an infinitely coiling mobius loop reading 'swampzone' Loading

A bright disk ominously creeping across the screen. A large, circular chunk of it appears as if bitten off. That, however, is just a deception: We are really witnessing a solar eclipse.

A lumpy and monstrous being. Its pores, if it has any, are oozing some form of liquid. Emerging underneath this slimey blanket is a metal disaster reaching into the sky, silently watching and being a jealous mistress.


We have been lied to, subjected to a cruel and chilly lie, one so vast and total it’s no longer fully perceivable but has turned into the unseen substrate of everyday life. It’s a political lie. They told us that outer space is beautiful

- The Manifesto of the Committee to Abolish Outer Space


Though a quiet slimebabe, can tell a heart-breaking tale via the slightest tremble of a hand. ASCHE gets their name from the mud-planes of WHITE DUST where they spontaneously coalesced from the corpses of an ancient army. Although they are only a guest in their current body and long to rejoin a fluid existence, they have secretly grown fond of their warm meatbag companions.

Hotheaded tomboy with a lust for entropy. She worked as a body double during the 'new queer motorsport' craze of the 22nd century but was let go after an incident that resulted in the ignition of Jupiter's atmosphere. In her quest to disembowel the stars she accidentally invoked ASCHE into this world. They now have a weird but functional patch-work-type relationship.

Formless, flippant body-swapper. Have lived a billion lifetimes in their search for ever more extravagant and delicious skeletal remains to occupy. They have grown weary of this reality and have therefore agreed to aid FLAME and ASCHE in their quest. SHIP are often seen enveloping the gang in a hunk of bones to provide shelter and sustenance.

Many epic poems and love songs have been written about this majestic celestial body. All of them wrong of course. THE SUN has no mistresses. She is YOUR mistress. Submit.

Pretends to be an all-knowing diva but is actually just THE SUN in crossdress.

Akt V: Die Aufhebung der Sonne

A divination for 4 players:

Each player rolls a dice. The player with the most regrets takes the first turn.

Each player chooses a role, then receives and shuffles their respective deck:

The Flame - Suit of Wands
Asche - Suit of Coins
A Telescope Driver - Suit of Cups
The Sun - Suit of Swords

Each turn, draw three cards and place them face-down. Hang on to them as long as you can bear. Then discard.

Players may choose to draw from other's discard piles.

Fall in love. Grow older. Fall out of love. Rekindle an old friendship. Meet again in a million billion years.

The Sun has now lost. End of game.

Welcome to the swampland. This page is an accompaniment to the elusive but quite hot electro-organic opera called Heiße Asche. It was formulated as part of a graduation project at the Kunsthochschule Kassel from around early 2020 to the late, meandering summer of 2021. Like the opera itself, it remains a fragmented piece of work through which I want to invite you far into the thick trek of operatic production. If you have ever had the chance to bear witness to a production of Heiße Asche, I hope the following words will be of some consolation to you.

Sending fierce love,


  1. Of course these swamps go by the astronomical seasons, where the 2021 summer ended around the 22nd of September.

Swamp #I
Fuck the Moon

In March 2020 I bought a telescope off someone on eBay Kleinanzeigen for 10€. It came with a very dusty spare parts catalog that dates its production to sometime in the 1990s. The telescope itself is a Bresser 76/700 reflector type, which means that it works by collecting and bundling light via a curved mirror, almost like a sump collecting rainwater. Self-proclaimed internet astronomy enthusiasts would call this Bresser a torpedo, due to its very common and cheap make which makes it look like an underwater projectile. But for me it is a fascinating device that I retrofitted with various parts like a 3D printed solar filter, which I later used to record footage of the June 2021 solar eclipse.

