Signal to Noise


Communication is at the basis of cognition and the functioning of individuals and systems at large. Conveying a message that is understood leads to action and to reproducing the system that transmitted it. Cells constantly send and receive signals. If they do not send impulses, transmit them too late, or respond without having received a signal, the process results in disease or malfunction, triggering another regulatory process aimed at reconstitution.

Nevertheless, systems that constantly reproduce existing patterns impede change at a structural level. Just as language is a closed function based on rules that are nearly impossible to imagine differently from within, the looped feedback of sending and responding can hardly be interrupted productively. Purposefulness and self-regulatory systems from technophile future visions of the 20th century have led to self-management and structures that lack the faculty of imagination, but are aimed at reproducing the existing.

The exhibition “Signal to Noise” proposes a methodology that considers irrational successions, illogical communications, and fatal non sequiturs. It asks what happens if we intentionally do things in another than the logical or best possible way, disrupting the established forms of response, reaction, and linear communication. By not only stepping forward or backward, but sideward, the exhibition proposes to consider communication as untargeted, inconsistent, and non-decipherable, but open for contagion. In the same way that particles in quantum tunnelling can pass through barriers that they classically cannot surmount, it proposes defying constitutive principles and thereby becoming unreadable, unquantifiable, and unusable for the feedback-generating system.

* Signal to Noise is a measure used in science to indicate the quality of a desired signal and its proportional ratio compared to the level of background noise. It refers to the degree of useful information measured against disturbances and irrelevant data, be it in sound, biochemical signalling, or spam in online forums.

Stefanie Hessler