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Listening to art. Playing with audio. Sounding out technology. Composing in code. Rewinding the soundscape.

Batman’s Listening Cave?

Holy new-media installation, Batman — is Christopher Nolan, director of the recent film The Dark Knight, a fan of artists Mark Hansen and Ben Rubin?

Without going into too much detail about The Dark Knight, there’s a sequence toward the climax (well, the most lengthy of its several climaxes — this is a summer blockbuster) that features a room-spanning grid of small screens that will be familiar to anyone who has ever experienced Hansen and Rubin’s work titled “Listening Post” (I’ve mentioned it on several occasions here at

The following description of “Listening Post” will certainly sound familiar to anyone who’s seen The Dark Knight. The Hansen/Rubin work is a matrix of small rectangular screens, connected to each other by a two-dimensional matrix of small wires to form a wall, or skrim, of choreographed data. That data is all pulled from the Internet and filtered through various algorithms, such as searching for four-letter words or for phrases that begin with the words “I am” or “I love.” Here’s a picture, courtesy of Rubin’s Earstudio (

In The Dark Knight, Batman employs a similar if hyper-realized version, several times the size of the Hansen/Rubin contraption and tapped into a narrower but more data-intensive realm of realtime information. (I’d say more, but might spoil the movie, and Dark Knight is really worth seeing, even if its truest act of super-heroism is to threaten Titanic‘s record for highest-grossing motion picture.)

It’s especially surprising that Manhola Dargis of the New York Times didn’t mention this information-overload similarity in her movie review, since Rubin and Hansen devised a “Listening Post”-like installation, titled “Moveable Type,” for the lobby of the newspaper’s building in midtown Manhattan (more at Also, just a handful of days before Dark Knight debuted, the Times ran a story by Mia Fineman about awkward resemblances between advertising and contemporary art, including an Apple ad that looks a lot like a Christian Marclay piece ( Director Nolan is certainly not shy about homage; he’s told entertainment reporters that the opening sequence to The Dark Knight is a conscious nod to Michael Mann‘s Heat.

As for the Dark Knight/”Listening Post” comparison, I’m not the first to ask:,,,

By Marc Weidenbaum

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  • Marc Weidenbaum founded the website in 1996 at the intersection of sound, art, and technology, and since 2012 has moderated the Disquiet Junto, an active online community of weekly music/sonic projects. He has written for Nature, Boing Boing, The Wire, Pitchfork, and NewMusicBox, among other periodicals. He is the author of the 33 1⁄3 book on Aphex Twin’s classic album Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Read more about his sonic consultancy, teaching, sound art, and work in film, comics, and other media

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