Whale calls, love letters and meals

Image Source: http://www.treehugger.com/humpback-whales-singing.jpg

How do we communicate and interact in our 21st century contemporary society? How often do you really investigate your methods of communication, interaction, and relational human experiences? What does it mean to interact with another human being, another living being, or an inanimate piece of technology. These question has been on my mind for several years, and has come to the surface of my thinking in the past 2 weeks here in Spartanburg.

A lot of my work, ideas, and thinking gravitates toward our paradoxical existence. When we communicate in the 21st century we email, text, instant message, video chat, or occasionally actually talk on a phone. I can’t help to think about our means to adapt to more immediate methods of interaction, in relation to the calls of whales, our aquatic mammal friends of the sea.

I recently watched a TED talk about how whales and dolphins use various calls to find each other in the ocean, especially when separated from the heard. The amazing thing is the different frequencies of the whale calls travel vast distances in the ocean, and the ocean acts as an acoustical resonator. These natural occurrences amaze me. Not only that, but over time due to various noise pollusion in the ocean from ships have caused whales over time to actually alter their call frequencies to better communicate.

To view the TED talk go here (FYI it is 18 minutes long): http://www.ted.com/talks/peter_tyack_the_intriguing_sound_of_marine_mammals.html

When humans get lost, we just pull out our iPhone or Blackberry (of course I have neither, so sometimes I’ll still ask someone for directions). Now a days we have the internet, GPS, maps, and everything imaginable at our finger tips. But how does this effect our true nature of interaction. One thought is it may keep us from interacting more in person, yet is a way to stay connected. Some project ideas have surfaced from this inspiration: Human Calls, Love Letters, and meals.

I am hoping to spend some time in Spartanburg working in some way with the community to develop a more innate way to communicate. I want to develop a lexicon of sounds and calls for humans for us to interact, and question how we interact. There will be more to come on this as it develops.

Second, I have been thinking about the idea of love letters. Do people write love letters much any more. Can we still express how we feel via email, texting, and skype or is the bits of  data just feeding us an illusion. Yes the same information may get send, but in a different way. There is a sense of immediacy, but not sense of labor spent on writing something of value. I feel we all need to start writing love letters and sonnets. The romantic idea is much more beautiful than the immediacy.

Third, I am fascinated by meals. What is it about meal time that makes for such a common place to interact? Old friends catching up over coffee, folks getting to know each other over lunch, or a new couple beginning a relationship over dinner. The format of the meal is a platform for face to face interaction. I am hoping to develop the idea further into a series of meal based performances which will take place over the duration of the residency year. More to come on this as well.

For now, I think it is smart for us all to think about our material desires versus our digital ones. Certain things work better in each format. I have no human call to bellow out into the air. I have lost the art of beautiful handwriting. I have taken for granted the time spend with friends, new and old, over a wonderful meal. It is time to reclaim these things back into my life.

Image source: http://www.treehugger.com/humpback-whales-singing.jpg



Filed under Artists-in-Residence, Ron Longsdorf (10-11)

2 responses to “Whale calls, love letters and meals

  1. Bob

    Hi Ron. A love letter certainly can be emails. They can be exciting. But there is something special about receiving a card or letter, written by hand, stamped by hand, carried to the post office and suddenly appearing in your mailbox amid the pile of junk mail and bills.

  2. Do you know about Hank Searl’s novel SOUNDING? One of my favorites as a teenager:

    “SOUNDING takes us into the extraordinary mind and emotions of the magnificent sperm whale, an aging bull roaming the waters of the Atlantic. Troubled and separated from his herd, the whale wants to fulfill his one obsessive desire — to communicate with the human race and learn why they can be both vicious hunters and frolicking playmates.

    “Far away, on a doomed Russian nuclear submarine, Lieutenant Peter Rostov, the sonar officer and a classical musician, is spending what he’s sure are his last days listening to the beautiful “sounding” of the whale.

    “In the amazing climax to this unique novel, man and whale come together — and a magnificent destiny is fulfilled.”

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