"Dream Cargoes" is an audio visual performance by video artists Lucy Benson and Marcel Weber in collaboration with musicians Keith Fullerton Whitman and Roly Porter.
The piece transposes the basic premise of J.G.Ballard's short fiction "Dream Cargoes" into our near future. The leaking shipwreck that has run aground a remote island of the original story is replaced with our planet, exploited and abandoned by a departing human race.
A lone observer remains, witness to a wondrous flourishing of new life forms, born out of the toxicity of waste, partially evolved AI, and nano & bio-technologies left behind.
Visually the story is told through this protagonist's eyes, immersing us in an increasingly psychedelic landscape comprising original cinematic footage with analogue and algorithmic mutations, created by video artists Lucy Benson and Marcel Weber.
The score is written and performed by Roly Porter, working with a string quartet, and Keith Fullerton Whitman, operating modular synthesizers. The fully acoustic opening suffers under increasing interference from the electronic side, eventually finding a new synergy with the chaotic, generative energy of the modular evolutions.
"Dream Cargoes" was co-commissioned by Werkleitz Festival Halle and Unsound Festival.
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„The visual element, which can so often be lacking felt very much the focus; a desolate, almost Martian, landscape hummed vividly with subtly shifting textures and colours, and across the hour-long performance, the audience were taken gradually closer into the developing ecosystem, with microsopic level of detail unfolding like a new universe.“ - Scott Wilson, Juno Plus
Jennifer Lucy Allan from The Wire talked to Keith Fullerton Whitman, Roly Porter, Lucy Benson and Marcel Weber about Dream Cargoes at Unsound the day before the performance: The Wire Q&A
12th Oct 2013 - Unsound Krakow, Poland
08th Oct 2013 - Werkleitz Halle, Germany
“ While exploitation of the earth is slowly reaching its saturation point, private corporations reach out into space to fuel mankinds ever growing hunger for resources (i.e. the google founded company Planetary Resources). Sci-fi writers and philosophers of the last century expected this to happen as some sort of hard labour of brave men and women in space, but today it seems this will happen as an enterprise fully automated and driven by artificial-intelligence. At first an ever-growing swarm of man-made drones ventures into space, exploiting astroids, nebulas, moons, planets; until eventually an autonomous entity sustains and extends itself and its functionality. Capitalism in space, one that does no more require a human consumer, seems to be our legacy.
Another thought: life on Earth was created from very basic organisms, simple amorphous cells. Hence no matter how much mankind wastes this planet, it will always find a new balance of life out of whatever remains of nature – and out of what we leave behind.
These are some of the ideas I was interested in when approaching this project.
To produce Dream Cargoes we thankfully received funding from Werkleitz Festival allowing Lucy and myself to fly to Iceland and shoot all the cinematic footage on location in the volcanic landscapes there. It is the perfect spot to film barren lands of an alien beauty, to find the old exploited planet and it's rich minimalism.
The increasingly abstracted imagery, the synthetic lifeforms and depiction of evolution was developed based on research into current nano- and bio-technologies. I spend much time on experiments with generative imaging techniques: algorithms for chemical and biological simulation of growth, oscillations and behavioural patterns. Additionally, we conducted physical experiments with a number of materials – ferro-magnetic filings and liquids, crystal growth, paint and acids, etc; the filmed results were then processed with a number of digital techniques. In post production all the various footage was brought together and composed into extensive imagery. ”