At the time I already knew that I wanted Heiße Asche to be somewhat sci-fi-y but was still leaning towards weird fantasy, marshy planets and anthropomorphic monsters. While playing around with the telescope and the imagery it produced, however, I remembered a text I had read some years prior: The Manifesto of the Committee to Abolish Outer Space. It is a wild thing that makes me giddy with excitement:

We have been lied to, subjected to a cruel and chilly lie, one so vast and total it’s no longer fully perceivable but has turned into the unseen substrate of everyday life. It’s a political lie. They told us that outer space is beautiful[...]We do not hate outer space, because it’s impossible to hate something that doesn’t exist. When the universe is already in the process of unmaking itself, when this unmaking of itself is the first condition and the final truth of its unreal existence, abolishing it means something very different from destroying it. Our slogans are short and rousing (“Fuck the moon!”), but we intend to abolish outer space out of love.

My opera owes much to this manifesto. Its exhilarating critique of the colonialist culture of space exploration in juxtaposition with this magical, unreal and defiant language seemed to be just what I was looking for as a basis for Heiße Asche's libretto: A quest to abolish the sun and the universe felt just operatic and fantastical enough while still being utterly ridiculous.

  1. A sump is a low area where water or other runoff liquids accumulate. It is a term I know from cave mapping.
  4. Libretto just means the script of an opera. It literally translates to booklet.

A messy lump that slowly undulates. It stands on three metal prongs and has a tubular mechanism protruding towards the sky.

Bresser 76/700 reflector telescope with dust cover.

Swamp #VI
Graveyard of Electronic Desires

Early on in this production process it became apparent to me that I had to build some kind of instrument. I did not want the soundscape of the opera to just remain this abstract yearning of samples and voices but instead wanted something haptic and gestural to contain this desire. Something that would enable a form of embodiment for the sounds. Unfortunately the aesthetics of the MIDI input devices I was using at the time were utterly dull and pretty much devoid of any haptic pleasure, so I decided to create my own.

I think out of everything I did I spend the most time researching and building this instrument, even though it was only one small piece in the opera stage installation. My concepts were particularly influenced by 1980s Midi instruments like the Suzuki Omnichord or ROM synthesizers like the Suiko ST series: Devices with that yellowed ABS plastic look and cheap sounds that try to emulate other non-electronic sounds. I also looked at the earliest electronic instruments like the theremin, an instrument that is played without touch and which is also heavily associated with campy sounds in sci-fi and monster flicks.

Overall I created maybe four or five prototypes for instrument designs. At one point the instrument was connected to these ultrasonic piezo elements that through their vibrations would vaporize water molecules and create mist, so instead of noise the instrument would make nebulous and leaky substances. But while it was a hot thing to explore at the time, I realized that this part of my work should have been its own dedicated project and not an addendum to an already elaborate opera concept. In the end I did scale this part way down and even had to resort to including those fiendish MIDI controllers to perform the score. It would be a lot of fun to rework all my sketches and electronic schematics into something like an instruction manual for a kind of speculative instrument whose function and sound would remain ambiguous.

  1. The opera was composed with an Akai LPK25 USB MIDI keyboard. From my experience I can say that the LPK's trademark is that its plastic chassis tends to deform over time from the pressure on the keys.
  3. With a theremin you just have to wave you hand or body in front of an antenna to create noises. While easy to understand, it is also incredibly difficult to learn the precise gestures and hand/finger positions to play melodies. Further reading:
  4. For a primer on camp please read:
  5. A piezo element is just a very simple loudspeaker. It works by transforming electric potential into mechanical movement.

A circuit board with various wires sticking out in all directions. Attached to one of the wires is a small ceramic disk.

Piezoelectric disk soldered to circuitry which generates ultrasonic frequencies.

