Before, during and after the deluge: Sounding Kortrijk
May 8, 2012 § 2 Comments
In the beautiful, peaceful garden of the Broelmuseum in the Belgium city of Kortrijk, 4 loudspeakers projected the soundscape that renowned British wild life sound recordist Chris Watson composed for this year’s edition of Kortrijk’s Sounding City.
Watson’s piece/installation was inspired by one of the paintings in the museum’s collection: After the Deluge (Na de Zondvloed), an oil-on-panel, relatively small (the painting measures 53 by 91 centimeters), by Kortrijk’s Golden Age master Roelandt Savery (1576-1639).
In view of the image’s scenery, I readily imagined a little Chris Watson wearing top-notch headphones, holding a pricey microphone and carrying state-of-the-art digital sound recording equipment, hidden somewhere behind one of the rocks or trees in Savery’s delicous & fantastic ‘wildscape’. It is a scene that looks ‘unnaturally natural’, not unlike the way in which Watson’s filmic collages of bigger-than-nature recordings sound ‘unnaturally natural’. Linking them, then, is obvious. But it is too much so. Paintings like Savery’s are full of implicit, unhear-able, sound (as David Toop pointed out in a lecture, also in Kortrijk, after having visited last year’s Savery exhibition in the Broelmuseum). But that what is unheard I prefer to imagine, in a non-sequential, in a time-less, way. The imposed explicitation in a sequential soundscape, that re-starts every 30 minutes or so, actually annoys me. On Saturday April 28th, in the Broelmuseum’s garden, during the opening of Sounding City, the sound of Watson’s exotic 4-channel ‘Savery’ nature-scape faded in the presence of the far more modest natural soundscape given by the mere fact of being out in the open, in public space, in the small city of Kortrijk. It was a subtle but forceful pointer to the simple beauty of what this work might have been, without loudspeakers and without exotic wild life sounds: just (a copy of) Savery’s painting installed in the middle of the garden’s lawn together with a small bench to sit on and listen. Nothing more.
Chris Watson’s installation is one of the 11 sound/art works that, as part of the Festival of Flanders in Kortrijk’s Sounding City (Klinkende Stad), can be found at 11 different spots in the old Belgian town. All of them out in the open. Each one of them in ‘public space’. That’s pretty exciting. Though some of the works mainly keep their sounds ‘in a box’, the majority, like Watson’s Savery piece, are sounding out in the open. And whether they were meant to or not: the ‘art(ificial)’ sounds merge with the continuous flux of the ‘real’ small-town-sounds. As for Chris Watson’s installation, these proved to be stiff competition indeed. I was surprised at just how much the sound of each one of the Sounding City pieces made me more aware of the many other, contingent, sounds, that sur/s/ounded them.
David Helbich‘s work Public Sounds from Kortrijk and Jeruzalem thereof made explicit use: two loudspeakers, unobtrusively mounted at the top of the gate of the Begijnhof, played back recordings he made in 2011 in Nablus and Jerusalem, thus combining the sounds from these far away cities with the daily soundings at that particular spot in Belgium. A simple idea, and maybe not overly original, but I found it to be highly effective. A pity, however, that the Palestine city soundscape consisted in static, fixed recordings, repeating, over and over again. I actually had imagined the work to make use of a semi-direct transmission of sound (time-shifted, in order to account for the difference in time zones) from a corresponding spot in Jerusalem…
The best among the ‘outside a box’ pieces at Sounding City, each on their own terms and in their own manner, managed to include & subtly transform the Kortrijk soundscape that they were being inserted in. Like David Helbich’s Kortrijk + Jerusalem piece, like Patricia Portela and Christophe De Boekck’s Hortus or Dawn Scarfe’s Tree Music. And like Evelina Deicmane‘s Becoming a Tree, one of the two Resonance contributions to Sounding City, a sequel to her earlier Resonance piece, A Long Day (that premiered in Kunsthaus Meinblau in Berlin in August 2011, and then went to Riga and Maastricht).
Also for Becoming a Tree Evelina found inspiration in an ancient Latvian tale, that she visually abstracted as three simple, clean, wooden constructions, surrounding three trees on the Vandaele plein, in which from a number of tiny loudspeakers various wood-y sounds, based upon documentary recordings of her father’s working in the woods, un-loudly sprang back and forth between the buildings surrounding the square.
