In 2013, Unsound banned phones and photography at concerts, followed by an edition called Surprise, where half the lineup wasn’t announced beforehand. The idea was to encourage audience members to exist in the present moment by considering the ways they listen. PRESENCE will return to these ideas, but in 2018 they have deeper and wider meanings. For just five years on, discouraging people from taking photos of a concert seems almost quaint. Increasingly, technology is reshaping reality itself.

PRESENCE doesn’t urge an impossible and nostalgic retreat to time before mediated existence, but poses the question of how to forge something progressive with our current situation. It therefore also marks a continuation of both Unsound’s Flower Power and Future Shock themes, asking: What does it mean to be present in a world of media saturation, where reality can be virtual or augmented, intelligence made artificial? How should we exist in an age of self display, anxiety, cryptocurrencies, robotic technologies, data harvesting, discriminative algorithms, disinformation, social media bots and conspiracy theories? How does one understand nature, when it exists as a place to be visited rather than lived in? How are communities formed and broken via social media? How do we engage deeply in a world of surfaces? And, when necessary, how do we disengage? How do we try to change the status quo, when so much of our lives feel directed by the technological tools at our disposal?

While many of these questions will be explored via the daytime discourse and film screening program, they will also intersect with the music, sound and related visual arts program. For just as fragmentary communications are largely replacing linear discourse, the way that we listen and make music has also been affected. Unsound will explore the ways how, as well as present artists who go against the grain, compelling listeners to focus, gain distance and slow down. PRESENCE will also involve commissioning new works that engage with the self and its relation to simulacra, technology, protest, 21st century ideas of nature and beyond.

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