The Rhythmanalysis Lab is concerned with the observation, representation, and interpretation of rhythms in everyday life.
With Rhythmanalysis (1992), Henri Lefebvre posited that rhythm deserves its own science. In one particularly evocative chapter, he attunes himself to the rhythms perceptible from his Paris balcony — a dérive through time rather than space — not just listening but engaging all of his senses to apprehend the cycles of the city. He notes the nature of traffic, of what kinds of people are out when, the poignancy of a lit window at night, the influence of the seasons on the street. Analyzing his observations, he suggests that the acculturation of the individual to the environment and society, down to the gestures of the body, is a process of rhythmic entrainment. He decries the arrhythmia of mediated realities (TV and newspapers), and critiques clock-driven, "linear" repetitions of the capitalist state that disrespect our inborn "cyclical" sensitivities. It's a beautiful exercise, and a highly suggestive one.
Two decades later, Rhythmanalysis is of particular relevance. We are in the midst of simultaneous crises of ecology, economics, health, and culture. The Internet has irreversibly transformed the nature of our world, and data has become the fundamental commodity of society. The result has been a profound shift in the temporal nature of everyday life. Recent turns in artistic practice, including spatial, tactical, environmental, sonic, and pedagogic within a broader understanding of technology as a social practice have sought to critically approach our networked culture. However, The Rhythmanalysis Laboratory operates on the hypothesis that the practice of rhythmanalysis provides an integrative means by which we can understand our quotidian experience, whether physical or digital, in a way that is uniquely responsive to the evolving temporal conditions in which we live.
There is no pretense at the Lab about presented any definitive interpretation of Lefebvre's work. Rather, it is an initiative to conduct concrete exercises, collaborative projects, and workshops that approach rhythmanalysis as a dialogue between several components:
- The cataloging, modification, or creation of observational methodologies and technological sensors through which raw rhythmic data both online and in physical space can be recorded. Through personal observation, ethnographic methods, and the deployment of software-, smartphone-, and sensor-based monitoring systems, both operated by individuals and installed autonomously at various locations, anything from traffic patterns to personal routines to news cycles to the heartrates of passersby might be identified and captured.
- The development of statistical models, data structures, and qualitative frameworks that can represent the salient features of these rhythms and the context in which they are embedded such that they can be operated upon. What constitutes a rhythm? What reductions are possible and/or necessary? What representations are satisfying from scientific, philosophical, and musical perspectives?
- A 'rhythmbase' database for the realtime collection, storage, and distribution of rhythm representations.
- The interpretation of rhythms. Once apprehended, what might we seek to learn from rhythms? Depending on the context, the recognition of patterns and variation might lead to any manner of insight. However, at this stage, we posit that an aesthetic interrogation of rhythmic material is necessary to recognize the various natures of rhythms in our environment. The Lab aims to produce performances, installations, interventions, and instruments that respond to and elucidate rhythmic conditions in everyday life.
Will the (future) rhythmanalyst ... set up and direct a lab where one compares documents: graphs, frequencies and various curves? ... Just as he borrows and receives from his whole body and all his senses, so he receives data from all the sciences: psychology, sociology, ethnology, biology; and even physics and mathematics ... He will come to 'listen' to a house, a street, a town, as an audience listens to a symphony.
Henri Lefebvre, "The Rhythmanalyst: A Previsionary Portrait" in Rhythmanalysis: Space, Time and Everyday life. New York City: Continuum, 2004. Pg. 22.
The Rhythmanalysis Lab is supported by Eyebeam Art and Technology Center.
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Other inquiries, contact Brian House, Principal Investigator