Coping with post Trans-Siberian railway blues. It’s been a week now and I’ve yet to unpack. I just pulled everything on my table, keep my stuff in a pile and shuffle it when I need things. Our return trip from Vladivostok to Helsinki took 180 hours. We only had a few daily breaks and a 10 h train change wait in Moscow. I managed to (almost) complete a review of the Ural Industrial Biennial during the ride, made some train ambient recordings and fixed a sock. Despite the discomfort, working on the train felt rewarding. Everything we saw and did fitted into a context. The travel and our group forged a dense social framework which I experienced to be supportive. Back here in Helsinki, I feel vague and I don’t know what to do next. I’m dreaming of new travels and looking for odd-jobs (barista for Starbucks, office cleaning -> edit: got invited to a job interview but the 3h/5d a week gig only pays 550 a month, which is impossible).
I have small gig in a week and I’m preparing for some teaching next month (post-structuralism for kids continues). Swapped my KP3 for a Leploop Multicassa v2. It’s superb and compliments my rack. I’ll miss the KP3 thou.. I had it for 3 years. It seems I’m into electro-acoustics, ploppy filter resonances and organic mutant drum patterns. I’ll try to build a dark techno setup using Multicassa with my softPop.
I think they come from the same universe (edit: they really do). Build my first 1u module TRS breakout 1u. The closet I use for work is a mess.
Vladivostok was the capital of pirates and brand cannibals. People looked stylish and the city center felt energetic. There was a pedestrian boulevard for tourists with Asian food novelties and gift shops. Visitors were from South-Korea and there was a lot of them. The city revealed itself as the South-Korean equivalent of what 2001 Tallinn was for Finns. Dolce, Supreme, weird Japanise sneakers with self illuminating laces. Referencing construction work and nuclear power. All straight from Chinese factories across the bay. All the goods in open street markets were tainted with a light layer of oil, it was meant to give the vinyl a shine but collected dust.
The cities makings were visible a stroll away from the boulevard. Away from the Kawaii shops, trams raddled like wheelbarrows, the pedestrian paths faded away and broken city heating pipes busted boiled trash fumes across the hilly skyline. Blockhouses like snakes, wrapped around hills as morbid rims. Solidified polyurethane dripping eternally from building seams. Cars moved furiously, using intuitive mutant patterns as lanes, in a choreography which echoed a collective death wish or lust for life. I loved it.
The city made me understand contemporary Russian infrastructure as the decaying corpus of the ex-soviet, presently habituated by a thin layer of privatization. The streets are rubble but people had pretty cars and clean albeit faintly oily Italian shoes.
Our one night show in Zarya felt really nice. The exhibition was more coherent and I enjoyed the videos in the screening more. Total atmospheric mean (2010) by Maija Timonen felt very fitting to the trip. Her analysis of a Shakira music video provided a ground to read styles which women are exhibited in Russian popular medias (that I’ve seen along our route). It has something to do with violent self-objectification and how this renders bodies non-penetrable and non-cavityish. I had some technical difficulties but apparently the audience didn’t notice any. My statue-stretch-poses were perfectly vague and I used my grandfathers voice as an underground cavern. It was porous and missing limbs. A line of men cued to have a taste of the water I prepared.
We are now on route to Moscow. Elina is working with a canvas for a text, photo, etc. piece. She’ll use the train and it’s movement trough the continent as a display. What I know of the work so far makes me think of our group as an Alkovi gallery in motion. Katja managed to aquire her more canvas material. The canvases will be delivered to a station stop on the way! Iona is working on her notes and Miina is reading. I’ll boot up my eurorack after Khabarovsk and attempt to link it to the train using piezos. I’ll also record noises and ambients of the trip.
We’ve been on a train for three or four days crossing four of five timezones. Arttu bought an extension-cord from Moscow which we’ve used to claim control over the train corridor electricity sockets. With it we’ve recharged our mobile devices, boom boxes and last night I used it to power my modular. As I was preparing for Saturdays gigs a lady passed asking: “Perpertum Mobile?”. I didn’t understand what she was asking and replied “Techno” (I’ve used the same reply during train security checks). Saturday will be my most complicated modular synth set to date, I’ll use samples and attempt to make electro-acoustic grooves live (D-2 in Karplus mode, C-5 with melodies from my Turing Machine).
Iona has read us train horror stories, we’ve listened to podcasts and made short presentations on various topics. We passed Baikal, endless forests and mountain ranges. Sprinted to shops during short station visits for eggs and pastries. We’ve learned to bathe in the toilets in an upright position, pouring warm water from plastic flasks which are mangled in the hot water. Some conflicts in the group seem brewing. Nothing serious.. I occasionally feel my pride clogging my perception and notice my nervous macho-chatter disturbing folk engaged in each other, views or reading. At our best we operate extremely politely. People have begun to ask permissions to enter discussions others are having and intentionally not-talking when others are concentrating.
