I enjoyed playing my field recordings at Binary Jam 017 this week. The crowd were very attentive and gave my recording a chance to be heard. The recordings themselves are quite quiet, so it was much appreciated. Here is the final mix. Fifteen one minute clips were recorded, in order, in rooms 1 to 15 of the gallery and respresent the aural experience of a visitor travelling chronologicallythrough the galleryfrom the medieval period through to the late 20th Century.
A final soundscape records the ambient sounds during the ‘The Art Books of Henri Matisse’ private view, later that day.
It was a good opportunity for me to listen to these works in the context of a live event. It worked well I think. I was able to introduce the works and explain them a little then, after the performance, could talk a bit abit about my experiences making the recordings and how it had changed the way I look at formal exhibition spaces. If these sounds were played back on headphones or in a sound sculpture, this wouldn’t have been quite so easy to do. Each method had it’s own benefits, but I’m grateful to Markus Soukup and Sound Network for the chance to experiment.
In relation to what I’ve learned during making these recordings recently, I’d like to record some observations. Sitting in a gallery listening, rather than looking, is quite a strange expereince. Individual works quickly coalesce into a ‘body of art’ which is inert, hanging or sitting there very passively. In the rooms containing very old works (rooms 1 and 2, medeival art, and 3 and 4 for example) I got a real sense that the paintings spent 99 percent of their existance immersed in relative silence. They were empty for the hour or so I was in there apart from the odd individual. I say relative silence because I quickly became aware of the many sounds occuring at low frequencies and and high frequencies. Old paintings, on the face of it, appear to require a very controlled enviroment, there is a low rumble of dehumidifiers, and the high pitched beeping or various sensitive electronic measuring devices. It began to sound like some sort of life support mechanism, as if the paintings are kept in some sort of stasis. The passage of time for these works appears to have essentially stopped. What thay says about our relationship to history I’m not yet sure. It certainly suggests that ‘history’ as we have constructed it is frozen, to what purpose?
Spending time with the gallery spaces also made me aware of the empty space in front of the works, the space that countless people have and will inhabit, including the artist himself. The sense of all that is constantly changing while we have this artefact which we are willing to stay the same. Thinking about it this way, if I were to imagine a 1 m square of space directly in front of each painting and make that the subject of these sound pieces, would that highlight the tension between our urge to collect/organise/conserve and the unpredictable reality of passing time?