A second Resonance contribution to Sounding City was Stefan Rummel‘s Articulated Chambers, who installed his intricate and solid construction on and off the river traversing Kortrijk, the Leie. Stefan’s work could be found on the other side of the river right opposite the Broelmuseum, where a nice stone stair case invited passers-by to step inside.
Even though the Articulated Chambers are, obviously, boxes, and the visitor, in a way, has to step out of the city to hear the soundscape that Stephan composed for it, once inside, through the open-ness of its construction, the city’s sound naturally mingles with the played back city sounds.
It thus was far less of a retreat than the little wooden garden shed that one discovered when entering, through what looked like a ‘secret corridor’, a most wonderful ancient garden in de Kleine Leiestraat. The cabin was part of and home to Gardening with John (2005), a piece by Alvin Curran, an American composer who has been living and working in Rome since 1965.
This year, 2012, being John Cage’s centenary, it is difficult to avoid the inclusion, in whatever major sound art exhibition, of a tribute to the composer whose work and ideas have proven to be so very influential. Curran’s garden shed, though, is more than ‘an hommage’. The (too little) time I spent, on Saturday April 28th and Sunday April 29th inside this small cabin, looking at the old gardening tools, a couple of browned score pages, and listening to the pretty peculiar, secular & musical, sounds, that every now and then gave way to John Cage’s laughing and yodeling, was definitely among my this year’s most pleasant experiences. (Click here to listen to a short sound impression from inside Alvin Curran’s Gardening with John.)
It were the touches of sudden ‘strangeness’, of slight – sonic, but also visual – alienation, that made strolling through Sounding Kortrijk such an interesting and agreeable experience: suddenly stumbling upon Evelina Deicmane’s brand new wooden packing of the three small trees; Alvin Curran’s garden shed, looking a bit silly and misplaced in the old stately garden; Stefan Rummel’s Articulated Chambers, that also in Kortrijk gave the impression of having been installed at the side of the river for some, practical, industrial reason or other; but it’s just impossible to make up one’s mind as to what precisely that ‘industrial’ reason would be.
Arguably the strangest, as well as the most unobtrusive of them all, were the some couple of tens of meters of long brass ribbon that could be seen dangling across the Tacktoren lawn near the Korte Kapucijnenstraat. Here, there was little or no sound to be heard, other than that of the rustling of the trees’ leaves, birds whistling, footsteps, far-away voices and the occasional car passing…
Leif Brush is a, by now 80 years old, sound art pioneer, living in Duluth, Minnesota, where he transformed his spacious garden into an artist’s studio. The long brass ribbon is one of his terrain instruments: the Wind Ribbon. The long brass ribbon is supplied with contact microphones. To hear the sounds captured, we had to step inside the space on the ground floor of the Budascoop building, where Guy de Bièvre and Sofia von Bustorff (who went to Duluth, to meet up with the artist) furnished a room dedicated to Brush’s work, including (an inside version of) another of his terrain instruments: the Insect Recording Studio.
For the duration of Sounding City, the sounds of Leif Brush’s Wind Ribbon in Kortrijk are streamed live on the web, where you can listen to them continuously. And though Alvin Curran’s Cage piece is a good runner-up, you will probably find, like I did, that few or none of the sound-parts (mostly loop-ing) of the other pieces at Sounding City are able to match the endless variety, sonic wealth and at times – yes – sheer musicality of the Wind Ribbon.
Here are a 13 minutes and 23 seconds of the sounds that I recorded from the ribbon’s ongoing live stream, around 20h on Tuesday, May 8th, while finishing writing this article, catching, as if by magic, the Sounding City’s ribbon at a particularly tumultuous moment in time…
At the end of our rainy inaugurating tour of Sounding Kortrijk on Saturday April 28th, Leif’s story as recounted by Guy and Sofia, felt so wonderfully weird, that Touch label‘s Mike Harding’s suggestion, the next day in the Handboogstraat, where we had a coffee in the Hoochie Coochie cafe, that this ‘Brush artist’ had to be a fiction, ingeniously made up by Guy and Sofia as their Sound City project, for a while seemed plausible enough. We had quite a bit of fun later that Sunday afternoon, in the train from Kortrijk to Lille, making up the possible biography and the possible oeuvre of a female sound art pioneer, eager to cooperate with the fictional Leif on future fictional projects. But, well, also in sound art some truths are stranger than fiction. For, believe me, no one – no one, could ever ‘simply make up’ a web site like Leif Brush’s weblackwhole.net…
The following vimeo clip gives an overview of the opening of the Sounding City: Public Sound sound art exhibition at this year’s Festival of Flanders in Kortrijk, Belgium, followed by an impression of the evening concert, with sound projections by Jana Winderen and Mike Harding, who stood in for Chris Watson. It all sadly will no longer be part of Kortrijk’s Public Sounding space again too soon. The complete set of installations can be viewed and heard in its entirety only two more days, over the coming weekend, on the afternoons of Saturday May 12th and Sunday May 13th.