Swamp #999

Perhaps it is an understatement to say that I get sidetracked occasionally. One such sidetrack happened during the production of the opera when I got the sudden impulse to create a 3D sequel to the 2010 RPG Maker game Space Funeral. The story of Space Funeral revolves around protagonist Philip who perhaps dies at the beginning and then starts on a quest to save the world from a mysterious corruption. Along the way Philip gathers his party (Leg Horse, once a human but turned into a horse made out of legs) in search for the legendary City of Forms in order to restore the world. The as of now unreleased sequel called Space Funeral 3D takes place a million billion years after the events of Space Funeral and was made with a software called KateLabs, a deep level editor with lots of features. I can best describe KateLabs as a just-for-fun game making software that is very janky to use. The interface can be quite confusing and the whole thing was programmed in the ancient Blitz BASIC language, making the tool prone to crashes and the occasional misclick which causes you to loose hours of work.

During my decades of research for Heiße Asche I occasionally would stumble upon Space Funeral and also the writing by its creator thecatamites, like this piece from Magic Notes:

I really did want to make a very straight, conservative RPG, but part of the reason I wanted to make one was the strange composting of meaning and character and theme that used to happen when I was making RPG Maker games years before - starting over and over again from scratch, keeping the character names and a few rough outlines but reusing them in different ways each time, so that any random character might cycle through being a party member, a bartender, an emperor, a villain... So while it was disappointing to feel like I'd spent six months of work in the wrong direction I was also excited to feel like at last, I was recovering the "true swamp mindset".... I had all these vague ideas in my head and had run through enough builds and variations that they were all becoming confused and mixed together[...]in other words....... I was finally in the perfect state of mind to work on my homebrew RPG ;}

Perhaps that is where my unhealthy obsession with producing this fan-sequel came from. But there is another connection: The ending of Space Funeral is this weird meta-commentary on the technological framing and community around RPG Makers game-making at that time. It is kind of a lame joke but also a cathartic ending due to its use of iconography. And that reminded me of something else.

During scene ten of The Rocky Horror Picture Show , as the floor show amps up to its great finale, Frank-N-Furter enters the stage posing in front of a giant recreation of the RKO Radio Pictures logo. All action halts for an orchestrated version of the RKO jingle to let this grandiose entrance soak in. The making of Rocky Horror was heavily influenced by the kitschy tropes of 40s and 50s monster and sci-fi schlock movies and the cinema culture around them. Originally considered one of the big five Hollywood studios, RKO at the time was a major distributor of these low friction B movies. For me this is one of the defining moments of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, with Frankie's marvelous burlesque outfit and the blaring fanfares as the camera slowly zooms in on the cardboard cutouts spelling AN RKO RADIO PICTURE. It is at once stunningly grandiose and incredibly ridiculous.

With its archaic interface and recycled asset library KateLabs is a perfect place to set up a grand operatic narrative that devolves through its uncanny, ridiculous and cheap surroundings. I used Space Funeral 3D as a playground to sketch out some narrative and aesthetic ideas that had been lingering around the opera for a while. Space Funeral 3D was co-engineered by fellow game-swampist Hannes krisekrise, from whom I shamelessly but consensually stole the idea to make an opera in the first place. Like with most of my the ideas I tend to latch on to little snippets of ideas other people around me are having and then begin to corrupt them with my own weird obsessions and maledictions. I think that is the best way to get things done. Also I'm including this entire section only because Hannes continually insisted that I should just release Space Funeral 3D as my graduation project.

  2. Actually the story of Space Funeral is quite fascinating: As a first-time player you might... Actually, just check out this interview:
  4. For more context on the term jank:
  9. For a different take on these murky digital spaces, take a look at the capitalist oblivion that is Roblox:

A Shallow Sump

You have now reached the mid-point of this particular body of water, so it might be interesting to take a step back and look at the metaphor of the swamp. I first encountered this image in The Bog of the 2011 performance Tales of the Bodiless. In it you can find a quite gunky description of the chemical transformations that take place inside a bog and what would happen to your body if you fell into one. At the time it resonated with me for its curiously weird take on sci-fi writing. Rereading it now, this part on page 10 sticks out to me:

The past is not preserved only by humans. Animals, plants, microorganisms and minerals archive whatever finds its way into the depths of the bogs. This network [of nonhuman agents] is a collective memory project.

