wieder und nie – a multi-channel installation for 6 Walkman ear-plugs and a pressure chamber speaker in public spaces.
German Sound Art Award 2008.
The installation wieder und nie has been developed for a specific place in the town hall of the city of Marl. The work takes its name from the eponymous poem by author Gunther Geltinger. Taking up the thematic complexes of my previous works, wieder und nie combines elements of audio drama, multi-channel space-sound composition and sound sculpture.
Audio Programming: Martin Rumori
The installation is dedicated to a transit location, a non-place.
Passages lead through here, but not to this point. From this point, there seems to be no beginning and no end in the system of corridors. The pedestrian who passes by is in transit both – between two places and with himself – the private person and the role of a citizen, he must fulfill. It’s a place where you do not want to stay because it is not intended for staying and a place you do not consciously experience. Here you can not arrive, the passerby has no memories of this place.
Nevertheless for me, the place raises questions
Who is meant here?
Who “communicates” here with whom?
The architect is talking to himself. Forms derived from bold visions have been manifested here in the architecture. However, these seem to be sparsely related to the supposed goals of later users. The passersby in the corridors seem strangely unreal, some optical finesses seem unfunctional (a long, very steep ramp!). At most a “Here you have to arrive small” or “This is not about you, but the idea of you (not yours)” comes to ones mind considering the proportions of construction, visitors and environment. A gesture that can not be seriously in the spirit of a modern commune and its administration, but which tolerates – quite a manifesto – no questioning in everyday life any more. Signposts indicate directions, point through and past to destinations that are in this place but in the dark. Because whether behind the next bend or two floors further, that remains a mystery of the unmanageable passages, openings, doors and windows. Signs point to social services, immigration office, canteen, but from this point of view to the unknown, emptiness. The individual visitor, but also the employee, is here an ‘extra’ dissolving in the tangle of corridors. Apparent chaotic amounts of noise (it’s not about volume) encounter each other and permeate throughout the place, which not only creates a specific sound environment due to its construction and dedication, but creates a stereotypical expectation to the audible and thus a large part of the experienceable. Each individual sound is swallowed or subdued, the overall atmosphere is “centered”, uniform, without peaks and individual characteristics.
Although this can basically be said of most public buildings, the statement is important for the further train of thought insofar as our expectation of a sound environment aligns our perception (similar to the focus of a directional microphone). Moreover, this attitude is reinforced by the unsteady state of transit:
We move with the fading memory of point A through a space X with a focus on our destination (Immigration office, social services, canteen) to B (not necessarily the destination, but the next signpost).
X turns into a sound streak, in which the place and the passerby (as a sounding individual) dissolve. At this point, the installation begins.
The strategy behind this space-sound installation is to break up the space in its prescribed shape as an architectural object and acoustic environment – not just to redesign it or even to insert an acoustically interesting piece of furniture. Therefore, the external form of the installation can only be rough and supposedly improvised. But it is a reference to the places under the desks, behind the cupboards, next to the curtain, behind the wood paneling. The strands that hold everything together and guarantee the flow, but have to disappear from the stage area of a self-staging institution.
The poem wieder und nie (again and never) is installed in the room, arranged and interpreted by its tone coloration, but at the same time changes the surrounding space through rhythm, sound and frequency. This is done with the help of 6 modified headphones (ear-plugs), as they were once invented for the Walkman and today dangle on any cell phone or iPod or the ears of their owners, and an announcement speaker, as it is conventionally used for the dissemination of information in public places. Due to the clocked arrangement of the sound layers their time structures run parallel to the time course of the surrounding space. These layers are indeed composed but free – unlike the architecture of the environment and the prevailing bureaucratic order (long live German administrative law!) are structuring – these structures do not impose themselves on anyone. They are created, present, but hardly present themselves without the composing listener. It is not about concentrating on a sound space alone, but about focusing on the sounding space and the listener in space composing through both – associative and analytical listening.
wieder und nie by Gunther Geltinger
Am Anderen Ende des Sommers wartet
Ein Anderes Ende des Winters hat
das andere Ende der Schatten
Andere Ende des Sommers
Andere Ende des Winters entschuldigen
Sie ich spreche nicht ihre
Sprache wo finde
Ich der Straße
The visitor trots through the corridors of the building. The field of view in vertical is initially limited through the height of the corridor. At the end of the field of vision slowly and first difficult to identify – six floating points appear. When approaching, these points transform into lines which untypical for the surrounding space seem to come out of the ceiling. Then the room opens up over the field, tower-like. The visitor’s gaze lifts. Cables seem to break out of the carefully arranged architectural order, suggesting an anarchic disorder, the momentary loss of a disciplined discipline that seems to resist the dedication of the building and the intended atmosphere.
Was the curtain accidentally lifted here?
Is it a system error or a systematic error?
Are the scenes here displaced or is the façade crumbling?
At the same time (at least now), a whisper from the headphones is becoming audible, giving the room an acoustic coloring and rhythmicizing the noises of the corridor. The impression of disorder lasts only for a brief moment, because the work soon turns out to be an arrangement, a composition, an internal order, but focuses on the passersby and the location through its staged openness. Regardless of how long the visitor lingers, there is an interruption of the space-sound streaks, the place suddenly experiences an atmospheric transformation.
HEADPHONES – Soundscapes in an acoustic environment
Sound fragments permute to microscopic space-sound structures in front of, at and between the ears, which grow depending on the length of stay and handling (filtering) with the headphones to an overall sound (impression) and abruptly collapse again at the moment of departure and soon fade away in the corridors – as a memory.
The headphones, since the invention of the Walkman in the 80s – for many a constant companion in everyday life, are installed between people and the environment and thereby modifiy the subjective perception. The mobile miniature headset changes both the perception of the listener’s environment and the sounds from the headphones; both levels enter an artificial relationship, their characteristic auditory features are highlighted.
wieder und nie allows a playful approach to the subjective environmental and self-perception. The installation is an open invitation to the “Now” and not for an „soon“, „later“, „after“, „previous“ or „yesterday“. It is not excluded that the “Now” varies, runs, is supplemented and reinterpreted. By using the headphones, the acoustic level of the environment surrounding the listener can be separated from the optical level. This division of space into an independent optical dimension and several partially penetrating acoustic dimensions enables a variety of mixtures of concrete and associative impressions. At the center of it is always the passerby. There are strange moments of confrontation and cognition. Observers and observed are brought together in one person.
SOUNDLAYERS – THE SPACE IN THE CORRIDOR
In the room you can hear a whisper from the ear-plug headphones. Their volume ratio is matched to the level of the spoken poem so that at the moment of its emergence a significant perspective jump or attention fixation on the place of the announcement loudspeaker takes place. The headphones hang approximately at a height of 1.70 m at a distance, which allows passing by of the audience easily, but at the same time mixing the sound levels by using two headphones (left and right ear different). Although the small sound sources hang “in the corridor”, they do not present a physical barrier. The patch responsible for running the installation and playing the sound layers was programmed by Martin Rumori in SuperCollider. The overall-level of all sounds is measured by the directional microphone and evaluated in the program. As soon as several people enter or pass through the room, the overall level of all sound levels is raised to a fixed limit, so that the whispering and the assertiveness of the spoken poem have a constant presence in space.