Sound Forest & Unsound: Resonance in Riga & Krakow
January 22, 2012 § 2 Comments
The old gated building at 58, Miera ielā (Peace street), in the city of Riga, the capital of Latvia, used to be a tobacco factory. It was there that the Latvian company Rīgas Tabakas Fabrikas, and later, as of 1992, British American Tobacco, produced Elita filter cigarettes. For a very long time Rīgas Tabakas Fabrikas, founded in 1887 by Abraham Maikapar, was Latvia’s biggest tabocca plant. It was forced to close down in 2009, apparently due to vast amounts of cigarettes that were being smuggled into the country.
Following its closure, Riga’s tobacco factory became one of those former industrial spaces in which, all over the world, contemporary art can be seen (and heard) to come to blossom.
Last fall, from mid-October till beginning of November, the Rīgas Tabakas Fabrikas provided stage and scenery for four Resonance sound installations, presented by Resonance’s associated partner Skanu Mesz, as part of the 2011 Riga Sound Forest festival.
The presentation in Riga was a ‘home coming’ for Latvian artist Evelina Deicmane‘s Resonance piece A Long Day, that was conceived last summer in Berlin, and premiered there at the Kunsthaus Meinblau: A Long Day is based upon the ancient myth of a village submerged by a flying lake, that is part of the Latvian folklore that originated in the area around the lake Butnieks, not far from the city of Riga and near the village where Evelina was born and raised.
Whereas A Long Day found a small and almost hidden niche in the former tabacco factory, shown in the pictures above, that seems a perfect fit for the sweet mystery of its subject, Esther Venrooy & Ema Bonifacic’s A Shadow of A Wall, compared to the previous installment of the work in Maastricht, and, especially the one in Kortrijk, looked a bit lost within the freshly decorated factory corridor, which, on the other hand, did account for a quite stunning visual effect.
And here are some impressions of how Pierre Berthet installed his Extended Drops in Riga’s former tobacco factory:
The fourth Resonance piece on show in Riga was Maia Urstad’s “Meanwhile, in Shanghai…”, comprising 80 portable radio’s that took up their temporary residence in what used to be the tobacco factory’s garage. There, in a way, they changed places with the trucks that transported tobacco also to Maia’s home country, Norway, until no more that a few years ago… “I found that former garage space very inspiring,” Maia wrote, “especially for a work like ‘Meanwhile, in Shanghai…’. The garage was like a thin shell to the outside world, with autumn leaves swirling between the radio’s, and with Latvia’s history as part of the former Soviet Union not even a stone’s throw away. It is as Viestarts Gailitis, the exhibition’s curator, said: there was a truly wonderful symbiosis between the installation and its location, it really seemed to belong there…”
[ All the above picture of Resonance installations at the Riga tobacco factory ©Ansis Stark ]
For the fifth Resonance piece on show last fall in Riga, one had to go outside, to the boards of the Daugava river, where Stefan Rummel did the second outdoor installment of the Articulated Chambers installation, that he created last year in Maastricht. Like in Maastricht, Stefan’s piece also in Riga became an intriguing addition to the cityscape, an alien element, that nevertheless looked as if it had been placed there for some mundane, practical reason. But what reason could it have been… ?
In comparison to the Maastricht installment, the sounds were playing back a little louder in Riga. “But the tracks had the same basis as in Maastricht,” Stefan wrote. “They were a little longer, though. Also, I added a couple of recordings that I made in Riga.”