    I was introduced to this work through a reader compiled by Elio J. Carranza for attuned touch in times of physical distancing:

An organic, coral-like shape, barely taking the form of a miniature theater stage. Its surface fluctuates between wet and spongey.

Remnants from an early test to create visuals for Heiße Asche. This was once going to be a stage layout.

Keeping with the two ideas of the collective body and future/past-refiguring, let me make one more note: You may have noticed me nonchalantly mention how I reference, obsess and steal from other works around me and how some of the ideas laid out in this piece are just the continuation of other's thoughts. In some way perhaps this is an act of resistance against the formal demands of the graduation process at the Kunsthochschule Kassel: A process that is unfortunately quite disinterested in collective practices and instead tries to drastically individualize the understanding of my work. But more than that it is an attempt at elevating that swampy collective memory. Heiße Asche is an archive sump, with many other works and histories and support structures flowing into and sustaining it. I hope it can become a catalyst for transforming the here and now into radical and fabulous futures.

  1. Traces of this can be found in all footnotes and the acknowledgments at the end of the swamps.
    If you take a closer look at the exam regulations, you will find that it was written with a framing on individual aptitude. It unfortunately stand in total opposition to my experience during these last couple of years at the Kunsthochschule in the way it disincentives collective efforts and devalues the previous work done during the course of study.

Swamp #∞
Ground Circlusion

There is an interesting quirk with the imagining of bodies in electrical systems. It comes in the form of a magical concept called ground. In electronics you can think of the ground as a big sinkhole that your voltage yearns towards falling into. Imagining it like the gravitational binding between a smaller celestial body and a black hole, the voltage is pulled down to ground so to speak. There are even different kinds of ground: For example the earth ground, which you get when you just jam a metal rod into the soil. The sinkhole in this case is the electrically relatively uniform surface of the earth. There is also chassis ground which would ground a circuit to the exterior body of a device, either to provide a return path for the current or to then further connect the chassis to another type of ground.

In the end I did manage to salvage all those MIDI instrument experiments into an audio controller for the opera performance. At the core of this device is an Arduino connected to various analog inputs and electronic sensors mounted along the body of the controller. Their electronic inputs are translated by the Arduino into USB MIDI signals that can control the live playback of the opera sounds. One of these inputs is a proximity sensor that works quite similar to the theremin. It detects hand gestures and position and based on that data can modify and morph different layers of the score. Instead of a phallic theremin antenna, however, it takes the form of an object that is more in tune with its sexual undertones: The Klein bottle.

In 2016, Bini Adamchak came up with a concept called circlusion, meant to be an antonym to the word penetration: Instead of saying that you plug your audio cable into the jack, with the plug being the active part, you can imagine it as the jack enveloping or rathercircluding the plug . Actually we are all constantly being enveloped by the world around us. If you sit outside there are air molecules floating around you, and your skin is engulfed by all the photons emitted by that pesky sun. Perhaps also, if you did indeed fall into that bog from before, you are also enveloped by its wet and archiving chemicals. The humble Klein bottle, however, teaches us that we do not have to look at this idea in such binary terms. Mathematically speaking it is a non-orientable surface, meaning that it has only one side that simultaneously faces inwards and outwards: If you would let your finger caress along the surface of a Klein bottle you could continuously trace its shape until the surface bends inside itself, your hand being swallowed along, only to re-emerge again in the same orientation that you started off with.

Using a Klein bottle-shaped antenna is a fun way to rethink the gestures necessary for playing the theremin. But there is another connection to this idea of bodies enveloping each other that becomes apparent when we look at how a theremin and, by extension, how a capacitor works. A capacitor is created through two conductive bodies that are placed apart from each other. While mechanically separated, they are capacitively coupled and can hold and transfer charge between them: Charging one body causes an opposite change in charge in the other and vice versa. In a theremin, one body of the capacitor is the antenna connected to sensor circuitry. But the other piece of the capacitor is you. Moving your body closer to the antenna affects the capacitive coupling between you and it. It influences how quickly your bodies can charge and discharge, which in turn determines the sound frequency of the theremin.

