Still from Episode 3, Mission Control

Writings for

Joo Choon Lin's Mission Control (2020-21)

A series of performances live-streamed on YouTube

First three episodes:

30 Nov 2020

8 Dec 2020

15 Dec 2020

All at 8pm (GMT+8).

Check out the Mission Control Portal, blackboard of sources, experiments, diversions, and writings.

Mission Control by Joo Choon Lin will launch upon the rise of the full moon on 30 November, a trip to the beat of the cosmos and the churn of the salty seas. Live streamed on YouTube, each performance will be a discovery of the potential of materials and objects to transmit and generate sound.

The seed of the artist’s exploration in each episode lies in her own particular set of tools, and the methods and techniques in wielding them, informed by a certain mathematical basis or geometric structure and her inquiry into numerical systems as a bridge to enter the complexity and wonders of the invisible realm. The copper pennies—acting as conductors of electricity—on her disc-shaped clay sculptures are arranged into geometric configurations, and her 9-pad angular sculptures are inspired by the golden ratio as well as the magic square, a grid in which the numbers in the rows, columns, and diagonals all add up to the same. These sound sculptures, alongside mechanical turntables and modified digital electronics, form several of the experimental musical instruments in the artist’s expanding toolkit of sound-producing objects and techniques.

The possibilities in deploying these tools evolve as the artist plays and replays her collection of sounds in a series of musical exercises in her studio. It is a process in which intuition and logic converge into one. She assigns sounds to positions in a numerical system, assembles sound pitches together based on the mathematical relationship between their visualized lines, and constructs sets of collages with sound. The compositions that emerge resemble waves and spirals that are constantly changing, freed from their original geometric forms and numerical bases, and channeled into a different dimension.

One might think of the way the stalk of a morning glory twines and curls its way up a fence, as if searching for something above. Or how our breath, through a series of inhalations and exhalations, can usher in a state in which we feel at one with the cosmos. Or the strike of a bell giving way to a succession of overtones, perceptible only when we hold on, attuned to what had just come before. Its origin—the vibration of each seed, each breath, and each tone—has its own system of construction and set patterns, as one might observe under a microscope. Yet, out of these ordered patterns and sets spring unending streams of sensations and rhythms. It is this dance of possibility and state of timelessness that Choon Lin is after. In each performance, as geometry transforms into poetry, the hues, textures, and beat of these spirals unfold as she immerses herself within the vibration of life. The outcome of each episode, be it interrupted or discordant, will reverberate in subsequent performances, as echoes of a journey in a digital, expansive, indefinite domain. Mixed with NASA’s transmissions from space and archival audio tracks, the sounds spiraling from the sculptures blend with the planetary and celestial acoustic flow, composing a sonic orchestra of the universe.


Equals never meet (2020), casein and tempera on papier-mâché

In 1557, the Welsh physician Robert Recorde proposed that two parallel lines be used to represent the idea of “equals,” since “no 2 thynges can be more equalle.” Even if the two parallel lines go round the world together, side by side, they would never meet.

Making History (2020), documentation of performance

Making history can be a tedious process despite the force of ambition behind it. Perhaps it can be thought of as a medium of tedium. It rolls itself out for the world to see as the days pass and nights fly. A blurry burden, it sags beneath the weight of its words; a disappearing record that simply waits for cracks to appear.

Anti-U (2020), casein on paper

When the MRT (underground train) first started in Singapore, there were just two lines; one red and one green. In my dream, I was going someone far away. As far as one could go in Singapore. It was a journey that saw me going in the wrong direction, on the red line instead of the green. I was meant to go to a place that seemed to be anti-U.

In/Sanity Benzene (2020), casein on paper

This year marks 155 years since August Kekule proposed his structure of benzene. In his representation of benzene, the chemical compound includes a ring of six carbon atoms. The account of how Kekulé came up with this ring structure is often disputed. He once recounted having a daydream in which he saw the atoms flitting before his eyes. Suddenly, he saw a serpent seizing its own tail, a whirling form that inspired the ring structure of benzene.

Trident (2020), digital text made using Pixlr’s Papa RocknRoll typeface

Neptune’s spear

Split into two and penned to a tune

With a slit running through

Joo Choon Lin’s Mission Control returns with Episode 4, presented at the klingt gut! KLG 2020/21, 5th International Symposium on Sonic Art and Spatial Audio, Hamburg. Her recent investigations have cast her in the role of a sound-maker, exploring the properties of materials and crafting them into extraordinary tools to tap into the sounds that permeate and surround us, yet remain invisible to the naked ear. These are the sounds produced from phenomena as magnificent as the churning of the galaxies or as miniscule as the curve of a flower’s stem as it twines towards the sun. At the heart of Choon Lin’s inquiry lies the question of how the unseen sound reveals the forces that energise and flow throughout all parts of the universe.

For this latest production, Choon Lin continues her exploration of the spiral, researching into its historical associations with patterns and sequences and appropriating them as methods for artmaking. She draws upon numerical patterns connected to a spiral, such as the Fibonacci sequence and the Golden Ratio, using them as notations for variations and improvisations. This episode features a new segment, where the keyboard becomes an instrument to meditate on the pitch and loudness of sounds inspired by the Fibonacci sequence. Alongside the performance is a new series of videos, which centre on Choon Lin’s recent sound sculptures that reference the angles and diagrams of the Golden Ratio.

As before, the work is performed by the artist, masked, gloved, and fitted in a garment, all specially designed for the performance. Printed with the symbols and patterns that float around the Mission Control set, the costume becomes a filter through which the artist appears as an element of the whole, her figure emerging and dissolving into a constellation of sounds.

The writing pieces by Magdalen Chua respond to the metaphors and methods of the artist. The first piece, A House without Walls, is a series of Fibonacci poems that appropriates the artist’s methods and reflects on issues that arose during the discussion with the artist—timelessness, dissolution of the self, and the way that a structure can paradoxically offer a liberation away from it. In particular, the poems are inspired by the artist’s quest to break through the metaphorical walls that prevent us from accessing the mysterious tune that beats in each and every one of us. The second piece takes the form of a painting, Kasztan in Late Spring, which re-imagines the cone-shaped bunches of chestnut flowers that bloom in spring in Poland. Inspired by Choon Lin’s sound diagrams and sketches with notations for operating the mechanical turntables and to play the piano, the painting uses elements from the International Phonetic Alphabet for the word “kasztan” (chestnut) to construct a symbol of the flowers trembling in late spring as their petals wither and fall.

A House without

A House without Walls (2021)

Kasztan in Late Spring (2021), oil on canvas

Mission Control Echoes_with symbols.pdf