Darsha Hewitt’s practice is situated across new media and sound studies and largely grows out of empirical experimentation with obsolete technology. As a way to better understand the confounding ways that humans treat one another and how we engage with ecology, her work critically investigates the materiality of the machines, processes and practices of technology that consumer society throws away.
High Fidelity Wasteland II: The Proto-Plastic Groove
High Fidelity Wasteland is a sound-centric trilogy that experiments with the material waste left over from generations of decomposing sound reproduction technology. HiFi Wasteland II: The Proto-Plastic Groove recomposes alternate forms of sonic expression inhabiting shellac phonograph recordings. Spinning at 78 rpm, this precursor to the vinyl record was the first ever disk-shaped recording medium. Though shellac looks and behaves like any other plastic we know today, this dark resin is in fact an organic bioadhesive, excreted by the tree dwelling Lac beetle as a protective shelter for her offspring. Chemically similar to synthetic polymers, shellac is considered a natural form of plastic — one that was rapaciously harvested and commodified throughout the 20th century for the global music industry. Though produced on a massive scale, shellac records signify a short-lived transition from the outset of our throwaway culture. This first iteration of HiFi Wasteland II: The Proto-Plastic Groove presents current electromechanical sound experiments, up-cycled prototypes and sculptural processes that release this hardened byproduct of insect survival into multi-material forms of sound and noise.
Material research and sculptural elements are made in collaboration with sculptor Irene Pérez Hernández, whose work challenges historical sculptural conventions by questioning materiality and form. Her works activate seemingly mundane objects, placing them in circumstances that are alternately poignant and absurd, posing larger questions about power dynamics, autonomy, and modalities of cultural and material circulation.
The artist thanks Alex Rex (http://www. alexrex.de) and Daniel Stigler for their technical support.
This work was realised within the framework of the European Media Art Platforms (EMAP) programme at KONTEJNER (HR) with support of the Creative Europe Culture Programme of the European Union.