Joanna Baillie (UK)

A darkened room functions as a giant camera (obscura) as the scene from the street outside is projected upside-down onto a screen. The sound consists of live microphone feed from the outside manipulated by a max patch and shaped into a pattern of alternating segments of untreated sound and ‘freezes’, where a split-second of sound is ‘horizontalized’ and stretched into a sustained chord.

The idea of the ‘frame’ as manifested concretely by the projector screen, and temporally by the patterns of alternating frozen and unfrozen sound, is central to the work. The presence of these frames asks us to consider at what point in the process of creative mediation/interference, the raw sonic and visual materials might be considered a work to be contemplated and experienced as art, rather than just a live streaming of reality. The sonic element in particular teeters on the edge between music and non-music. On one hand the sound is coaxed into a fixed rhythmical framework of accelerandos and deccelerandos, and its spectral content broken open and exposed in the frozen chord segments, while on the other, it is clearly at the mercy of the ‘accidental dramaturgy of what happens‘ be it the roar of traffic, planes passing directly overhead, children shouting or very little at all (a general sort of background noise).

An element of nostalgia also pervades the work. The camera obscura cannot help but remind us of the early days of photography (and the point-zero of mechanical image-capturing) while the image itself has a painterly quality that might make us think back even further to the interiors and exteriors of 17th century European (and especially Dutch) artworks. The process of freezing the sound also relates to photography and the act of fashioning a split-second of time into an object with a duration that is independent of the transient flow of reality. Freezing the live sound material has two possible outcomes: it may sentimentalize what has just passed by sustaining it artificially and fashioning a kind of nostalgia from it, or conversely, create an ominous atmosphere that casts doubt over future events- something we might term ‘suspense’.

Text: Joanna Bailie.

appearance at Tuned City
Brussels / Relational Noise – 28. June 2013