Avoxia

2004

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This project was only realized as a video prototype, as part of the 2004 Fusedspace competition in Rotterdam, NL. A jury selected the initial proposal for further realization in video form at the Dutch Electronic Arts Festival; the project was later featured as part of a group exhibition at Stroom, Den Haag.

AVOXIA is a space, a practice, and a new kind of service provider.
AVOXIA is the space of telephone connectivity unimpeded by transfer of voice or data.
AVOXIA is the sound of presence.

AVOXIA utilizes telephones for connecting, but not conversing. In this space, users forego a technology’s primary function in favor of attending to the incidental functions that make normative use possible.

The static, click and hiss of the line, the incidental sounds of a caller’s location, the shifting of the receiver in the hand of a user. These are the indexes of presence that make possible normative telephonic conversation. “Are you still there?” we ask, prompted by vocal silences, but also by drops or changes in these secondary sounds, the acousma of telephonic space. AVOXIA seeks to mine the potential of these sounds for entertainment, communication, and critique.

SERVICES

Though the potential uses of this newly attended space are vast, AVOXIA currently offers three primary services:

1 – Linear Calling: (subscription service)

AVOXIA-on-demand. One client connects to a second user to share a 60-second phone call, without talking. Any detected speech will immediately terminate the call for the speaker. The client may choose a specific recipient, or request a random connection.

2 – Avoxial Rupture: (subscription service)

Instant, collective virtuality. AVOXIA’s automated operator simultaneously dials a group of subscribers. Answered calls are connected to one large conference call. This conference call lasts for as long as the recipients wish to stay connected, though individual calls are terminated within 2 seconds of any detected speech. This service is provided either to random sets of users or to self-organized groups.

3 – Avoxial Composition: (free to all)

The initiation of AVOXIA as a company and a space marked the start of a single, live, continuous sonic composition, available for playback as a live piece or archived at AVOXIA’s website. Dialing a free number connects any user to the composition; as long as she keeps the connection open, the sounds of her call are added to the composition in real-time. (Any detected speech terminates the call.) A single, continuous call from AVOXIA headquarters forms the base track of this composition, ensuring constant activity, but allowing for others to join. An infinite number of users may add their calls to the mix at any moment. The website graphically depicts the level of activity at any given time, and allows for access to past busy or quiet moments.

GOALS

AVOXIA seeks to foreground the construction of telephonic presence, against the use of such presence for blind innovation and consumption. In a market dominated by innovations in data transfer from anywhere, anytime, we hope to return attention to how conception of “real-time” across distance is even possible. Even with the addition of GPS, photo or video capabilities, telephonic space is stubbornly non-locative. It displaces bodies in space, placing users in a new space of presence that is constituted by sound, not by vectoral location, even as they continue to move through the grid of the city, or lounge on the couch at home.

AVOXIA shares interests with current efforts at understanding the new spaces made possible by the ubiquitous presence of wireless internet, a second social space simultaneous to that of the city. We are, however, more cautious and careful. We seek slower, periodic escapes from the physical space of shared bodies. We facilitate the creation of intentional, temporary zones of disembodiment, tentatively tied to some finite number of locations in the Cartesian world.

In this way we hope to rediscover virtual presence, to return to something of the epistemological quandaries of early radio and telegraphy.

Possibilities for data transfer were fewer, shifting awareness to questions of origination and presence. Was that sound, that glitch a presence, or an accident? Where is that signal coming from? How can I know if it’s still there? When is it coming from? The dead, the divine, the alien, were all likely originators of yesterday’s broadcast noise. AVOXIA deems this fluidity of origin, the question of the sender, a valuable trait, especially as consituted through hearing, the sense ultimately LESS prone to disembodiment.

We see the possible uses of “phones without voices” as multiple, exciting, and expansive. In AVOXIA, telepresence is never taken for granted, even as the possible benefits of escape to new shared social spaces is fully exploited.