[ There is a detailed online review, in two parts (and in Latvian), of the Resonance sound art show in Riga to be found on the Arterritory web site. ]
From Latvia, Esther Venrooy & Ema Bonifacic’s A Shadow of a wall, travelled on to Poland, where it joined Paul Devens’ City Chase as Resonance’s contributions to the 2011 edition of the Audio Art Festival in Krakow, also one of the network’s associated partners. A Shadow of a wall could be experienced there, November 18th-27th, in Bunkier Sztuki, be it in a far smaller version than that of its previous installments…
Paul Devens did a second version of his intricate City Chase installation for the 2011 Krakow Audio Art Festival, which could be seen and heard in Kathedra, from November 19th till 27th, this time re-sounding a piece composed from the fieldrecordings that Paul collected while biking around the city of Krakow.
On the Audio Art Festival’s web site you will find a telling video documentary on the many things that were going on at the Krakow festival, including short impressions of Paul Devens’ and Esther Venrooy’s installations.
From Riga and Krakow, City Chase, A Long Day and “Meanwhile, in Shanghai…” moved on to Maastricht, for the December Resonance exhibition at the Jan van Eyck Academy.
The next stop is Bergen, Norway, where in February a Resonance showcase will be hosted by Lydgalleriet, yet another of the network’s associated partners.
In Maastricht, in Berlin; then on to Riga …
August 28, 2011 § 1 Comment
Maastricht was hit by stormy weather, with thunder, rain and lightning, and covered by at times frightingly thick and dark clouds, when early in the morning of Friday August 26th I arrived at the Bassin, and once again entered Stefan Rummel’s Articulated Chambers installation. It felt a little magic, indeed, to find that during the 3 months out there in open space, at the far end of the quay next to the Timmerfabriek, Stefan’s installation had remained in perfect working condition.
The only proof of the time that had passed since the installation’s inauguration in May was provided by a few little spiders that had woven webs in some of the chambers’ corners…
It was the very last time that I – and anybody else – could experience Stefan’s work in Maastricht: I had come to witness the dismantling of the installation, a little later that morning. Not an easy task, as you may imagine. But once again, Intro in situ’s technical staff did a truly admirable job.
Paul and Michael disconnected the two chambers. Then a lift truck pulled the second one out of the water, and placed it on the quay, while I shot a bit of video, that I subsequently edited into the following short impression of Articulated Chambers’ dismantling.
Next week the dismantled Articulated Chambers will be transported to Riga, where Stefan is going to put them together again. There a second installment of the piece can be experienced, between Thursday September 15th and Sunday November 6th, 2011. In October no less than four more installations will join the Resonance presentation in Riga: Pierre Berthet’s Extended Drops, Esther Venrooy’s A Shadow of A Wall, Maia Urstad’s “Meanwhile, in Shanghai…” and Evelina Deicmane‘s A Long Day.
Evelina’s installation will travel to Riga from Berlin, where it is on show, until September 11th, at the Kunsthaus Meinblau. A Long Day is partially inspired by a Latvian myth about an underwater village. You can read more about the myth of the flying lake in the interview with Evelina that I did in Berlin, in June.
Here are two pictures of A Long Day, as it can be seen now in Berlin: mechanical swings with speakers sway above the heads of the visitors, who thus share the perspective of the submerged villagers as an old lady tells her version of the story of the flying lake …
[ Photos of ‘A Long Day’: © Roman März & Singuhr ]
Evelina Deicmane’s installation A Long Day can be visited in Berlin until September 11th from Wednesday till Sunday, between 14h and 20h. Long night: September 11th, until midight. Entrance is free.
Auf dem Pfefferberg, Haus 5
More information on RESONANCE in RIGA to follow soon …
Something you walk into, something that surrounds you
July 21, 2011 § 5 Comments
Stefan Rummel (currently residing in Berlin) was born in Nürnberg, Germany, where he graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts. For the Resonance network Stefan created Articulated Chambers, a public space installation that can be heard-seen at the Bassin in Maastricht (the Netherlands) until the end of August. Next versions of the piece will be installed in Riga (Latvia) later this year, and in Kortrijk (Belgium) as part of next year’s edition of the Flanders Festival. An adapted (indoors & dry) version of the installation was part of the Extensions exhibition, from June 17th till July 17th 2011, in the Lydgalleriet in Bergen (Norway).
As a student and graduate from a fine arts academy, Stefan, you have a firm background in the visual arts.
