Penumbra (魑魅魍魉) and the Center for AI and Culture at NYU Shanghai present the world premiere screening of Kode9's film Astro-Darien. Kode9 will be present to introduce the film, followed by a discussion with Anna Greenspan, co-director of the Center for AI and Culture, and an afterparty with Illsee.
Now a short film, Astro-Darien began life as a 26-minute sonic fiction about the break-up of Britain narrated by synthetic Scottish voices and framed as an eponymous video game. From a Caledonian heart of darkness to a supernova Scotia? The documentary fiction spirals between the role of the catastrophic Darien Scheme in the late 17th century in the founding of the UK, when Scotland failed to colonise part of present-day Panama, and the contemporary disintegration of the union.
In a somewhat wild extrapolation of the race to become the Scotland’s first vertical satellite launch station currently playing out between Sutherland Space Port and the Shetland Space Centre, independence is speculatively framed as an exercise of escapology, a jailbreak and exodus to an orbital space habitat, with all the risks and dangers that entails.
The loose plot follows a game designer from a fictional games company called "Trancestar North" who, in attempting to lift the dark spell cast by Darien, models a counter-future by ingesting cosmism, the history of racial capitalism and the demise of Empire into T-Divine, the geopolitics simulator and predictive AI of the game engine. She follows the Brexit algorithm as it runs to its logical conclusion.
Initially conceived as an audio essay for diffusion on François Bayle’s 50 speaker Acousmonium for INA-GRM in Paris in March 2020, but subsequently postponed by the pandemic, Astro-Darien first surfaced as a 3-screen a/v installation on the dance floor of Corsica Studios in June 2021. In October 2021 it finally reached the acousmonium in Paris. In July 2022, an instrumental, rhythmic version entitled Escapology was released on Hyperdub.
Astro-Darien was a vinyl release on Hyperdub’s sub-label Flatlines with artwork by Kode9’s long time collaborators Lawrence Lek & Optigram. Whereas the first release on the label, Mark Fisher and Justin Barton’s ‘On Vanishing Land’, wove an audio essay around a walk along the South East Coast of England, Astro-Darien takes off from a road trip along the North Coast of Scotland.
Steve Goodman (aka Kode9) is a musician, writer and artist. He is the author of the book Sonic Warfare (MIT Press, 2010) and co-edited the book Unsound: Undead (Urbanomic Press, 2019) and Ø (Flatlines Press, 2021). He is founder of the labels Hyperdub and Flatlines, producer of 5 albums, 2 with the late Spaceape (Memories of the Future, 2006 and Black Sun 2012) and 3 solo (Nothing, 2015, Escapology 2022, Astro-Darien 2022), numerous DJ mix compilations, and co-compiled and remixed the Diggin in the Carts (2018) compilation of rare Japanese video game music. In addition, among others, he has produced sound installations for the Hyundai Commision at Tate Modern (2018) and for the More than Human exhibition (2019) on artificial intelligence at the Barbican in London.
Bio: Anna Greenspan
Anna Greenspan is Associate Professor of Global Contemporary Media at NYU Shanghai. Her research focuses on urban futures and emerging media. Anna teaches courses in media theory, philosophy of technology and urban studies in the program for Interactive Media Arts. She holds a PhD in Continental philosophy from Warwick University, UK. While at Warwick, Anna was a founding member of the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit (CCRU). Anna was the cofounder of the Shanghai Studies Society and ran a digital humanities project on street food. Anna is also a founding member of the research hub Hacked Matter, which is dedicated to investigating the process of technological innovation in China. She is the co-director of NYU Shanghai’s new Center for AI and Culture. Anna’s book Shanghai Future: Modernity Remade was published by Oxford University Press in 2014. Her latest monograph China and the Wireless Undertow: Media as Wave Philosophy will be published in the Technicities series with Edinburgh University Press.
Illsee, scientific name 老慢, is an upright-walking primate, born and raised in the easternmost city of the Yangtze River Delta, Shanghai. Like other primates, Illsee is a social animal. She is known for her skill at using popular and non-mainstream music from the 80s to the present-day to express herself, exchange ideas and organize with other primates. Illsee is active at night, because she is able to capture adult men and women lost in the streets, who might otherwise harm the city and disrupt the lives of their fellow primates. As a result her activities are considered to be beneficial.