The Baltic Notebooks of Anthony Blunt
Nick Bastis and Darius Mikšys in conversation with Shama Khanna
Augmented Sound is an app that enhances the experience of sound in moving vehicles. The artists Nick Bastis and Darius Mikšys have set up a Kickstarter campaign to finance its making; the campaign video can be viewed and purchased on In the meantime, in exhibitions the project is sometimes presented in the form of fog. The following conversation was conducted on occasion of the XII Baltic Triennial in 2015 where it was first shown.

NB: ... Maybe this is how the rock hewn churches in Ethiopia were actually made.
DM: Exactly. How old is this one? I thought you were talking about medieval stone cones. This is a super imaginary sculpture. Holographic.
NB: They say 1187. I was reading an article today in The New York Times about Chief Keef, a young Chicago rapper, who was banned from performing in the Midwest, so he did a Hologram performance instead, but that too was shut down by the police.
DM: Ha ha, the police in USA are up to date technologically.
NB: They said the hologram would cause trouble. It’s straight out of Southpark.
DM: It feels like they knew that holograms are coming and they were prepared. Not entirely, sentences are abstract, but values are already installed.
NB: Liudvikas [Buklys] and I were once talking about Santa Claus and how in New York City it is now illegal for Santa Claus to be drunk. We were saying how it confirms him as being real when laws are in place to govern him as a real body. Maybe the hologram regulation does something similar. I guess it’s an ontological situation... or like your comments about words, or Schrödinger’s cat, it either outlines that quantum shadow or just turns the lights on. Which could be devastating for a hologram, no?
DM: I’m finding it pleasurable to imagine all kinds of characters, real and real ‘not yet’ fighting for their acceptance. Have you seen this documentary on Pony cartoon fans? (‘Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little Pony’). It looks like that contradiction between cartoon character and his real life fan character driving the latter’s motive to continue to promote Pony to the realm.
NB: The realm being the place the real ‘not yet’ are trying to gain acceptance to?
DM: Yep, as if it would be the last and most top level of any PC game.
NB: Do you think the ideal outcome for computer game characters in completing their levels is to rise to the level of the accepted real?
DM: I’d like to meet a PC game character who (which) would not want that!
NB: But what if the laws by which they operate in the game are more interesting than those of the accepted real?
DM: So that’s why I would like to meet them :)
NB: Exactly.
DM: Once I signed a petition for a Japanese guy to enable him to marry a Manga character. I hope it helped, or it will help him in the near future.
VJ: And speaking of Japanese, how does a fundraising campaign translate into fog?
DM: You are right, it is a Japanese-to-Latin translation – completely associative. We thought of a bodily fluid idea fixed in the video that we made for the Kickstarter campaign, slowly spreading through the world, entering exhibition space as a mist of abstract and complex possibilities, for visitors to dip their feet in. Faint, urine smelling leftovers on shoes and trouser cuffs. Here’s formal, critique (institutional?) – it’s just to lever some possible euphoric moments of the entire project.
VJ: So it’s not an institution of art or state that you’re pointing at but the institution of cheerfulness?
DM: Yes, it is something personal potentially becoming public.
SK: I was wondering how you feel at the end of the Kickstarter campaign, how it went?
DM: I imagine this was sort of a marketing campaign. And we’ll get money for this from other sources. We raised about... I don’t know if it was 180 or 200 dollars?
NB: Yeah, I think it was 170. It didn’t work financially but...
DM: We are now talking to the technicians, starting to work on the design and producing the first prototype.
SK: That’s amazing. How was the screening? I imagine everyone had seen the video already online, so was there a sense of investment or participation from the audience?
DM: Luckily the video is very short so nobody got bored, and afterwards we showed ‘The Mist’ which is somehow related to the mist in the show. Although the film as such wasn’t an inspiration, it was more like a residue effect of coffee that fired at a particular moment.
SK: When you first thought of the mist, did you imagine the effect that it would have on the rest of the exhibition?
DM: Those materials are very hard to work with, they are unstable. So imagining is one, but trying to achieve exactly what you’re imagining is something else. Very soon you’re just working with the entire space and all the participating parts in that space, to produce it in a way that is possible. So in the end it was not entirely, technically, how I was imagining the mist in the show, but it was still done pretty well.
NB: The video and the app could produce themselves somehow or do things that we weren’t sure of. The video can maybe leak throughout its online format as it may or may not get traversed into other kinds of venues. And the fog worked similarly, it sort of blanketed other things. At some point Virginija was telling me that she could tell that people had been inside of the Fluxus room, which is kind of the furthest space from where the fog was located. And she could tell that people had been inside the Fluxus room because the fog had entered that room and I started thinking about these very small air vortexes that the body creates as it moves through space and kind of creates suction behind itself, and drags the fog into other places depending on where the bodies are moving.
