Fermi Paradox (quarantined), 2020

Cassis madagascariensis shell, Syrinx aruanus shell, Nautilus pompilius shell, micro-speakers, stereo-amps, coaxial cables, polyolefin-coated-speaker-wire, SD-card, media-player, 3-channel audio file (9:12)


Fermi Paradox (quarantined) is a 3-channel sound-sculpture in which sound is emitted from speakers embedded in large seashells suspended from the gallery ceiling. Using production methods characteristic of electronic music, the audio installation mixes a range of sources: readings of Schopenhauer’s The World as Will and Representation, examining the fundamental reality of our world; Stephen Hawking’s 50th anniversary speech of NASA and his Cosmology Lecture in Geneva, expounding on the possible existence of extraterrestrials; a Gabriela Mistral poem lamenting a lost love, words by Peter Zapffe’s The Last Messiah and samples of Nina Simone, George Harrison and Aretha Franklin’s lyrics.

This work is Olivares’ new iteration of his Fermi Paradox series started in 2016, produced as a response to Italian-American physicist Enrico Fermi’s open-ended prompt to explain the seemingly paradoxical fact that given the evidence of billions of earth-like planets existing in the universe, and hence a high probability of extraterrestrial life, the human race has yet to make contact with a civilization beyond our own. Since the 1950s, the Fermi Paradox has generated a canon of scientific and statistical responses. Olivares poses a more poetic rumination: that the search for extraterrestrials might be a desire to disrupt the understanding of what makes us human, from submicroscopic biology to the philosophical and spiritual components of our species.