sounDing :: notes on a pRocess
:: teaser ::
sounDing / 4 phases of de-knowing is a performed sound installation segmented in four acts. The work is inspired by a book ("Das Observatorium" by Bettina Wohlfender, 2014) in which two scientists observe a volcano. Birke and I, the two protagonists, observe and meticulously study their surroundings whilst recollecting their personal story. Meanwhile this is all whiff to wind and volcano. The volcano becomes an object of ever so much tension and the perfect antagonist for the observers, as its erratic being is seemingly endless and monotonous and yet can suddenly lead to total destruction.This makes it almost impossible to grasp and assess, so that the main story becomes an epistemological quest.
In four phases we swing and dive through the solitude of understanding and a collective misunderstanding, that we can remember and retain. The work is about the longing to stay human and yet become entirely volcano.
With recorded, digitally arranged and pre-performed sound pieces, animation projections and electro technical elements that interact live in space, I investigate the the four phases of de-knowing to see how they sound, move, construct and decay space.
:: 4 phases of de-knowing ::
the dramaturgical arch
contact-discontinuity ::“what? - ha yes, I know – sure – I'm here - that's there - no, wait what? - I think...- but I was certain that what was and now it's not …-or was I even …?”
- inner monologue sometimes
1. Phase:A sudden crackling sound appears, as the performer applies lemon acid on to crystal soda. It is a firm and notable sound picked up by a hydrophone and given back by LS and small portable speakers, decaying slowly into monotonous crepitation as it travels through the space. The performer carries four small objects away from the source, they look like hardened lava stones. The stones are now being placed in front or into the hands of the audience. Inspecting them it appears that they carry the crackling sound along inside them, the audience can "drop" their ears inside the stones and listen to the fading crackle.
Words begin to recite text excerpts. They tell us the story of an audacity "to dare closer, to be inside the crusts and then again stay outside of it, so we can describe, it had been such and such."
Words in motion, decay and deconstruction are a theatrical introduction to the sound performance to come.
2. Phase: As strays of animation projections and engaging sounds coming from loudspeakers layer on to the words. Meanwhile small movements and sounds in space of simple electro technical elements such as DC motor powered toys perpetuate motion and paper speakers are activated. They lay bare the topography of the space. Uncanny audible and visual formations occur, move about, stay stuck or disappear again.
Sounds and compositions find their synchronicity with the animations that are projected in the space. The performer moves in the space from post to post, turning the electro technical elements on/off and responding to the digital emergence of the precomposed sounds and visuals.
3. Phase:A world seems to shape and find a consistency/form/definition as a soundscape is performed and interacting with the animated projections yet never lasting long. The elements present themselves as they exists and exhaust, they wander the scale of their frequencies and colours, some are shy to be grasped.They repeat and create a kind of chaotic improvisation (though of course choreographed) and some deliver their self-analysis/autopsy as they construct and decay in the presence of our ears and eyes.
4. Phase:As we think to have approached a form, a consistency of the world shaped around us, the illusion of knowing starts to exaggerate and at the same time drains itself from itself. The situational knowledge becomes shallow and unfolds into a parallelism where all its layers appear next to each other. The wall vanishes and behind a grainy layer everything exists simultaneously as the bits remove destroy the narrational construction and allows for a metamorphosis in our minds, which though asks us to
"de-know", all that we do know as a trade-off, meaningless, amnesic.
few examples of the precomposed sounds that serve as a elements of the performance :: thanks so much to my sound-partner Rebecca Glover helping me record some of the sounds
Sounds filling the space and line animations reacting to them; bone transducers hidden behind fossilized metal trays make them tell the story of: 'approaching and getting lost, whilst being inside the crusts'; a constant crackle of soda crystals catalyzed by lemon acid sneaking into lava stone-speakers that travel in the space; sudden interruptions of unfamiliar sound and movement breaks and leads the audience through the 4 phases of de-knowing. (left to right)
1- After the sonic eruption, 2- Hydrophone picking up sparkling sounds and spreading it in the space, 3- Fossilized trays become speakers with bone transducers attached to their back, while a voice tells Birke‘s story, 4- Lava-stone-speakers carry tiny sounds with them 10m into the space, 5- One of many "chick-pits", 6- DC-motor powered zooscopes become sound objects, 7- MAX MSP/JITTER is the software I use to navigate the digital sounds and visual content, 8- Paper speakers trembling
:: an anecdote ::
Birke - Birch, a name given to her by her father so she would not leave, as once his father did. Birke, to give her the far reaching roots of the birch.
Birke is the one who talks and recounts mostly in the book. She tells her own story to I, the story of her family and her relations to the volcano. Both are attempts of tracing back and getting closer, so close, that the subject becomes blurred, the pitches become inaudible and matter so split, it seizes to exist. By drawing the volcano over and over again, by building its models, by documenting all the graspable parameters and looking, listening, touching and wondering, Birke is the one who breaks, because of the inconceivability of being the volcano. She wants to reach too far.