DM: It was scary to think of the fog in a place which is sort of sophisticated or requires... I have a sort of requirement for sophisticated things to be out there in fog. And in an art show every detail is supposed to be a semantic maze: the fog seemed to be too abstract and plane to fit there. I think what was so attractive and challenging in the beginning was that it was all about technology and it was complicated. Well it’s happening still. Importantly in this work I imagined us sharing some half ideas and half-way states of things; they’re brought in by one person, or by some actual interest of one person, but in the beginning at least they are not going full speed or full effort. So we have the half-states that are being used by others. Or in this case we induce each other with Nick and probably... not without the help from our backers and general public too. It couldn’t happen without the collective effort. Some ideas make a large part of one’s self while never being produced, seen or discussed. I’m playing here with this ‘half-state’ situation, where the possible positions of a given subject-object relation are not clearly defined. The idea was perhaps to see if advocating anything you are not strongly against could produce anything valuable.
SK: Do you still feel like you don’t have control over the idea?
DM: Well, the thing is that you don’t really want the full control and it’s totally controllable. The control itself is totally controllable. It is not the case when you expect that you’re still controlling things, while you’re not.
SK: There seemed to be a sense of staging when I saw the installation which I wasn’t expecting: once you enter the exhibition there’s an appearance from the outside of this rocky, mountainous shape but when you actually enter the installation it overcomes you, it’s bigger than you, it’s dripping all over you (because of the rain) and then you find a fridge (used to make the fog) and it’s like the human presence has exited and it’s all just an effect. The technology is there but this presence has left.
DM: It could be seen from the point of view of app culture, application culture. Kickstarter as a representative of this application culture would spread as a terminator throughout human space. In this case I mean ‘terminator’ as a robotic substance and also as some border between one and another substance, like a biological one or alien and not alien.
SK: Can you say more about that because if it doesn’t have a body or a presence how does it manifest?
DM: It has energy and it exists as a being, somehow heated with... some... it is being heated. It has energy and it is an entity. I wouldn’t say it is completely bodiless... that entity, dimensional entity.
SK: Does it function like a nervous system?
DM: It is faceless and it has some face. It works in some dimensions we are only touching sometimes. It’s moral and psychological dimensions ... and human expectations. I’m probably talking nonsense now, I’m sorry (laughs).
SK: No no, I think I also wanted to ask you about the difference between the virtual and the non-virtual, maybe that’s linked?
DM: Yes it could be virtual, but only from the point of view of the body present. Otherwise it is not, it is here, it has energy, we can feel it. It’s this consumer culture that we are encountering all the time.
SK: Similarly to when you listen to music perhaps, sometimes you listen to it with the intention to have your mood affected in a certain way, not that it’s always that conscious a decision. But with social media or those kinds of platforms, you can defer your autonomy to that platform and it responds in maybe unchartered ways. There’s a sense of giving over of control to those platforms because we’re not sure what they are yet.
DM: Yes, there’s definitely a link.
SK: I think we have a more sophisticated relationship to music than we do to digital technology, to social media and apps, app culture.
DM: I will agree of course.
NB: I don’t know if I would say the app is being produced in order to alter one’s mood. I think that might suggest that maybe the person is seeking something, and expects something from the thing that they put themselves in a position to experience. But I don’t think the fog app cares quite as much about those forms of intentionality, especially regarding something like emotion. Darius was framing it in terms of energy, I think that that’s pretty much what it is. In some cases there’s an aesthetic situation; it’s not a matter of revealing but it might, as the title of the work would suggest, just augment some of those experiences in such a way that things that were already happening in your body kind of leak into these different conditions as well. The intentionality that is at stake can include things other than the decision of the app user. You don’t decide the curves of the road and you don’t decide the air pressure inside of CAC and these are things that are all coming into play simultaneously.
DM: I think that it could be called an emotional multi-tasker. You experience it often now, being surrounded by and creating a certain amount of information. We have to multitask because otherwise we will be doomed to stay with a very fixed amount of things and this is not efficient.
SK: I guess it’s interesting with the Augmented Sound app because you’ve actually analysed what’s happening physiologically in your body and you’re heightening that. Whereas, if you were to analyse what happens when you’re on Facebook and then try and sell it back to somebody in an app, it’s just a different reading of what happens when you’re interacting in that sphere.
NB: I’m not sure I would say ‘analyse’ because to me that feels like we are taking data on what has occurred and presenting that as something to be studied further. I think that it’s less centric towards some kind of knowledge-seeking, or just is information constantly being acted out in real time. Nothing is gathered it is only traversed through.
