Locus: statements and a poster

We now have a title, a poster, and a bunch of artistic statements. It feels like we actually have the makings of a show.

I found a plan of Anglia Square developments from what must have been the ill fated stage 2 of the renovations, all those years ago. We cleaned it up a little and Angus put it together as a poster in photoshop; I told him there was something not quite right about it and proceeded to move everything about 4mm up or down or sideways. Then I changed the text from font metrics to optical spacing. I believer they call this ‘keeping a hand in’.

I recently read Larry Towell‘s stunning book The Mennonites, in which photographs on thick, glossy paper are interspersed with chapters of text – parts of a documentary diary – printed onto delicate tracing paper. I find that often, in photo works, the accompanying text is lost or disregarded as something annexed at the last minute, as bulk, as an after thought. The quality of the text itself becomes irrelevant (even in the case of right-on-the-money introductions) when placed next to the monolith presence of the photographs themselves. The effect of the tracing paper is to elevate the text to something as precious as an archival print. We handle it with stretched fingertips and palms; we lay the book out. We cannot read it on the train. Towell turns the page of text into an aesthetic object in the same way a photograph changes a page into a compact frame. The result is that the whole book is a work of art itself rather than a catalogue of a work of art.

I fantasied about printing our posters onto a thicker tracing paper (or ‘translucent paper’, as I was thinking about it at the time; I didn’t realise tracing paper could get so thick), and found that it was actually very easy. High quality heavy tracing paper is right there, on the shelves. I tried a couple of different weights – 90gsm and 120gsm – and the fineness of 90gsm seemed to hold the ink slightly better. I think 120 is more suited to actual tracing, being coarser and built for erasability and pencils. Here it is (obviously without the translucency):

 

So we have this poster which you can see through, a bit. It’s not only enormously aesthetically pleasing (I love it), it ties in perfectly with the idea of the exhibition being just beyond the thing it represents; if you hold it up outside the Moonlight Cafe, for example, you can literally look through the poster and see a slightly smudged Anglia Square. In the statement below, one of the things I try to stress is the fact that ‘not only the sound, but even its delivery is shaped and sculpted by the environment in which it was first documented.’ In many ways, our exhibition is nothing but a light film spread over the Square. We’re calling the recordings sound maps, but they’re only maps in the same way as Borges’ map of the empire.

Here are the statements we submitted. There all on the respective blogs, mine being below, while Angus’ is here and Sarojini’s is here.

 

Abstract for ‘Locus’

The phrase ‘Acousmatic sound’ refers to a sound that one hears without seeing the causes behind it; it is often used to describe sound, or music, which is hidden by the loudspeakers it emanates from. I am in the process of creating a sound map of Anglia Square, to be played through various loudspeakers acquired from within the vicinity of the Square.

The space where these sound maps are presented will be site-specific: they are always played within the locality of where they were recorded – in this case, the space is the nearby Stew gallery. The fact that the sounds are made ambiguous by the immediate absence of origins is catalysed by the context of the installation: are we listening to Anglia Square, or a recording of Anglia Square? The locus of sound plays back and forth, amplifying itself with the real-time noise of the outside surroundings, creating a conversation between the place and its recorded doppelganger. The fact that the recording is played through loudspeakers from the Square – old radios, hifis, and speakers bought mainly from the many charity shops – ties the sound and the way it is physically presented back to the square. Not only the sound, but even its delivery is shaped and sculpted by the environment in which it was first documented.

The French composer Pierre Schaeffer wrote that the concentration on acousmatic sound and its origins makes the listener question what they are experiencing: ‘we discover that much of what we thought we were hearing was in reality only created, and explained, by the context’. I am interested in feeding this statement back into itself, where sound and context is re-created and re-contextualised by placing it – albeit at an uncanny remove – back into the environment in which it initially existed. The sound is once again surrounded by its origins.

The unique subject of Anglia Square brings another element into the way the sound interacts: the planned rebuilding of Anglia Square means that this sound map will soon no longer represent its surroundings. Even now, the one-way system circles and closes in on the Square. The cracks and dirt of the walls will be destroyed, and the traffic noise will begin to interact with the new surfaces, textures, and angles of a modern shopping centre; these documented sounds will become a different type of record to which they were originally conceived.

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