Transmissions from the Technological Sublime is a panoramic multimedia installation that depicts a nocturnal landscape of non-place populated by infrastructure rather than people. Hatched as a MFA thesis project within OCAD University’s integrated media program by Toronto’s Michael Trommer, the audiovisual piece renders highways, shipping channels, airports, and office parks as uncanny interstitial zones of contemplation. Slow rumbling drones coalesce with long static shots and the viewer is left to soak up the atmospherics. With animations that are decidedly un-photorealistic, the piece capitalizes on a tension between ‘the everyday’ and a somewhat ominous and foreboding reproduction of it.
Taking an unconventional ‘audio first’ approach to crafting this piece, each of Transmissions from the Technological Sublime’s cinematic vignettes emerge from individual field recordings. Over email Trommer describes the majority of his recording sites as “open urban or exurban areas in which the ambient sound level was comparatively quiet,” and how he “auditioned” sounds and soundscapes that were recorded from significant distances (across bodies of water or parking lots, etc.). “Harmonic factory hums reflecting off of open water and filtered by forests, for example can become these euphonious modulated textures,” he concludes, describing his search for soundscapes to “resynthesize,” 3D model, and animate in Blender.
Transmissions from the Technological Sublime is displayed in an ‘ultra letterbox’ 5.33:1 aspect ratio via three synchronized HD projectors. When asked about his restrained, rudimentary CG aesthetic, Trommer foregrounds his desire to cultivate listeners rather than viewers. “The intention was to make the visuals sparse so as to allow the sound to evoke the environment—to fill in the spaces.” And listeners do have a lot of room in which to appreciate the nuance in these spartan scenes—broadcast via six audio channels arranged in a hexagonal array with a central subwoofer—as the installation’s sound had far a more visceral spatiality than any of the super-flat cinematography.
Devoid of humans, Transmissions from the Technological Sublime’s default protagonist is the black sedan that cruises its many Ballardian landscapes. Just as Trommer’s taste in office parks is banal, so is his taste in automobiles. A Ford Crown Victoria, the car “is a model commonly used by taxi drivers and the police.” “Although this is minimal information, it nonetheless suggests a fairly specific type of individual,” which is as much detail as he’ll provide on the mystery driver. While Trommer won’t reveal their identity, he does speak to their significance. “It is important that this person remained encased in the car; although they’re obviously wandering these vast, perspectival spaces … they remain entrapped, both within the circular, looping narrative and the sonically and spatially sealed confines of their automobile.” Perhaps it is ideal if we keep this sonic shut-in in mind while we navigate Trommer’s exurban soundscapes.