In the end, it’s all vibration. This is the Karkowski model. It consists of only one element, but offers unlimited room for noise. Zbigniew Karkowski saw every form of vibration as the driving force of the universe. He understood: if you describe our existence in frequencies, waves, relationships and intensities, the impossible becomes possible. In order to further explore and tangibly grasp his insights nearly five years after his death, the finale of A L’ARME! Vol. VI is dedicated to the Polish-Swedish composer.

Let’s find out together. With noise. Feedback. Vibration.

4th August, Radialsystem V

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The Truth At All Costs? is an installation by Mark Fell and Carl Michael von Hausswolff. Its title refers to a text written by Zbigniew Karkowski in 1991 where he discusses the nature of sound and music. Karkowski’s work gave us many things - it transgressed some boundaries and constructed others, built some bridges and burned others. Such reconfigurations were not done in order to find a more functionally coherent landscape, but simply to challenge the idea that any landscape is inherently inert.

In this piece 23 speakers are arranged in the form of a lattice structure, each of which has a separate sound source. The sound is made using three different pattern generating systems that are connected in various ways so that each system permutes the behaviours of the other two. At this level of the works structure, a series of triangular relationships are defined that progressively disrupt the musical content of the piece.


Zbigniew Karkowski’s work as a musician, sound artist and performer transgressed the boundaries and barriers of contemporary music, noise and electronics, opening spaces that many have since occupied. But how do we celebrate or confront the legacy of such an overtly elusive character? How do we construct a history around someone hostile to the reductive effects of such processes?

Karkowski used the phrase “the truth at all costs” in a text from 1992 referring to the transformative power of sound – its ability to radically reconfigure who we are. But, to return the mission statement back to its author in the form of a question: what, if any, is the truth of this person? And, more importantly, what were the costs? In examining his contributions to our musical and sonic vocabularies, where and how do we locate Karkowski? Is there some kind of scorched silhouette where he once stood, burned into our collective memory? Or perhaps several contradictory iterations of the same charred outline? Are we left with a shattered mirror when we really hoped for a skilfully executed renaissance-style portrait?

In resisting the urge to draw conclusions and consolidate our opinions, The Truth At All Costs? is not an overview of or reflection upon Karkowski’s life or artistic legacy, but, by contrast, it aims to underline rather than resolve such issues. Therefore, let’s not synchronise the multiple echoes of his presence into a singular shape or harmonic resolution, but instead let the unresolvable noise refold itself into new questions.

Text: Mark Fell