playing a cage …

Tuesday evening saw a good bunch of people rock up to the studios at PICA, invading (as they say) the “sacred” spaces of art construction, and in Steve’s case, even contributing in a little colonialization of space, as in outer space by sending a transmission from the top of the PICA clock tower.  wish i had been part of that.  But nonetheless, it was good, and i had my time to share some of my work with the public – both officially, and not.. when i decided it was a good idea to soundcheck while the studio rounds were going on.

(i didn’t really think about the soci0-cultural context of noise.. but im thinking about it now)

But i thought i’d sum up what i offered to visitors to PICA this evening, just as a way to put some ideas in writing, and to commemorate this “momentous occasion” (yeap it is, Lisa) with some photographs.

Still the main exhibition is yet to come at the end of the month, but this was a good taste into the kinds of sounds i would be interested in exploring.


“Playing the Cage” (PICA clock tower staircase, 2010)

After a short introduction by Oron, I described the basis of my engagement (not before stating emphatically the grant that the NAC had bestowed on my humble project) with the stethoscopes, which were hung from the sides of the cage.  Following the stint at Waapa in ECU which presented the exploration of intimate/external sounds; and even the notion of noise/silence in ‘Sounding Body’ 2010, I became interested in playing around with the looseness of the word ‘body’.  The aim eventually is to elucidate the inner workings of this ‘body’ by ‘sounding’ it, and in so doing explore the issues of confidentiality, exclusivity of knowledge; and also to explore a sonic connection that could potentially form communities based on biofeedback.

The cage at PICA seemed most apt for my explorations because it was cylindrical and housed a circular flight of stairs – alluding symbolically to a tube/conduit/pipe and even, as the performance worn on, to a body made up of modular components, segmented and partitioned.  I tried to rattle each part of the cage differently to build on that point, and there were numerous levels of feedback graduating from low (footsteps/palm striking) to high (striking the grills with metal objects).  Soundwise, there were some cool resonator tones almost like hitting a stringed instrument; but the best part for me at least was the fact that feedback was coming naturally due to the acoustics of the space not only within the cage, but also around it.  During sound check it was amazing playing off the frequencies of the walls, and mixing in carefully the sounds I was producing.  During the actual performance, the feedback was relatively docile probably due to the presence of people absorbing the harmonics of the space – Louise was mentioning we should’ve asked everyone to take their clothes off.  Wouldn’t have helped it one bit, but it would have been quite the performance (or circus act) just trying to convince them i was doing something legitimate.

It was still a good result, because people were listening to the structure through the mutated stethoscopes, and at the bare minimum had an experience of the difference a little mediation makes to listening.

It got me thinking about the correlation of sound and space, and in particular the way in which a space attains its ‘voice’ through the purity of feedback.  Much like the works of Alvin Lucier, Andres Bick and Steven Vitiello, playing the cage was an effort in elucidating the structural acoustics of the form by listening to it engage with its surroundings.  The works of Jodi Rose, David Bryne, Max Ernst and even archaic cave lithophones also comes to mind.  In the case of Jodi, playing off the breath of wind in her aeolian harp-type bridge installations; David Bryne and his organ that played the building and Max Ernst who created sculptures to play from and into the environment.  These are all beautiful pieces that inspire my (practice).

Here are more photographs from the event:

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