The Evil Quartet is my contribution to a collective publication (un)Limited Edition made as a part of the Honours Programme at Willem de Kooning Academy. Together with 27 other students of different art majors, we delved deep into the creative realm of theory-fiction. With cooperation of our guest-editor Dennis Muñoz Espadiña (Hocus Bogus Publishing), we curated our individual creations into a collective publication, existing in both digital (website) and printed form. You can check out our digital edition here:

︎︎︎ Evil Quartet

"Evil Quartet" is a term in ecology coined by American geographer Jared Diamond in 1984. * It denotes the four major causes of species extinction and hence the loss of biological diversity. In other words, they are the utmost markers of the "limits of nature" - both individually and when combined.

︎︎︎ The curse of commons and the prisoner's dilemma

The utilization of global natural resources is not universally regulated, and the individual can determine the extent of his own enterprise. As such, most of the natural resources can be regarded as common resources. **

As pleasant as they seem, these common resources come with a major predicament - the limit, now as close as ever. We live in a world with an increasing number of consumers, and where harvesting natural resources is becoming exponentially easier. However, the resources remain finite and can only be manipulated to a certain degree, which leaves us on a definite trajectory to the clash with several critical boundaries.
No one involved wants a tragedy, and yet it seems that nobody is about to retract. It is virtually an example of a prisoner's dilemma. Independent of other parties, one is inclined to choose a high resource utilization strategy. It is the most profitable, and if you were to opt for any other option, others involved (possibly your competition) could benefit. All will choose for a high utilization strategy, and hence all will be worse off than if all had chosen the moderate utilization. Sustainability is both a social scientific and economic problem.

︎︎︎ If we are getting closer to the limit and retracting is not an option, why not manipulate or postpone the critical moment? 

Recent rapid advancements in science have left us worryingly conceited. Despite the advancements in science, we are still incapable of predicting natural boundaries with certainty and precision. And regardless of our ability to increasingly manipulate and control human-made limits, we must realize how powerless we are when it comes to the natural limits. Amidst all the uncertainty, one thing is sure; we have already surpassed the tolerance limits, and this is our last call.

︎︎︎ So, how does all this relate to my work of theory fiction?

The project takes the described concept on a metaphorical level. How would we experience the subject matter if it reshaped into an acoustic encounter? The Evil Quartet now takes the shape of a string quartet, and we follow a listener’s train of thought. He could stand for any involved party - be it a corporation, restriction-forming government, or even an individual powerlessly observing. All the aforementioned ideas appear in his thought and decisions: he realizes the damaging effect, but cannot retract, or the others would be in a privileged position. He has put in the financial means, and he expects the return. It is too late for silence just as the complete halt in development is out of the question. All he is left to do is to stand still and observe what follows.

Sonic fiction:

The Evil Quartet: Concert for a string quartet

Although I designed the audible component as an addition to the previous research in theory fiction, this project has indeed been a work of sonic fiction from the very beginning. The text is about a sonic experience and was I not providing the reader with my own sonic interpretation, they would nevertheless have to subconsciously synthesize the sound. The Evil Quartet is corrupt. Its music is discordant, and the more you listen to it, the more intolerable and overwhelming it gets. You might have cared to understand it in the past, but everyone eventually loses their focus.

There are limitless possibilities of sonic interpretations and conceptions of the Evil Quartet. Everyone hears their own. To some, the sound is distant, well below their sensory processing sensitivity. They might be turning a deaf ear to it, or indeed be unsusceptible for its sound.To synthesize my interpretation, I implemented the theory-fictional text again. I used computer software to extract MIDI notes from a studio recording of my voice reading the text. Next, I assigned a software instrument (violin 1, violin 2, viola, and violoncello) to each note. The tonal range of the male human voice is thus represented by the limited frequencies a software piano roll - 88 notes. It’s eerie, complex, and by layering the intensity also progressively unpleasant. Furthermore, I implemented an experimental AI sound transformation tool called Tone Transfer, again stemming from my original recording. The difference between the two components is tremendous. The first is exceedingly complex and layered, very much impossible to execute in reality, while the other is a clean violin solo with all the qualities of a live recording. Combined, they form a dynamic composition.