Conscient Podcast: e102 aesthetics – how can we ‘de-modernize’ art?

Note : Une version en français de cet article est disponible sur : Français

(ocean shoreline)

The problem with beauty is that it can distract us from reality.

Sit with me, please, take a moment. Sit and listen… 

Over there, about 56 kilometers to the northeast, is the traditional territory of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh nations, also known as Vancouver.

Listen to the ocean flowing, like the blood and liquids in your body. We are water.

Listen to the ravens passing by and croaking. They are poetry in motion.

Listen to the city rumbling at a distance, but it’s hard to hear, isn’t it? Let me help by filtering out high frequencies… 

(cutting out of high frequencies) 

Ah, there is the drone of the city. 

It’s both beautiful and bewildering, isn’t it?

A plane is coming. I’ll bring back the high frequencies.

(bring back high frequencies) 

The sky is littered with aircraft around here – seaplanes, jets, helicopters – but they can have a strong aesthetic effect as they inch their way across the sky, merging with the rumble of the city.

(Fading to silence)

One of the problems with modern aesthetic experiences is that we tend to choose the ones that reinforce our own world view and deny the shit around us. 

Dr. Vanessa Andreotti suggests that we learn to ‘hold space for the good, the bad, the ugly and the messed up, within and around’

How can we ‘de-modernize’ art?


This episode is dedicated to my colleague Hildegard Westerkamp whose voice, from her Kits Beach Soundwalk (1989) composition, was in my head when I wrote the narrative for this episode.  I respectfully borrowed her technique of filtering a soundscape as part of a narrative. 

The recording was made on a Zoom H4n Pro in one take on Saturday, October 1, 2022 at 8am at the Boat Pass at Winter Cove National Park, Saturna Island, BC. 

I thank Dr. Vanessa Andreotti for the use of her words. 

I am grateful and accountable to the earth and the human labour that provided me with the privilege of producing this episode (including all the toxic materials and extractive processes behind the computers, recorders, transportation and infrastructure that make this podcast possible).

The post e102 aesthetics – how can we ‘de-modernize’ art? appeared first on conscient. conscient is a bilingual blog and podcast (French or English) by audio artist Claude Schryer that explores how arts and culture contribute to environmental awareness and action.


About the Concient Podcast from Claude Schryer

The conscient podcast / balado conscient is a series of conversations about art, conscience and the ecological crisis. This podcast is bilingual (in either English or French). The language of the guest determines the language of the podcast. Episode notes are translated but not individual interviews.

I started the conscient project in 2020 as a personal learning journey and knowledge sharing exercise. It has been rewarding, and sometimes surprising.

The term “conscient” is defined as “being aware of one’s surroundings, thoughts and motivations”. My touchstone for the podcast is episode 1, e01 terrified, based on an essay I wrote in May 2019, where I share my anxiety about the climate crisis and my belief that arts and culture can play a critical role in raising public awareness about environmental issues. The conscient podcast / balado conscient follows up on my (2016-2019) project: 175, 3-minute audio and video field recordings that explore mindful listening.

season 1 (may – october 2020) : environmental awareness and action Season 1 (May to October 2020) explored how the arts contribute to environmental awareness and action. I produced 3 episodes in French and 15 in English. The episodes cover a wide range of content, including activism, impact measurement, gaming, arts funding, cross-sectoral collaborations, social justice, artistic practices, etc. Episodes 8 to 17 were recorded while I was at the Creative Climate Leadership USA course in Arizona in March 2020 (led by Julie”s Bicycle). Episode 18 is a compilation of highlights from these conversations.

season 2 (march – august 2021 ) : reality and ecological grief Season 2 (March 2021 ) explores the concept of reality and is about accepting reality, working through ecological grief and charting a path forward. The first episode of season 2 (e19 reality) mixes quotations from 28 authors with field recordings from simplesoundscapes and from my 1998 soundscape composition, Au dernier vivant les biens. One of my findings from this episode is that “I now see, and more importantly, I now feel in my bones, “the state of things as they actually exist”, without social filters or unsustainable stories blocking the way”. e19 reality touches upon 7 topics: our perception of reality, the possibility of human extinction, ecological anxiety and ecological grief, hope, arts, storytelling and the wisdom of indigenous cultures. The rest of season 2 features interviews with thought leaders about their responses and reactions to e19 reality.

season 3 (october 2021 – february 2022 ) : radical listening Season 3 was about radical listening : listening deeply without passing judgment, knowing the truth and filtering out the noise and opening attention to reality and responding to what needs to be done. The format is similar the first podcast format I did in 2016 with the simplesoundscapes project, which was to ‘speak my mind’ and ‘think out loud’. I start this season with a ‘soundscape composition’, e63 a case study (part 1) and e64 a case study (part 2), a bilingual speculative fiction radio play, set in an undergraduate university history seminar course called ‘History of 2021 in Canada’. It concluded with a soundscape composition ‘Winter Diary Revisited’.

season 4 (1 january – 31 december 2023) : sounding modernity


I’ve been retired from the Canada Council for the Arts since September 15, 2020 where I served as a senior strategic advisor in arts granting (2016-2020) and manager of the Inter-Arts Office (1999-2015). My focus in (quasi) retirement is environmental issues within my area of expertise in arts and culture, in particular in acoustic ecology. I”m open to become involved in projects that align with my values and that move forward environmental concerns. Feel free to email me for a conversation :

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