DM: It’s more intuitive than conceptual because simply there is no time to make classic logic structures. But it doesn’t mean that sense or meaning you get is accidental. You pick some fragments of information, put them together according to your anticipations trained by your previous experience, and you receive some intuitive thing or a product rather than a descriptive concept, which is a much more interesting way of working. Concepts are now simply slow, it is impossible to consume them because they are too slow. Conceptual art today feels a little bit clunky. It is more universal, than, say, the language of German philosophy, but still it’s too slow. We risk speaking in some pictograms in a more effective and faster manner. I think that’s only the way to speak at the moment.
SK: I read an article by Steven Shaviro recently about the difference between ‘liking’ and ‘wanting’ and how normally aesthetic appreciation is about liking because you don’t necessarily want to own that thing. But now through Kickstarter, a difference between liking and wanting becomes increasingly blurred.
DM: Due to restrictions of time and space, if we could picture the fundamental laws of physics applied to the cultural domain, there are many things we cannot engage with in a closer relation. ‘Liking’ and ‘wanting’ (which still doesn’t mean ‘getting’) are fundamental particles of culture with very different properties: ‘liking’ is a light and long-living particle while ‘wanting’ is a short-lived and heavy particle. To continue the physics analogy, when ‘liking’ and ‘wanting’ smash into each other using the Kickstarter’s collider, you might receive ‘getting’.
SK: I think that was a nice thing about discovering the fridge, because you are so curious entering this space and a little bit fearful and overwhelmed by sensation in there and to find this very, not dumb object but very functional source...
DM: Prosign... Prosign...
NB: ‘Dumb’ is okay.
SK: Yeah, that was a nice discovery. I think it’s also about the associative meaning between Kickstarter and fog, that discovery again bursts the illusion or normalises the conception, or the mystery around the work maybe?
DM: It sets things free somehow, yes. I’m not sure if I understand the question or replica, but interpreting Kickstarter, which is very abstract and very active at the same time, it is a pleasure to have complete freedom of it.
SK: Werner Herzog directed a Kickstarter video as well. Did you hear about that? He was helping his friend sell his homemade salt.
DM: Yeah, it become a video gallery.
SK: Exactly, because I guess does it exist on... will the video still be available on Kickstarter?
NB: It is, I mean, I know that our campaign page is still up. You can’t donate to it anymore but you can still view it as an object, I guess. The video is included in that and, as far as I know, that will stay. I think that they will probably continue to archive those things and they’re viewable, but more for... the only thing that’s disabled—the whole campaign is still there—the only thing that’s disabled is the ability to donate towards it.
SK: And what happens next, are you planning a new work or does the Augmented Sound project continue?
NB: It may be something that is the same texture but can change shape.
DM: It feels that it should somehow be finished. Work completed, I mean.
NB: Darius mentioned a terminator, or ‘The Terminator’. Augmented Sound is a work that is finished for now in present time but is also hopefully being made in the future, like the T-1000 liquid metal Terminator in ‘Terminator 2’, a thing that dies in the film’s present time and yet somehow had been sent from a future in which it hadn’t died in it’s parallel past. This liquescence on a formal level is also how advertising, products, and content now work; campaigns of all kinds present themselves to each stage or audience differently depending on the speculative desires of those audiences, partly based on their past like search histories. Kickstarter is one audience, a gallery is another. Those platforms can be considered users and Augmented Sound can shift shapes accordingly. Maybe it was an artwork as a campaign on Kickstarter, or maybe in the future it will be an advertisement acting as an artwork in a gallery. In every case I hope it looks in the reflection of its mirrored hand and feels it’s showing up to the party earnestly engaged with its present self. Maybe the liquid behavior of sound through the app will teach it how to dress, like a newborn child giving love advice to their mother, or a product branding its parent company.
SK: It’s quite nice how in the Kickstarter it made transparent how video work is bought and sold. That was something I wasn’t expecting and it just made it very accessible and normal. I quite liked that.
NB: Yeah.
DM: I didn’t know actually that Kickstarter has a requirement of producing the video, so we were lucky. I don’t know if other platforms have the same rules?
SK: I think you always have to make a video, no?
NB: Most of them... yeah most of them.
SK: Cool. And how’s the rest of the Triennial going?
NB: It seems finished.
SK: Really?
NB: It feels finished.
DM: There is something that will be going on in the end at the close, closing the show. There was something, right? I didn’t check that yet. Now the fog goes automatically – we’ve been putting the timers on the circuits. Not much service is needed, all that is left is producing the app.
SK: Nice. That’s really exciting. I’m really glad that you’re making a prototype.