I is the listener and writer that speaks to us, the reader. She keeps everything in words yet allows us to dangle ourselves into the depths of Birke and the volcano, without abandoning her post.
When Birke looses all footing, I waits and has a cup of coffee ready. I is yet no insensible person, quite the opposite. She is the actual observer and she as well brings her own history into the equation, because she is us on these pages, the reader. She reveals herself in the descriptions of what she listens to.
In the sheer experience of listening we usually find our own features and our lines appear, as the emphasis of what we pay attention to and understand, reflects us more then what we could ever recount about ourselves.
Birke and I are the protagonists and yet, in the very last paragraph, as both join the villagers annual pilgrimage walk to the volcano's brink, a "tepid wind rises [...]" and picks up the word from I and carries us, the reader, "[...] even further, until beyond the crater rim."
The dynamic of the entire book changes in this very last lines. We end on this shift of perspectives and go on, inside an echo of what we believe to have learnt so far, which is whiff to wind and volcano. We are pressed into the closing cover: meaningless, amnesic.
I have been with this book and these two characters for quite some time now and some recent events have thrown me into a similar journey they are venturing.
I want to start with contextualizing my state before I pan over to the actual events:
Preparing an artistic work to a certain point in which it is supposed to live up to its full potential is always a full filling, exciting, yet very nerve wracking and a draining experience.
Swashing back and forth in a creative research always entails a lot of blind trust to oneself as an artist but foremost as a sensible/sensing, interested and reflected being. To play around, notice, capture, lose control whilst searching for the unknown and suck on all possible dispensers, inside or outside of oneself, is basically all that matters in these phases. I usually drift off into an almost parallel existence, that can only be kept socially acceptable by keeping up with daily routines, occasional exchanges with friends and colleagues and carefully chosen trips to the outside world. The process also entails to layaway along existing concepts, pre formulated work, references and definitions: To use and reuse and use up. To repeat after others and repeat myself:: over and over again, until
It all could just as well not work out because of eg. wind and weather!
Now the actual events:
Coming from the phase as described above, it was very natural for me to feel some pressure and nervousness, even though, my visit in Edinburgh at the ECA and a modest presentation, officially announced as part of an ongoing procedure, was nothing to be worried about.
When I arrived to Edinburgh in late February 2018 it was unusually warm and sunny, so I was told. Everybody mentioned how lucky I was to catch such good weather in this season; who would not enjoy some unexpected sun.
For the first 10 days I worked intensely and was very grateful to be able to have all the necessary infrastructure: a space to work and another one to exhibit; the incredibly helpful support of my mentor and project supervisor Martin Parker and his wittZ; access to all kinds of equipment at the ECA; a 5.1 set up; my tiny electro technical play-arounds; sounds and animations to play, script and curate in the exhibition space.
Creating, erasing, floating, getting stuck, asking and figuring out by just hearing or staring: I was approaching a firmer version of what “sounDing li e/n s” could be. The invitations for a public presentation on the 1st of March were sent to the whole school and to friends. Even one of my best mates came along from London to support, help and enjoy this with me.
As one day before my showing Emma entered the fields. A storm worth mentioning as she tied all daily routine down for several days. The day before the presentation we were asked to abandon the school building and seek for safe shelter and not to return until 10 am next morning, or at best, until the code red warning had been abrogated.
Cockily I thought, this can't be that bad, seems to me like a normal winter condition! But I was mistaking, as I stepped in front of the door the following morning: Edinburgh had vacated its "normal" estate. Cars slithered on the icy surfaces and pedestrians skated half out of balance on the sidewalks. Trains were not running, flights not flying, people were stumbling around in the streets or playing snowball in the sharp blizzards. We clumped through the thick snow, calfs half buried just to find the doors of the school radically shut. I got to pack up my belongings and tidied up the work space and said goodbye to the idea of a wrap up happening, for now. I stayed brave and was even happy to now have more quality time at hand to spend with my friend Alice. Yet I couldn't ignore a tiny clump of dissatisfaction sitting in my chest. The balloon I was carefully inflating had been popped by an arctic ice pickle instead of falling gracefully and in a small arch down to the ground. I partly came to Edinburgh to have a platform and present my work in progress to Parker and an audience, get their feedback and or simply feel my own pulse towards the project whilst revealing it at this stage. Something as intangible as a weather condition made this impossible. Coincidences happen.
So, I thought of Birke and I. How their attempts to capture the volcano got blown away by the winds and carried beyond and above. How they seized to keep control upon their journey. And then I thought of Emma and I. How my pressure had been built up and how leaning into the unknown of a creative process had curled my toes, so I was no longer on solid footing, therefor easy to tip over. How I, as well, seized to keep control over at least this part of my journey. And how much I empathise with Birke and the way she must have felt, whilst destroying all the models of the volcano, as I too, as a ritualistic gesture, threw away one element I had prepared for the, never to happen, showing on the 1st of March 2018.
A first try out showing was realized at Gouvernement in Ghent on the 2nd of December 2017
:: watch heRe ::