Ecoes 5
Delivered to Stack subscribers in  Jun 2023

by Steve Watson in June 2023
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The self-proclaimed “independent magazine about art in the age of pollution”, Ecoes offers a fresh perspective on the environmental crisis by shifting away from our anthropocentric norm and showing the non-human as more than just a resource to be exploited. This issue focuses on the theme of water, creating a complex and conceptual blend of art and science to look again at the stuff that comes out of our taps.

Mirna Belina

Job title

What is Ecoes?
Ecoes is a newish bi-annual magazine interested in artistic research and practices that responds to the urgency of the climate crisis. A portmanteau of ‘ecology’ and ‘echoes’, the magazine showcases various artistic and critical perspectives that engage with afterlives of environmental harm, toxicity, extraction, justice, etc. We think that art has an important role in the world, and that is to open up different ways — sensious, emotional, sensitive, but also research-based and scientific — of understanding what is happening and changing in the world. Thinking about the entire ecology around us humans as a resource — something to be extracted, ruled over, contained, monetised, and while doing that, simplified or squeezed into hierarchies — is a harmful perspective that needs constant rescaling and recalibrating.

Who makes Ecoes?
Ecoes is made by a small part of the team of Sonic Acts. The organisation — which came into prominence with an international biennial festival — is an interdisciplinary arts platform based in Amsterdam. Since 1994, it has been a leading organisation for new developments in electronic and digital art forms, with emphasis on artistic research and production of new artworks. Ecoes was our way of opening up artistic research as artistic practice and expanding beyond the concert venues and exhibitions spaces that we use for the Biennial onto paper. The magazine is made by one of the curators at the organisation (Mirna Belina), a writer and editor with an experience of working in the magazine world (Hannah Pezzack), and a designer from Croatia (Rafaela Dražić), who knows how to make every page experimental and innovative, while still keeping in mind readability and easy access for the readers.

What makes it different from the rest?
Are we the only biennial festival in the world that produces a magazine? 🙂 We might be! That means we focus on art and discursive practices that we showcase or would like to present at Sonic Acts events. We are interested in research-based approaches, but also in immersive audio-visual artistic practices and — as the festival name says — sound art that resonates with environmental and various contemporary topics. We are fascinated with experiments and with trying out new ways of not (just) representing ideas and concepts, but evoking them through senses. The magazine is, of course, very different from the biennial and everybody can read it — no matter whether they know about Sonic Acts or not!

Who reads it?
Soundmakers, filmmakers, researchers, writers, students of environmental humanities and various art programmes, visitors of Sonic Acts events… We have built a network over the past 30 years that is very much connected to ‘our world’, but we are always trying to find ways to connect to new audiences. Readers, welcome!

Why do you work in magazines?
I have been making books in various cultural and artistic fields since the beginning of my career. First, there were books about experimental and expanded cinema; then I moved on to Sonic Acts books — big collections of texts by artists that were featured at the festival; and then I decided to rethink the concept of a serious ‘festival reader’ by turning it into a magazine. A magazine is less formal, more free and fits better to the idea of research, so something that is processual and not necessarily as definitive as an article in the publication.

Aside from the print magazine, what else are you involved in?
I am one of the senior curators at Sonic Acts and that is my main field of activity. I am mostly working within the symposium format, so I work on discursive programmes, but I also curate various combined events with lectures, sound performances, films, sound walks, etc. I mostly work within a collective, which I find very inspiring. I love exchanging ideas, sharing responsibilities and adding different sensibilities into the mix while trying to respond to the contemporary climate and, of course, while also making artists happy. I also curate a short film programme for a feature film festival, which is a lot of fun and makes me stay in tune with the film world.

What would you change about Ecoes if you could?
Given Sonic Acts’ focus on technological innovation, it would be intriguing to experiment with extending the print medium into the digital sphere. This could be done by designing a digital zine of the issue that plays with code, sound and animation, essentially exploring what cannot be realised on paper. Furthering this line of inquiry, we’d look forward to commissioning original works presented via inserts, particularly pieces that exist at the interplay between digital and analogue. For instance, sculptures or sound installations that could be imaginatively transformed into a print format. The organisation would also be interested in researching sustainable, ecologically-focused printing and packaging alternatives that can be disseminated with minimal environmental impact.

Off the page, Sonic Acts is planning on bringing the magazine to life through events, including a launch at Amsterdam bookshop San Seriffe on 13 July, which will host a live, performative rendition of Annika Kappner’s visual essay in Ecoes #5 and a reading by Alice Johnston Rougeaux. Additionally, we hope to broaden our reach by increasing our presence at international book fairs and worldwide printed matter events.

Where do you see Ecoes in five years?
When compiling a magazine focusing on ‘art in the age of pollution’, the future is a tenuous concept. As things stand, it seems inevitable that the intertwined, many crises of our present moment will only deepen with time. New oil and gas infrastructures are erected, radiation-infused materials with a half-life of several millennia are laid to waste, and rising waters around the globe encroach, submerging landmass at an alarming rate. Attuned to these phenomena and intent on imagining otherwise through critical-creative responses via text, visual media and scholarly analysis, the coming five years of Ecoes will be orientated towards expanding Sonic Act’s investigation into environmental harm, toxicity and extraction. Ecoes is also focused on the horizon of technological developments — the shifting landscapes of data, AI and sound, and the multiple registers with which we might be able to sense the world differently.

In February 2024, Sonic Acts will celebrate its 30th anniversary, an occasion that will be marked by the Biennial and corresponding edition of Ecoes. Reflecting back on three decades of the organisation provides fertile ground to pivot towards the future. We hope to continue to work collaboratively with arts institutions, academics, scientists and activists, extending, through the medium of a print magazine, a forum in which to think, write and research together.

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