loose ends – an audiovisual spatial composition
Premiere at Bochumer Art Society July 2013.
Supported with a residency by Pact Zollverein Essen in 2011.
loose ends takes physical gestures and transmits them into space in the form of an acoustic sculpture. This divergence—this staged incongruity—of auditory and visual information produces a total physical experience; what remains are the traces of shadowy, three-dimensional sound forms.
I am blind, and music is my little Antigone, who will help me see the incredible.
Experiments into the sound qualities of 20 insulating foils (Leuna rescue blankets) were carried out over a period of 3 months. Initially a range of gestures were determined, such as wrapping, ripping, hitting, knotting, throwing, sliding, crumpling etc., which were then repeated manually in series, varied, and recorded acoustically. These groups of acoustic gestures were then changed and composed on a computer, although remaining within the framework of their sound qualities and without obliterating the source (group) of the noise. It was these miniature sound compositions together with the blankets that formed the starting material for the sculptural sound composition. This was then developed during a residence at PACT Zollverein Essen in the spring of 2011.
A cluster made up of 8 Genelec 8020 loudspeakers was positioned over an area of 9 x 7 metres. The loudspeakers were laid in part on their backs, on their sides, or stood upright in the usual manner. The foils were spread out over the loudspeakers. Their sides were attached invisibly to the floor and to each other. This created a topography shaped by the positions of the loudspeakers and by the various creases and folds of the blankets that had been inscribed and set into the material during their handling. The area is accessible to the public from all sides, and can be walked around, but not entered (forming a circuit). During rehearsals, the range of basic gestures was transferred into space: this was done by playing them via hidden loudspeakers. In this way, the miniature compositions were arranged for the various loudspeakers or the channels and their various combinations. This made it possible to move and interweave the sounds through the space. The range of directions, playing over, up and down, the speed of the sound sequences, the rhythm and the tone through the foils – these all allowed the sound to be modelled like a sculpture in space. This means that the past, captured and fossilised in the crumpled markings on the material, is made physically current again through the acoustics. This gap between auditory and visual perception becomes a field of tension. Space (resonance) – and in it the original gestures and their variations—are active and in motion in an acoustic sense; yet the blankets lie immobile, stuck to the floor, with only the patterns of lines bearing testament to the history of their “movement”. While the spatialisation of the sounds makes the ear wander across the space (in the middle of the area, slightly to one side of the centre and simultaneously above one’s head due to the phantom sources on the walls and on the ceiling, then once again in the corners…), the eye scans the surface of the foils, searching but failing to detect any activity. This separation creates the actual space into which the visitor’s perception can project the gestures. The installation is controlled by a computer and changes constantly in time and space. Volume and position ratios shift constantly; the “original” sounds of the foils range in their degrees of alienation. For the visitor, this constellation triggers a continuous game of questions and answers: is that the foils moving slightly or being moved, that are rustling like that? Is the rustling coming from the foils, or from the building? Can you actually hear something, or are you just looking at golden foils? Am I, the visitor, activating the process of shifting sounds—or is it automatic? Are the pauses—pauses? Is silence—silence?
One cannot walk into the field of speakers and foils, but one can walk around it. It is a kind of landscape, a heap. A barrier. It defines the perceptible space partly due to its visually recognisable boundaries, and partly due to the sound structures that constantly shift and wander under and over the surface. The area also determines the visitors’ possible positions, defining its surroundings from the centre like a crevice or a spring of water in the ground.
FOILS I FILTER I PERORMANCE
The foils used here have appeared remarkably often in performances over the last few years. Mostly they serve as a glittery eye-catcher, which also produces sound and which can be used to cover the body. Ultimately the foils end up lying disregarded somewhere, gently rustling at the edge of the stage. This inconsequentiality presents a challenge. Most performances that work with sound use it merely as an interchangeable necessity. There is very rarely any detailed engagement with the material’s sound properties, since the focus lies chiefly on visual effectiveness and perceptibility. It is a well-known fact that music (like video) is in the main simply “employed for effect” in theatre; that dance and performance are often uninterested in the music, and sound is less of a topic. And it is in this regard that most performances have a pronounced weakness.
Why employ a medium if it is not taken seriously, in the sense that one makes a connection with just one part of it (rhythm, atmosphere, etc)?
This incidental or inconsequential approach to the auditory dimension of a piece means that in most cases the composition does not blend successfully with the gestures and movements. A form of “residual information” is created that hangs obscurely in the space—though fixed and so linked with a statement—and which appears to be utterly superfluous.
The foils in loose ends are, in contrast, an integral part of the audiovisual spatial composition. They serve a number of functions: firstly, they are the original source of the sound. All of the sounds here are produced using only this material. They also hide the loudspeakers lying on the ground. The disappearance of the technical sound sources changes the perception of the overall sound. When loudspeakers are visible, one’s eye is constantly drawn to the equipment. This leads directly to a dilution of the power of association created by the auditory impression. In addition, depending on the position and direction of the loudspeakers, the sounds emitted from the floor are filtered. In this respect their tone differs greatly from sounds emitted from the phantom sources, which reflect from the ceiling and walls into the space and seem to communicate with the field. The movement of the sound cluster across the field of speakers and blankets, and simultaneously within the physical boundaries of the space, giving the space a third tone. This can be perceived as an acoustic movement; but it can also be perceived in a psychoacoustic sense, as a physical gesture. Further to this, the visitors position themselves automatically in the space and in relation to the field across which the sounds are travelling and so – depending on their listening position— the sound properties shift. So, as they move around and regroup themselves, fields of tension are produced between the visitors. In this way, without any camera tracking or cabling of the visitor, the entire scene becomes a performance; it is interactive in the real sense of the word.