Right now we are above Mongolia and Katja spotted a white horse on the north side of the track. It was the same mere which produced the fermented milk in Kazan. Working on the train is difficult due to the comforting motion trance (the soothing tremors of the tracks and infra-deep hums). Social causes are also to blame for the observable non-focus. We are learning about each other indirectly, though subtle ques which require time to spot and using energy for this labor is way more rewarding then fixating on art.
I believe that if repeated methodologically, this practice (moving in a train as a group of artists) could inform our praxises by building into a holistic cosmology of inside jokes and theories, which could be identified across our work. This ethos could build into a creative robustness. At present I can identify possibilities for this shift but I think we would need to expose our practices more to make this experience transformative. Becoming pourus is laborsome. The transformativity I imagine, is not radical or violent.. It’s subtle, like the taste of cucumber but persistent like the oder of sweat in clothes washed in the sink.
I’m preparing for a month lon trip to Russia. The Alkovi “In Various Stages of Ruins” -group includes (2018-19): Elina Vainio, Matti Kunttu, Iona Rosin and Katja Kalinainen. The project is organized by Arttu Merimaa & Miina Hujala. Other artists from Finland will also join in on different segments of the trip and their works will be presented in screenings / exhibitions on the way. The train from Helsinki leaves 2.9. I’ll give a presentation on mineral waters at Fabrika (Moscow) on 4.9 and later in Vladivostok. During the trip we’ll visit Ekaterinburg for the Ural Industrial Biennial of Contemporary Art and Novosibirsk. I won’t have access to the internet on the train but I plan to write posts, which I’ll publish en masse once I get to a wifi.
The performances I’ll present illustrate how mineral waters are formed as rain passes through the soil and how different waters affect our bodies. The characteristics of different waters will be explored using electronic gadgets, anecdotes and by preparing a batch of mineral water for consumption. I’ve build a eurorack module for the occasion. It is a Simple EQ / Baxandall EQ module, which I’ve made as a trough hole unit and modified by adding switches and female pin headers, so that I can swap capacitors used in the original circuit.
I’ve build capacitors which use mineral water as the conductive material and plastic balloons as the non-conducting substance (dielectric). The capacitors have different architectures and shapes: A component which is made from a balloon (filled with 10ml water) inside a balloon (filled with 10ml water), shows as a ~3000pf capacitor. A component which is constructed from a balloon (filled with 10ml water and 10g copper) and a jar (with 20ml water), shows as a 12nf capacitor if its charged with a 9v battery for 10 sek. A component which has two spiraling compartments, shows as a 40pf cap. etc. Measurements vary and I guess the capacitance changes over time as the electrolytes in the salty water run out.
The EQ’s treble setting shows a notable difference when a capacitor is swapped. Unfortunately the change in the nature of audio passed trough the circuit is non-spectacular (my water capacitors behave as normal capacitors). But it is intriguing to use water as an electronic component! I’ve also build a nifty eurorack case for the trip (I’ll share the design later). The 84hp skiff has laser-engraved Byzantine ornaments and maps form our groups previous trips to Russia. The inside of the case lid shows module schematics (for debugging) and a manual for the Expert Sleepers Disting MK4 unit. The case also has pictures from different water based parasites a illustrations. I’ll laser cut the panels for the module tomorrow. The panels also have inserts for the 4,45mm jars I use for the water caps.
A thorough and nice no input mixing tutorial by Sarah Belle Reid (2019).
Build a perf-board unit of the a Simple EQ / Baxandall EQ module (the Tilt channel is still in the making). The build was an ordeal. I did how ever learn that the reverse polarity protection of the circuit works well (it even saved an IC I popped in the wrong way) and that my noisy DC 5-24v to Dual Power 12v -12v 5v -5v 3.3v supply is robust. I attempted to plan the build using various board design tools (Fritzing worked best for me) but ended up just soldering components down following the schematic.
I added two switches to my build, which can be used to bypass the capacitors controlling the bass response (27nf) and/or the treble (1nf). Changing the 27pf didn’t have much effect. I added female pin headers which can be used to insert different capacitors in their place. My first water capacitor (using faux s.pellegrino) shows a value of ~35pf and it has an effect on the sound. Next I’ll build more water capacitors, which hopefully will have higher values for more distinct effects. I’ll also have to design a front panel, which can used to mount the bulky capacitors (The one I have has ~20ml of water in it).
During my tests I’ve discovered that the electrical resistance of sparkling mineral water drops slowly (as the water loses its bubbles). I believe that this property could be used as vca of sorts. I plant to make a simple signal divider, which uses sparkling mineral water as a conductor. This signal multiplier would be useful for one-shot slowly amplifying ramps (for example adding volume). Water and electronics is a beautiful combination.