“I was at the painting department, and the professor was really a painter. But it was interesting, and we had a lot of different ideas in this class. He was very open for different media, and we did performances, photos… With another guy I got involved in Aktionskunst, and I got more and more interested in getting away from painting. I must say that this was partly also because I didn’t have so much ideas about using colors. I didn’t like colors so much. At the time I was more into gray and stuff. So I felt somehow that it was more interesting to open up a space, like one does with installations. What fascinates me about this, is that you walk into it. And when you do, you are kind of surrounded by the work… Which is also the case with sound installations.
For me that’s the best: when a work is somehow space related, when there is something that you walk into, that surrounds you. Or you surround the thing and the thing surrounds you. You have, like, something that you can look at, and you have something that you can listen to, and you have something that you can also touch. I think this is a very important way of making art.”
And from the very beginning, already back at the academy, you began incorporating sound in your work?
“Yes, I started with sound at that time. That is somehow how I came to installations. I also worked with photos and text. I was writing text on an old typewriter that I had bought in Poland. I had a scholarship, and then I didn’t really know what to do with it. I was a bit lost, actually. But then I found a second hand store, and I bought that typewriter. And I started writing. I mean … like: tzik, tzik, tzik, tzik! … I also used all these different kind of materials. I found some shelf, and I found other things. Then, after the academy, I had a solo exhibition in a gallery in Nürnberg, and I did a work, which was like a ‘work in progress’. There I put all these things. It was a bit like … the exhibition was not like a fixed thing, it changed in the course of the four weeks that it lasted. I worked with clay on the floor, and I built the shape of the Potsdammer Platz for example; and I put some silicon things; there were tapes, sounds… You can see some of it on my web site. It was called Prototypen, back in 1996… I liked this idea of installation very much.”
And you have been pursuing this ever since. Installations. With sound?
“Yes. With sound. Mostly with sound.”
Contrary to the other installations that up until now were produced for the Resonance project, you chose to create a piece outside, in public space.
“When I came to Maastricht I kept on thinking about what I could build there; something that could then go to the other cities of the network, and function there as well. The fact that a same work is re-made at different places, in a way establishes a link between these places. I then started thinking about what other things connect them. What do they have in common? This led me to the river. There is no river in Bergen, so the version of Articulated Chambers there was a bit different – I call it the ‘dry version’. But Maastricht, Riga, Kortrijk … they all have a river that runs through them.”
“Then I began wandering around Maastricht a lot, looking for spaces that in a way connect the river and the city. I found four places that I liked, and that I thought might be useful. Eventually we settled for the spot at the Bassin, at the far end of the quay lining the Timmerfabriek. I also thought that it would be good to have something where one could go inside, then go further a little bit, and then take a step onto the water.”
“The work that I did with Anja Gerecke last year at the MAMAM (Museu de Arte Moderna Aloisio Magalhães) in Recife, Brasil – Stadtphysis – was also related to the architecture that we found there. There was this row of columns, and we put some more. Also there was sound, and we built a box inside the other, and … It always depends on the space. First I walk around and have a look what spaces are interesting. And then I try to create something at home, at my desk. I make drawings on paper. When you see a space and its surroundings, you have the first idea. Sometimes later you will have more and other ideas, and so on … but very often that first idea is actually the one that you can go on with. I then develop this thing in my mind, with the drawings … with some text also, that I write down … Here in Maastricht I ended up working more with, say, a solid form. In fact it’s just the beginning of a form; a simple form, that relates to the buildings around the Bassin, like the big factory.”
It thus came about that Stefan Rummel constructed two big wooden boxes at the Bassin in Maastricht, assisted by his companion Anja Gerecke and Stichting Intro’s tech wizz Paul Caron. The boxes are almost (but not quite) cubes. One of them (the black one) is placed on the ground, at the quay. The second box (the grey one) is floating on the water; like a raft, carried by pontoons. The two are connected by means of four metal hinges and a small wooden gangplank, that permits one to pass back and forth between the one and the other.