A principle that is not quite so easily reproduced in the meaty Arduino world. My Klein bottle sensor would unfortunately pick up a lot of parasitic capacitance from other bodies around it and parallel signals in the device itself, which made the generation of valid MIDI data quite difficult. Relief came when I had the idea to enhance my body’s grounding by directly wiring my skin to a ground connector on the Arduino: I'm part of the chassis now, the dream of metal man Tetsuo finally made a reality. But just holding a stray ground wire isn't really that hot, so I embedded it as a layer of conductive fabric in a spiky silicone half-glove that can be strapped to the body. Thinking again alongside circlusion, the grounding strap design was inspired by non-penetrative sex toys like the Rubbie. This solved two problems: Not only did I achieve much more stable capacitance readings but I now also looked really kinky while playing the instrument.

  1. This is also pretty much what protects you against lightning strikes and rogue toasters.
  2. I used an Arduino Micro, which is based on the ATmega32u4 architecture. The Micro can be detected as an USB HID device and therefore can send and receive Midi signals directly to audio software:
  5. Connectors like that are considered to be of male or female type, depending on who does the plugging. To add to that ridiculousness I have come to call them circlusive and non-circlusive connectors. For a closer look at the gender troubles of pins and connectors take a look this article its talk page, it is so ridiculous:
  8. Tetsuo: The Iron Man is another piece of media that heavily influenced Heiße Asche:
    Another inspiration were the sculptures of Christoph Schnerr’s J0Y5T1CK5:

Swamp #-I
Tape Gunk and
Other Radical Futures

I told you before about MIDI and the kinds of domination you subject yourself to when working with digital technology. There are, however, ways of resisting and playing with that, and in the case of MIDI it comes with the simple realization that you can actually forego all predefined instrument synthesis by using samples.

On my hard drive I have a folder containing just shy of 150 of these sound samples. The complete score of Heiße Asche was bashed together from this set of files. No audio synthesis was used at all, only the mixing and transformation of existing audioscapes. The sample collection started out as just a couple of loops salvaged from the aforementioned effort to recompile a Dandy Dust soundtrack but grew with my ongoing research into campy and queer media. It includes samples from the outskirts of New Queer Cinema and CD-enabled videogame music of the same era, the synthesizer sounds of Ruth White and earlyRocky Horror Show theater productions as well as musique concrète from BBC Radiophonic Workshop contemporaries. I am still unsure why I was drawn to these places in particular. But combined they do seem to trace some history of electronic sound technologies and the magical and transgressive futures past they helped to imagine.

In comparison to the very structural sound of MIDI synthesis or the glossiness of studio-recorded instruments, sampling feels much more sticky to me. The samples I collected all come with a lot of gunk attached: Sometimes they are not quite in tune or they can have tape noise and other audio glitches embedded in them. Depending on their origin, they might even come with overlapping dialog and sound effects layered into the waveform, something that cannot easily be undone. But I am actually not at all interested in undoing all that gunk. Like the biological cohabitants in Tales of the Bodiless' bog, these audio residues make up an archive that traces its cultural and material entanglement and that resists against the neat and structural matrix of MIDI.

  2. Pre-syntehsizer era electronic music. Sounds were recorded on tape and then manually transformed by cutting and pulling and otherwise messing with the material. Especially the work from the Radiophonic Workshop was a huge reference when translating musique concrète ideas into digital materiality.
    See also the documentary The Delian Mode:
  3. A full list can be found at the end of the swamps.

