Monday, 4 March 2013

Dodgy Provenance and the Fantastic Mundanity of Sound in Space

The final event in the Visual Thinking: Between Sound and Light workshop that I organised with Rob Mullender and Duncan White at Camden Arts Centre was presented on Saturday 16 February. For the workshops we had proposed that invited participants respond to the sounds of the Film in Space exhibition curated by Guy Sherwin.

We posed the question 
...taking the installed works' existence in the space and time of the exhibition as a given, what might become of sound as their residual and mutable extension?
The sound that we were inviting response to were those that Rob and I had recorded in the gallery space during the exhibition. Rob had concentrated on making close-up recordings of the machinery and sounds in the show, most often those of the 16mm projector parts, squeaky reels and so on, while my recordings were of the ambient sound of the rooms, ostensibly that of each piece, or at least in close proximity, using binaural microphones.  Of course the sound in the room at the point of viewing a specific piece didn't necessarily reflect the actual intended (or otherwise) sound of the work. Rather it was the sound of everything inside and outside the room relative to the position in which I was standing.

Our outline statement for the project suggested that

…faith to the provenance, authenticity, veracity and intention of the originating work is less crucial than the possibility of the extensible production of new material given birth through the process, giving free reign to transformative imaginative reconfigurations.
In the event the participants didn't necessarily take the brief quite so literally; Aura Satz and Steve Dorney presented a fascinating range of devices that demonstrated the mechanics of perceptual remapping of sound and image; Jan Thoben and Rob Mullender examined different methods for transforming light into sound, with Rob presenting his photosonic recordings of the show; Andy Birtwistle gave a lecture on experimental film and sound which became all but obfuscated by its own noise in the hands of Rob Mullender's layering manipulation; David Toop presented an intimate and personal essay about the silence of Annabel Nicholson (a version of which is published on his blog).

For my performance Dodgy Provenance and the Fantastic Mundanity of Sound in Space I took the recordings that I had made, looped them and imagined an alternative provenance for them, inventing a narrative which was quite fantastical while tracing a mysterious mundane situation, in effect it became something of a science fiction journey in which the continual presence of the sound of 16mm projectors became reinterpreted as the engines of some kind of implied inter-planetary craft. I performed it as a spoken word text accompanying the relevant sounds, the room in darkness, I was seated behind the audience.

The text was written very quickly and only finished the night before I performed it.  It does, I hope, strike the balance of being a slightly absurd mundanity, perhaps with more work it might have been more outlandish. It was very much an experiment that could become a process applied to any number of sounds, and perhaps I will make more of these in the future. 

Here is a recording of the performance:
  download mp3 

Later that day Duncan White performed A History of the Rectangle.