The construction at first view seems to suit its surroundings perfectly well. Casual passers-by will consider it an integral part of the industrial and commercial activities that surely are being developed in the other buildings lining the water. Some of them, however, might start to think about it, and wonder what then its purpose might be. The black part looks somewhat like a container. It could be used for storage, but then why is its front end wide open? And what is the connected, second, part, floating there on the water? Is it a construction used to transfer a certain type of goods from the quay onto cargo boats passing? Or is it some sort of a laboratory, that is used for biological and chemical experiments with and on the water? The part out on the water might remind some passers-by of a certain kind of public lavatories. But isn’t this is rather unlikely spot for such a thing? On the other hand, given the fact that the Bassin is an inner harbour (mainly) for pleasure boats, the construction might have a recreational function. Maybe it’s a changing cubicle, with a shower for swimmers? … Quite a fascinating puzzle, really … Unless one knows, like you and me, that ‘Art’ is its solution … 😉
One can enter the two rooms, which indeed are articulated chambers. The connecting part is flexible enough to cope with the undulations and changes in the water level. Its flexibility also gives visitors an impression of movement. Inside the boxes there are six small loudspeakers, that project a soundscape. Though also when you enter the installation, it may take a while before you become aware of the speakers and the sounds that they bring forth.
“I call the piece Articulated Chambers, because the two wooden cubes are like small chambers, connected by a flexible joint. But then I also had this idea about articulated joints, like the ones used for the harmonica busses, and sometimes for trams. Somehow also this has to do with this installation; there is an articulated joint. So that is why the piece is called like this. You have two chambers, and they are connected. And they are connected also with respect to the form, and with the inside and the outside…”
Does the part inside of the first chamber (the box inside the box) correspond in dimensions to the second chamber? So that the room that is floating on the water is like an echo, like a transposition, of the inside of the room that is standing on the quay? To me it looks like that.
“They are the same forms, but one is a little smaller. The idea was more of using somehow a similar form, and then just put it … the one side to the middle of … It is the middle of the box … and then you will see different … different shapes, when you come from the one side, or when you stand there, or there … First you see the half of this room, and then you will see … The perspective always changes, you will see it differently all the time.”
It is late afternoon, the monday after this year’s Kunsttour weekend in Maastricht, which included Stefan’s Articulated Chambers as part of its sound art program. The Articulated Chambers stayed on, and have since been open for the public passing at the Maastricht Bassin, 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. The installation will remain there until the end of August. This continuous accessibility is a fascinating aspect of the work. Not only will different types of weather and the different light at different hours account for many different possible views of the work. The work will also always sound differently, because of the ever changing sounds of the city. This city soundscape surrounds the work, and becomes a part of it. At times the city will be loud and dense, at other moments it will be far more quiet, with soft and sparse, little pretty, sounds. These will mix with Stefan’s composed soundscape inside the boxes, that is always being played back at the same volume, irrespective of the loudness of the sounds that come whirling in from the outside.
The power needed for the playing back of the piece’s soundscape comes from solar cells, thus making the installation self-sustained: it supplies its own energy; also when the available daylight is less ‘energetic’ than that of the piercing sun, spreading all over the Bassin the afternoon that I spoke there with Stefan.
We are sitting inside the first of the two wooden rooms, the black one, and profit from the shadow and relative coolness inside. We hear how the sound of the traffic outside mingles with the sounds projected by four loudspeakers inside the black chamber, and – from a bit further – the sounds coming from the two speakers that are built into the smaller, grey, room, the one that is floating on the water.
“One of the speakers in the black room is pointing towards the entrance,” Stefan explains, “and one is pointing towards the little box. Then there are the other two, which are pointing from the little box to the wall; in that way I also play with the different reflections of the sound inside the box. There is little space, but you can put your head there. More or less. I like to do things that you need to find out. You will have to spend some time to discover the installation and that is also why I put the speakers – or hide the speakers – there between the two walls.”
So visitors should stay a while, when they come here and visit your Articulated Chambers.
“Yes. Which is also the reason why I put space between the recordings that I use. Sometimes all is silent. Or slowing down, and up…” Stefan points at different spots inside the two boxes. “You will have to go there, and then there,” he says. “I think one should spend something like, at least ten minutes. Or maybe even longer. When you’ve been here for, like, ten or fifteen minutes, then you will get some idea of what the form is of the piece, and of the sound… walking through this room, than into the little room, and…”
Could you tell a bit more about the sounds that you use for the soundscape? How did you go about selecting them? What, for example, are we listening to right now?
“What you hear now is the recording of the sound of an old cargo ship. I heard its sputtering engine when I was out sound hunting, riding on my bike here in Maastricht. I went after the boat, in the direction of Belgium, all the way until it came to a halt inside a big lock, and the sputtering gradually slowed down. That was an amazing sound experience.”
How long have you been recording to collect all the material? Did you record continuously, while you were in Maastricht? Or just during certain periods? Did you record every day a bit, or did you do all the recordings in one long stretch?
