Circuit Breaker

Nik Gaffney & Maja Kuzmanović

Between 17th March 2020 and 17th May 2020 we found ourselves in isolation within the extended cityscape of Singapore. As inhabitants of what become known as “The Circuit Breaker” we watched and listened.

"never quite touching", "notwithstanding stringent precautions", and "a single digit, or even zero" are three soundscapes that emerged from field recordings, synthesis experiments, and our experience of quarantine and self-isolation during the first Covid-19 outbreak.

Words by Agnes Chew, Alvin Pang, China Miéville, Gan Kim Yong, Italo Calvino, Lee Hsien Loong, and Wayne Ree as learnt and repeated by a textgenrnn Neural Network. Sound available on Bandcamp.

From that historically brief, quite opaque moment, came the chaos of our material history, an anarchy of chronology, of mismatched remnants…
China Miéville

In this in-between place, the two cities are others. Where the times you bade farewell to are still in your mind – fluid and else – and the reality of your new circumstances is changing rapidly by the day. There is no turning back once you apply brakes, hard brakes, to slow the transmission.

Must close. Stem the inflow. Stop unseeing and unhearing. Stop uncontrolled answers and solutions, because the situation is so uncertain. Stop undetected chains, hidden cases, potential non-essential travel. Otherwise, please stay at home. Restrict spikes, without either a sharp peak or long tail. Restrict down. This is down. We must all hunker down and listen to the tales from a tiny room.

Ringfence close contacts promptly. As impossible as it may sound, we have to try our best to do what we mean by a circuit breaker. A critical circuit breaker. We need so. Prevent new clusters from forming and bursting out to send a strong signal to those who are egregious in flouting, as soon as possible. Restrict distance between ourselves and others. We need to close the emotional distance between here and elsewhere. We are on this track. We cannot afford to be complacent. We must press on. Or measures.

We are your mind – almost real. Yet everything conceals something else. This is clear anime and control. They make for interference patterns, harder to read, and with deceitful perspectives. The thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd. Quarantine them, defer them as they fully sink in.

Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if perhaps you are everywhere and nowhere. We are on. In other words, we channel cross infection in both directions. We do not know how long the pandemic will last. We are not out of the woods yet.

Sir, let me conclude. You cannot train yourself to solution the distance between us. We are islands but the sea is whole.