Berkeley Film & Media Seminar
BFMS Lecture - John Peters
142 Dwinelle Hall
John Lilly, Dolphin Voices, and the Tape Medium
John Lilly, who made dolphins famous as cosmic minds in the water, was obsessed with their bioacoustic practices, including hearing and phonation.
Lilly sits at the crossroads of many vectors in postwar America: the birth of the counterculture from the spirit of Cold War militarized science, the cybernetic dream of bridging animal, human, machine, and alien intelligence, the exploration of otherness through drugs and insanity, and the cultural transformation of dolphins from cute sea mammals to marine counterculturalists.
Sound technologies, especially tape, were the conditio sine qua non of Lilly’s cetacean research. He used tape to decrypt dolphin communications and later to liberate human consciousness from its tendency to get stuck in repeating loops.
The taped infrastructure of his quest for alternate worlds makes Lilly’s work of vital interest for media history, our understanding of sound in general and the tape medium in particular, and in the stakes of the quest for otherness.
For more information about Prof. Peters, check out his page at the University of Iowa website.