“No, I do not do long stretches of recording. That is also why I don’t really talk about them as ‘field recordings’. I prefer to just speak about my ‘recordings for the installation’. They are my ‘installation recordings’. I usually make recordings that last no longer than about five minutes. In Maastricht I mostly recorded in the outskirts of town. Near the cement factory, for example. What I was looking for, were industrial sounds, mechanical sounds. Maastricht of course is a relatively quiet town. There is no subway, and there just are not so many things like that. So I had to go out, to where I could find sounds that are made by mechanical constructions. I liked a lot the sounds that were caused by the repairs of the old Saint Servatius bridge that were going on. There was this temporary iron road surface, on the part of the bridge that makes different levels for the boats. When you passed over it with the bike, or on foot, it went … djoe , djoe , djoe! … And meanwhile underneath the iron surface you could hear the hisses and sizzles of the ongoing welding. These types of sound interest me far more than the sound of people sitting in a café or dining in a restaurant. For the piece, I put several parts of the recordings that I did together; I always like to put small things together …”
“So, as far as the sound is concerned, the set-up is quite simple. With this kind of installation I like to keep things very simple. These are simple recordings. But of course I do manipulate them electronically, on the computer, somehow.”
In what ways?
“Oh, just with a simple sound processing program. Whatever I need. I do not have so many filters or effects. It is more for putting things together, making it coherent; cutting the pieces, lining them up, mixing them. What I also very much like, is that when I make recordings, there always are, like, mistakes; in the recordings, or in the producing or whatever.”
What do you mean by ‘mistakes’?
“Often things are too loud, or… I also like to take a very close up look at a track on the computer, and then find little wrong things in it. These parts I then take to work on. So, in the end, all of course is mainly made digitally. But I still find it important to take the sound that is surrounding us as a starting point.”
You use several tracks, each of a slightly different length. And each is playing back as a loop, so that their ‘sounding together’ will be perceived as changing all of the time. But is there something that characterizes the different tracks? How does, for example, the track in the ‘water room’ relate to the tracks in the ‘land room’?
“Each track has a length of about ten minutes, but the precise lengths are slightly different. And each track has, like, its own soul. They also all have pauses. I wanted there to be quite a bit of silence. And I actually not only used recordings that I made here in Maastricht. Because in each new piece I always also use sounds from older exhibitions. Not complete tracks; but some small bits and pieces. Bits that I like, and that I think makes sense to use in the new installation. I make these little ‘rappels’, in order to somehow connect the older work to the new one.”
Everybody will surely agree that Articulated Chambers very nicely fits the surroundings at the Bassin, even though (or is it because?) it appears to be something of a visual paradox. It says: “Oh yes, this is where I belong!” but at the same time asks: “What the hell am I doing here?” I could easily imagine the work to be permanently installed here – especially given the cultural destination of the area and the Timmerfabriek building. What are your thoughts on that?
“I guess it could be permanent. But if it were, I would build it differently. I then probably also would not construct it myself. And a permanent version would also need other materials, I think.”
How important is the material for this work? The fact that it is made out of wood?
“Well, if I made it out of – say – metal, the sound would change. So that might then in turn influence the way in which I conceive the soundscape. Or the way in which I play back the recordings. Also, when made out of metal, the feeling of the piece obviously will be very different. So I do not know, really. It depends …”
We sit quietly in the black room for a while. We smoke a cigarette, and listen to the sounds that are coming from the speakers in the black box, mingling with the sounds of the buses, trucks and motorcycles that are passing outside, as well as with the occasional slow, rhythmic squeaking and crackling of the hinges and gangplank connecting the gray and the black room. I hear the ringing of bicycle bells. At some point I also hear the faraway singing of birds. But were these birds singing outside of the Articulated Chambers, or did their song come from the inside, as a part of Stefan’s sound scape?
It will be interesting to see how Articulated Chambers will fare, throughout this summer out here in the open in Maastricht. Maybe some passers-by will find it makes a pretty good spot to spend the night. What would you say if some morning you’d arrive here, and find someone sleeping inside your work?
“I don’t know. I mean, if someone sleeps here… I don’t know … I’m not against it… I mean… If the person leaves it like it is, maybe it’s OK. I think the question is more what the people who take care of the Bassin will make of this. They seem to want very much to keep the area ‘clean’, so I imagine they will not like it when someone takes up sleeping in here. I think they would put an end to that. Rather quickly, I’m afraid.”
