A Public Sound Work in Four Parts
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When I was first invited to participate in the project “Mind The Gap”, it was my desire to create an audio assemblage of the sounds from the area around Sundholmen and relocating these sounds by playing them through a four-speaker system, installed at different positions of the football field adjacent to this building. My wish was to have the equipment outdoors for the public to access freely, thus providing evidence that the sounds could be accessed by the obvious visual placement of the sound equipment.
Each speaker would be playing a track recorded, with special awareness and consideration from the location in which it was recorded. I was attracted to recording sounds that expressed the materials and situations encountered, in this area.
I wanted to reference an unrealised work by the artist Michael Asher and like him, not introduce other elements than ones already existing in the area. I was hoping to draw-in pedestrians and have them discover an alternate place to interact with the mundane sounds they know so well. This relocation of sound was not meant to disorient pedestrian traffic, but to interrupt and alter their usual trajectory. It was my intention to produce an acoustic experience, similar to an aesthetic experience produced by visual interventions.
In the process of trying to achieve my intentions, different problems and obstacles occurred that have transformed them, leading me to re-evaluate my proposal various times. Due to the complexity of the area and low institutional funds to cover expenses, such as stolen equipment. It became clear that such an installation would probably not exist for very long on site.
I began looking into different ways that a project could still be installed with a less-obvious public display of the equipment. Another concern was getting authorisation to display any images or play sound for the public in this area. Sound was not allowed to be at a high volume and getting authorisations, came through only a few days ago, before the opening date of the exhibition. Also I had to take into consideration the duration of the piece it was to be installed and operational for up to 3 months. Furthermore, I had to take the curator’s proposal into consideration if I was to continue exploring options and solutions for the installation of the sound work. In the words of the curator of this show is the following statement:
“… contributions to make a reflection upon the gaps, contrasts and connections in this public space. Via poetic sound based / audiovisual artistic practices the curatorial intention has been to contribute to the Factory of Art and Design and the surroundings in an subtle, visible/invisible way with respect for different interest and activities in the area instead of encouraging a social activist art practice.”
This notion of subtlety and visibility/invisibility I found applied very much to my earlier approach. I was simply working within boundaries of such a statement. But the circumstances, which for the most part have occurred in private, have been the shaping force of this text, how could this not encourage a “social activist art practice”?
This text has become the only way for me to make public, the restrictions that affect and are important to the work, and so have transformed it through unavoidable social concerns and realities. In the end the work and location required much consideration, it lead me to consider my role within the notion of public art work, whether I am another gentrifying force on the margin, filling the “gap” or whether I am cultural tourist-producer.
Much has been said about artists using the aesthetics of social activism to generate a cultural context, but it doesn’t get me to stop thinking about the audience, and how to provide them with an urban-poetic experience, without assuming to know directly about the social inadequacies of their reality. Therefore, at this time, the experience I find interesting to bring as an artist, to this urban “gap” is that of another culturally convoluted “gap”, one that I found in the city of Kassel, Germany.
I have been working for some time with parallel situations and I could not ignore the relationships between Sundholmen and certain parts of Kassel. This text and the sound piece your now listening to, finds it fair to include and discuss these conditions as part of a finished presented work of art.
When visiting Kassel, last week, I came upon an experience that became the recording included and installed from the inside of this building. To be precise, on the ventilator shaft, in the area above you! By accidentally walking through the city, I was drawn to the voice of a woman rehearsing operatic movements with her voice, as an uninvited pedestrian to her audition, I found myself an audience to a “ public concert” that melded with other urban sounds. I became aware that my walking trajectory that day had been transformed. I took out my microphone and recorded a sample of this unknown woman’s voice.
Kassel is known for being the host for Documenta, an exhibition event, which happens every 5 years. When Documenta is not up and about, Kassel is known for having a high unemployment rate, according to one German visitor that I met last week, the highest in Germany.