. This iconic sensation has become a defining feature of the cyberpunk genre, which harshly criticizes the effect of dehumanizing technology on society. “Cyberpunk fantasies” do indeed feature briefly in Cardiff’s Opera for a Small Room. I find it curious, though, that Cardiff did not explore this connection further.
I also can’t say that I find Cardiff’s “audio walks” especially interesting or unique. They may have been groundbreaking in 2004, but since then we have spoken with artificial intelligences on Samsung TVs, followed audio tours through museums and galleries, and received verbal directions from GPS systems in our cars. Is it really art any more if I can type a couple of coordinates into Google Maps and receive the same experience?
All in all, I feel that Cardiff’s auditory experiences are interesting explorations but do not quite hit the mark of the “sensory overload” theme she seems to be interested in. Granted, I’m a feckless video-binging Reddit-reading multiple-tab-opening millennial who jumps between social media feeds like a butterfly between flowers; my perspective is surely different from that of Cardiff, who, I imagine, feels rather like a train conductor at Ford’s presentation of the Model T. This just goes to show that different perspectives are valuable in the art world, and old ideas must be updated with changes in society, or else left behind.