Stefan Rummel’s Articulated Chambers can be seen, heard and felt, day and night, 7 days a week, at the Bassin in Maastricht, until the end of August 2011. Go there, discover, feel, listen, see-hear, hear-see and enjoy!
Stefan Rummel – Articulated Chambers, in Maastricht and Bergen
June 17, 2011 § 4 Comments
There was no official opening…
Stefan Rummel’s Articulated Chambers suddenly were there. Or so it seemed.
The installation by the German sound artist is the first Resonance installation that was constructed and set up, not inside, but outside: in public space. You may continue to find it over the next couple of months at the Bassin in Maastricht, at the far end of the quay lining the Timmerfabriek, where the connected chambers have been standing at least since the first day of the twelfth Kunsttour, that took place in the capital of the Dutch province of Limburg on May 28th and 29th.
But had they not been there already before?
The two big wooden boxes that Stefan constructed in Maastricht, one black and one gray, fit in very nicely with the industrial buildings that are boarding the small port. One might think them part of some construction work or other, that is going on there. Or they could be containers of some sort, with merchandise that needs to be shifted on board of a boat, that probably will pass any minute now…
Only upon closer inspection visitors and passers-by will come to realize that, contrary to appearance, there is no obvious industrial function that comes with the two wooden structures, one of which is posed upon land, while the other, connected to it via a passage that is like a little bridge, is floating on the water. They probably will wonder what these might be, and only then become aware of the sounds that coming floating from inside. Sounds that blend with the sounds from the environment, but – again – are just that little bit different …
For his Resonance installation Stefan Rummel was inspired by one obvious thing the different cities that will host the work have in common: there is a river running through each of them, and, in a way, his piece connects the city’s land with the city’s water. You can read much more on the construction of Articulated Chambers, and Stefan Rummel’s other works, in an upcoming extensive interview with the artist, soon here on the Resonance blog.
Articulated Chambers will remain at the Maastricht Bassin, until the end of August. The sound installation, which is solar cell powered, can be visited and experienced there, out in the open, be rain or be it shine, 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, next to the Timmerfabriek, which this year, from June 25th until December 18th, is meant to become the ‘biggest temporary European art museum’: Out of Storage will show, for almost half a year, hundreds of works from the collection of the French Fonds Régional d’Art Contemporain (FRAC) Nord-Pas de Calais (by artists like Pawel Althamer, Superflex, Andy Warhol, Sol LeWitt, Vito Acconci, Christian Boltanski, as well as Hedi Slimane, Atelier van Lieshout, Barbara Visser, Claire Fontaine and Liam Gillick) in Maastricht. This prestigious, European, project was initiated by Guus Beumer (Marres, Center for Contemporary culture in Maastricht), and curated by Hide Teerlinck (FRAC Nord-Pas de Calais).
It makes for an interesting coincidence and opportunity indeed: curious visitors that come to see the flood of art inside the Timmerfabriek, outside the building (on its parking lot, as it were) will be able to stumble upon Stefan’s installation: a little oasis of sound art, that they may enter, experience and reflect upon, when coming ‘out of storage’.
Meanwhile in Bergen, Norway, Stefan Rummel made a second version of the Articulated Chambers. It is part of Extensions, a sound art exhibition at the Lydgalleriet curated by Carsten Seiffarth. Extensions will be showing Alvin Lucier’s classic piece Music on a Long Thin Wire, as well as sound installations by Resonance artists Pierre Berthet and Stefan Rummel. Pierre presents his Extended Speakers, one of the components of his Resonance piece Extended Drops.
The Bergen version of Stefan Rummel’s Articulated Chambers is, as he puts it, the ‘dry version’. In Bergen the piece has been set up inside the gallery space, and the second of the two chambers is not floating in the water. Also in this version, though, it is movable, as Stefan has placed the second box on metal springs.
Stefan Rummel’s Articulated Chambers can be seen, heard and felt, day and night, 7 days a week, at the Bassin in Maastricht, until the end of August 2011.
The Extensions sound art exhibition in Bergen, Norway, opens on June 17th, and can visited there until July 17th.
Out of Storage, in the Timmerfabriek in Maastricht, opens on June 25th. It stays until December 18th.