In 1977, an audio postcard from Planet Earth was launched into outer space aboard the Voyager spacecraft. The Golden Record featured nature sounds, greetings in 54 languages, and music from Beethoven to Chuck Berry.
Last year, NASA uploaded the Golden Record’s audio files to Soundcloud. The opportunity to play around with such an audaciously bizarre endeavor piqued the interest of Typonexus, an avant-garde multimedia production outfit, which called on some local experimental musicians to incorporate the recordings into original compositions.
The first Golden Record performance went down at Substation in February. A sequel is now in order: Golden Record II is slated for Dec. 10 at a historic mansion, home to the largest pipe organ west of the Mississippi. In addition to music, participants can expect art installations, aerial silks, live painting, and other creative eye candy.
For the brains behind Typonexus, O., who declined to provide her full name, the story of the Golden Record resonated with her upbringing in Seattle’s top-secret Cold War counterpart, the Soviet aerospace hub Zhukovsky. “This was primarily for military reasons—working on stealth technology for aircraft,” O. explains. “I never knew what my dad did. He had to burn all his papers.”
After the fall of the Soviet Union, her hometown’s status, once a “classified city,” changed overnight. “I lived through the transmutation. All of a sudden, boom, I see the city on the map and it’s open to international air shows,” she recalls.
In 1996 her family emigrated, settling in Spokane, and O. found her way to UW in 2002. She earned a polymath degree—a combination of law, fine arts, art history, and human rights—but her upbringing stuck with her: a witness to military state secrets and, by proxy, a victim of environmental disaster—the Chernobyl meltdown affected her Ukrainian relatives.
Now a self-described “full-time starving bohemian,” O. strives for the nexus of art and activism. In May, for example, she brought former Seattle rabble-rouser Filastine—who founded the Infernal Noise Brigade for the 1999 WTO protests—to a warehouse festooned with “Shell No” banners, the handiwork of activists who organize out of the SoDo space.
O. has a knack for finding such hush-hush alternative venues. The changing skyline worries her, but she still believes there are many rocks left unturned—from Golden Record II’s stellar location to the Georgetown Steam Plant, where she will curate a festival next summer for the industrial relic’s 110th anniversary.
But as a connoisseur of unconventional spaces without traditional venue licenses, O. is torn. “The predicament is that if it stays underground, it doesn’t have the reachability to those that otherwise would like to participate,” she said, distilling her essential dilemma: “How do we not get penalized for fulfilling the gaping need for these enriching, participatory, immersive, provocative, inspiring happenings?”
And as the Trump era looms, the vitality of art and activism will only become greater: “The country—and the world—are in dire need of creative extremists.” Typonexus presents Golden Record II: Heliopause. With Boreal Taiga, DJ Explorateur, Linenoise. Tickets available at golden-record-ii.bpt.me; location revealed upon purchase. $30. 9 p.m. Sat., Dec. 10.