Our Gunky Bodies

These swamps were written by N.B. Spiders as part of their graduation project at the Kunsthochschule Kassel. The project was presented on the 24th of September 2021 and evaluated by Johanna Schaffer and Darsha Hewitt:

I had the luck of meeting Darsha during her guest professorship at the New Media department here at the Kunsthochschule Kassel. That was between 2015 and 2016, she was doing these introductory classes for DIY electronics and sound engineering. Darsha's approach to teaching and using materials has influenced my work intensely and I still have a vivid memory of her getting joyously excited by the smell of when I accidentally overvolted and burned out an LED in class. The odor of the mysterious blue smoke will forever be interwoven with that memory of her workshops and I am glad for it.

Johanna I have known since my entrance exam at the Kunsthochschule . I have come to immensely appreciate her ways of teaching and engaging with queerfeminist, anti-racist and anti-abelist thinking, as well as her attention to organizing and shaping collective learning spaces. If I try and think of a smell I will never forget from that time, it will be the one of a cup of herbal tea I drank while sitting together and discussing Vetements in the colloquium of the Theory and Practice. I'm grateful to have had the chance to work and learn and teach and perhaps sometimes also argue with Johanna in our many mutual contexts.

Thank you to both of them for their time and support.


Material Sump

Heiße Asche was bashed together from the sounds of these hot works:

  1. Dandy Dust (Ashley Hans Scheirl, 1998, UK); sound design by Jewels/Jason Barker; music by Yossarian, Emma EJ Doubell and Bent

    Dandy Dust is unfortunately not available anywhere to buy, but it occasionally gets shown in exhibitions. You can also find a DVD copy at the library of the University Kassel under the record number 27247253.

  2. Rote Ohren Fetzen durch Asche (Ashley Hans Scheirl, Ursula Pürrer, Dietmar Schipek, 1991, AT); music created with assistance by Curd Duca

  3. Tetsuo: The Iron Man (Shin'ya Tsukamoto, 1989, JP); music by Chu Ishikawa

  4. Geinoh Yamashirogumi's Ecophony Rinne (1986, JP) and Osorezan / Doh No Kembai (1976, JP)

  5. Ruth White's 7 Trumps From the Tarot Cards and Pinions (1969, US) and Flowers of Evil (1969, US)

  6. Fourth Dimension (Paddy Kingsland of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, 1973, UK)

  7. Delia Derbyshire’s works from BBC Radiophonic Music (1968, UK)

  8. Lanquidity (Sun Ra and The Arkestra, 1978, US)

  9. Rocky Horror Show (Richard O'Brien, 1973, UK); recorded at the Belasco Theatre in 1975; music by Richard O'Brien; sound design by Abe Jacob; musical direction by D'Vaughn Pershing

  10. Kentucky Route Zero (Cardboard Computer, 2013–20, US); music composed by Ben Babbitt

  11. L'Île Re-Sonante (Éliane Radigue, 2005, FR)

  12. Soothing Sounds For Baby Volume II (Raymond Scott, 1964, US)

  13. Soil (serpentwithfeet, 2018, US)

  14. EarthBound (released 1994 as Mother 2, JP) soundfont compiled by SleepyTimeJesse; from the soundtrack by Keiichi Suzuki and Hirokazu Tanaka

  15. Mother 3 (2006, JP) soundfont compiled by fluidvolt; from the soundtrack by Shōgo Sakai

  16. Star Fox (1993, JP) soundfont compiled by iteachvader; from the soundtrack by Hajime Hirasawa

  17. Touhou Project (1997–2021, JP) soundfont compiled by an unknown author; from the soundtracks by Team Shanghai Alice

Pieces of a circuit board calmly vibarting. An Arduino can be made out, it looks quite gunky.

Electronic components used for the instrument.
Bottom left: Arduino on perfboard
Bottom right: Potentiometers
Top right: Touchpad
Top left: I/O jacks

Heiße Asche &
22 Swamps Towards the
Abolishment of the Sun

N.B. Spiders, 2021

Circular view through a telescope. Just on the edge some celestial body is slowly receding out of view. Only a reflection of the telescope innards remains.

View through the telescope. The disk in the center is a reflection of the suspended mirror inside the telescope's body.