The Philosophy and History of CAMPBIENT

The genesis of Campbient was to establish a thoughtful artistic exploration in dialogue with the natural world, while also being cognizant of the noise pollution storming our society. The use of public lands is fundamental to Campbient and directly related to tying art practice into the stewardship of the natural world, as well as an unconventional yet conscientious use of the public commons. This is based on the belief that as humanity moves into an uncertain future, all decisions and initiatives will increasingly demand an environmentalist critique.

By making this awareness a core precept of Campbient, it is using art to make the “real more real,” that is, manifesting ethical ideals that are imbued in the process, a notion in part inspired by the essay “Art Is that which Takes Something Real and Makes It More Real than It Was Before” by Tommy Akulukjuk and Derek Rasmussen.

Beginning the sound walk in the forest.

A dialogue with nature using sound art

Our society has a firm grounding in hierarchical models of dominant relationships such as ethnocentrism, androcentrism, heterosexism, classism, religious imperialism, and the related colonization of non-dominant cultures.  One can argue that the balance in these relationships can be improved through societal interventions such as public policy, global cooperation, and art.

Campbient sets out to use active listening and the interstitial area between sound art and music to investigate anthropocentrism and the power relationship between mankind and nature.  If you consider the massive increase in carbon pollution, light pollution, and sound pollution, there is still a severe lack of successful interventions and progress to ameliorate the anthropocentric power imbalance. This imbalance is impacting our fundamental understanding as a global society of our dependence on our natural environment.

As with all power hierarchies, those with power do the talking and the others do the listening.  Mankind has and continues to remove the natural world from the dialogue and it is literally hard to be heard in a modern city. The outcomes of this imbalance have created a unique problem in that there is no dialogue with nature as you would have with human societal issues. 

Nature is no longer viewed as something we are embedded in, something we find joy in, but as something to be conquered, controlled, and discarded. As major displacements from climate change continue to take shape, the question must be asked; should we be listening more attentively to our natural world? Campbient works to explore a novel reversal of this power structure. To create a dialogue where nature is leading the conversation and humans are doing the listening. From there we can then reflect on our interdependence with the natural world and respond with dialogue as an intervention to allow both parties to be heard equally. 

Working on a mix with Jordan the engineer.

 The public value of art

This project is also an exercise in how art can help us to practice the future. Campbient is an exploration of how art can be used as a form of social activism to intervene in and improve our understanding of foundational yet evolving power structures. This relates not only to our power structure with nature but also with each other.

How does a team of strangers collaborate to make something of value in two days?  It happens through constructive conflict. Conflict that pushes the boundaries of our ideas on what something is and how it should be done. Conflict in who are the leaders, the followers, the bystanders, and why we assume or assign those roles of each other. Conflict in learning when to step forward and when to step back.

Art has always been a powerful method of manifesting concepts into real beliefs, real strategies, or real societal praxis, and it is hoped that Campbient contributes to this tradition. 

A two person impromptu jam with concertina and guitar.

 Art in the commons

A foundational element of the Campbient project is to redress the role of art in the Commons, emphasizing art’s egalitarian social utility in public space.  The founders of Campbient have core experiences in the visual, sonic, and performative arts which inherently involve the use of private spaces and economic models that exclude some socioeconomic groups and privilege others.

The organizers reviewed many ideas of how to deliver this project in a manner that would open up access to artists and non-artists equally with a minimal economic barrier.  The idea of using the public commons of a State park provides a very low-cost structure and opens up access to artists and non-artists equally with a minimal economic barrier.

Residents sit and lay around the campsite reviewing the recording over headphones.
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