From the Archives: Club Silence / Throat Ocean
Club Silence / Throat Ocean began in March 2010 at SXSW and ran until the following Spring. It was a multi platform transmedia art & performance piece that was centered on twitter and the then growing awareness of location in mobile platforms. It was one my earliest projects that attempted to use alternative approaches to online platforms for creative projects.
Character. The character, Jasmine Silence, was a “geonervous” sleepwalker. She ran a club called Club Silence that, on the surface, appeared real. It was a place where no sounds were made. She lived above it but generally slept on the roof. The name Jasmine comes from David Bowie’s song “Always Crashing in the Same Car” which had a tone similar to what I wanted for the project.
Sleep disorder. The character would allude to a sleep disorder that was fantastical. She would be in one place, checking in, and then a few hours later be in an entirely different place, often obscure places. I also found a way to use Google’s street view in a simple, cinematic way. There was a way to post a link to street view in Twitter so that when opened, the virtual camera view would go from street level to straight up to the sky / sun. So if she woke up in Barstow, behind the Big Boy as in the image below, it would be as if you were in her place, waking up and looking at the sky, in a first person perspective. This was a glitch (since fixed) and was difficult to replicate but is an early example of using accidents and exploits in software for a creative effect.
Locations. Club Silence had three locations. Each was a made up address in between two real addresses. Each location had a phone booth so that calls could be made to or from the location. The image below shows the address in Los Angeles, based on Google street view. These locations also had Yelp listings with fake (and a few inexplicably authentic ones).
Platforms. Twitter was the primary platform, and other posts and activities from other platforms would be cross posted there. Twitter was primarily used for micro poems, poetic/oblique statements, and interactions with others. Yelp was used for location reviews of the three imaginary clubs. Foursquare was used for checkins. Foursquare was a startup that encouraged “check-ins” in locations. For a year or two, early adopters would checkin in wherever they went, sharing their location with friends. This was the first widely used location aware social system, long since integrated into most everything now. Google maps was used to track the character and to create a visual effect when opened from a link.
Plants (insiders). I had several people who were on the inside and were aware of the project. Otherwise it ran like a mockumentary where very few knew who was behind it. Those on the inside would make posts pretending they were at the location. Others would create faked photos.
Enemies list. This was the first instance of the enemies list (vs friend lists which were what the internet was doing - and unquestioningly very proud of - at the time). The enemies list mostly consisted of well known new age and pop psychology figures who had found a new home and audience on twitter. Some of them, like Deepak Chopra, I would just reverse their tweet in a mini project called #quotehack. Most of their sayings can be reversed and make the same amount of head nodding nonsense.
Collections. The character would ask for things from her followers - the kind things that were generally only possible using the platforms at the time. In a mini project called Words That Hurt, she would ask for people to tweet the last word that someone said that hurt them. She also asked for recorded screams. People would call the Club Silence phone # (a google phone number when it was a thing) and scream into it. A number of beautiful scream made in bedrooms and alleys from all over was received and collected. She also asked for the sound of the moon from wherever they were, which people would leave on the voicemail. All of these digital artifacts were part of her “collection” - these were things she (I) collected. Collecting things like screams, words, and silence were part of the project, and a kind of alternative data collection vs the kind that advertising profilers were gathering.
Poetry. My primary motivation for creating Club Silence / Throat Ocean was as a writing exercise. The trans media and platform experiments were interesting creatively but the real challenge was speaking differently using (mostly) Twitter, which was still newish at the time. By the end of the project I had a database of one or two line poems and sayings - another form of collection.
Fin. In the end the project functioned like an online fantasy. An imaginary character appeared, made slight marks in one of the infinite numbers of little corners on the internet, and disappeared. It was about countering the pedestrian, self promoting, matter of factness of twitter. At that time almost no one was questioning the platform, the way it kept data forever, the value of constant updating and interruption, and the distortions of online, text centered identity. At its her best, Jasmine would say something that would break the flow of tweets about food, talks people were giving, cats, and the rest of the forever ephemera that exemplified the halcyon days of twitter.
The project ran nearly a year and expanded from one platform to several. Several online relationships were established via the character. The tone remained consistent. And then it changed names and faded out just as it faded in. The archive is still online (though many of the embedded links have expired) at @ThroatOcean.