Enacting Praxis

3D Abstract by Grumbus

One can easily become lost in the multiplicity of expertise at the Berggruen Institute. The Institute puts seemingly disparate scholars, thinkers, and makers in conversation with one another, fostering tensions and rigorous dialogue that leads to tangible change, such as political agendas, diplomatic relations, and reimagining the capacities and social relations of capital. In other words, the Berggruen Institute engages an eccentric form of praxis. 

Praxis is a word not commonly used in everyday conversation; a fumble that leads to the generalized confusion when trying to make sense of institutions that actualize the conceptual. Often, it is substituted with phrases such as “best practice” and “applied theory;” but these semantic cousins often miss out on the lively component of praxis as a dialogic, embodied, and situated methodology directed at creating more livable futures. In pedagogical discourse, praxis is referred to as an idea or thought fleshed out through tangible actions. In turn, the actions transform the idea or thought, approaches are altered, and action is pursued once again. In this sense, praxis is wholly recursive, always beginning and ending in action. 

The Berggruen Institute’s praxis is novel for two reasons: its scale, and its recognition of the fruits borne of diverse, dynamic collaboration. For instance, consider the varying expertise of the 2020-2021 Fellow cohort. From artists to botanists, AI experts, and digital designers, the Berggruen Institute offers a setting for a genuine pursuit of worldly transformation that engages lofty ideas and enacts concrete solutions. 

Consider the work of Berggruen fellow Terra Lawson-Remer, who was recently elected to the San Diego County Board of Supervisors. As a social entrepreneur, Lawson-Remer has long understood the pressing necessity for institutional change; now, she engages praxis via a nascent Berggruen idea: a public bank to finance affordable housing construction. 

In a world of debating truth and meanings of justice, authenticity is key in establishing good relations between communities. Through enacting its particular form of praxis, the Berggruen Institute establishes itself as a wholly unique and devoted figure in fostering equitable futures.


Page: 3D Abstract by Grumbus

composed by Arswain
machine learning consultation by Anna Tskhovrebov
commissioned by the Berggruen Institute
premiered at the Bradbury Building
downtown Los Angeles
april 22, 2022

Human perception of what sounds “beautiful” is necessarily biased and exclusive. If we are to truly expand our hearing apparatus, and thus our notion of beauty, we must not only shed preconceived sonic associations but also invite creative participation from beings non-human and non-living. We must also begin to cede creative control away from ourselves and toward such beings by encouraging them to exercise their own standards of beauty and collaborate with each other.

Movement I: Alarm Call
‘Alarm Call’ is a long-form composition and sound collage that juxtaposes, combines, and manipulates alarm calls from various human, non-human, and non-living beings. Evolutionary biologists understand the alarm call to be an altruistic behavior between species, who, by warning others of danger, place themselves by instinct in a broader system of belonging. The piece poses the question: how might we hear better to broaden and enhance our sense of belonging in the universe? Might we behave more altruistically if we better heed the calls of – and call out to – non-human beings?

Using granular synthesis, biofeedback, and algorithmic modulation, I fold the human alarm call – the siren – into non-human alarm calls, generating novel “inter-being” sonic collaborations with increasing sophistication and complexity. 

Movement II: A.I.-Truism
A synthesizer piece co-written with an AI in the style of Vangelis’s Blade Runner score, to pay homage to the space of the Bradbury Building.

Movement III: Alarmism
A machine learning model “learns” A.I.Truism and recreates Alarm Call, generating an original fusion of the two.

Movement IV: A.I. Call
A machine learning model “learns” Alarm Call and recreates A.I.Truism, generating an original fusion of the two.

RAVE (IRCAM 2021) https://github.com/acids-ircam/RAVE