Noise and Sonic Warfare

Déjà Entendu, from Sonic Warfare: Sound Effect and The Ecology of Fear

Déjà Entendu is the sensation of thinking that you have heard something before. It is an illusion of having already heard something which in actual fact it is being heard for the first time. My final piece, hinged on the idea that familiarity breeds a sense of comfort or acceptance in the context of willingness to engage, in artworks or other media specifically, and something that has the capacity to overcome video/sound’s “relationship to the exhibition of pictures…which induces us to assume that can be grasped just by ‘glancing at it”. (Neumeier)

In this passage Steve Goodman examines the ways in which the phenomenon of Déjà Entendu comes about but more interestingly mentions a number of notable instances in which its effect seems to occur, or even when an attempt to replicate the effect occurs. “Film sampling in electronic music illustrates one aspect of this mnemonic problematic. A sense of familiarity, or déjà vu, is often experienced when you watch a film that contains a segment of sound – it could be a phrase or even merely a tint of ambience – that you experienced first in its sampled form in electronic music,” and “The more commonplace version of this involves accidentally stumbling across an original track when you are much more acquainted with its sampled riffs or vocal phrases.”  [note, this isn’t actually déjà entendu, as the sensation of having heard the segment isn’t an illusion].

“An audio virology clearly opens up more questions that it can answer. How should it conceive of the relation between the body, memory, and perception? How does a (perhaps illusory) sense of sonic familiarity render a body susceptible to the sonic infection?”

The infection he speaks of is the “abduction by the senses”, a change in the state of experience rooted in memory, the actual sensorial equivalent of what we speak of when we refer to nostalgia. (Though nostalgia refers to the reference, or often carbon copy, of visuals and sound from the past, the realty of this phenomenon is rooted in the human reaction to it.) “A vague sense of familiarity…switches on your pattern recognition systemms, ‘presses record’ and intensifies your vulnerability to infection.”

 

 

 

 

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Pop-up Show

With the restricted nature of the group show once again meaning I’m not able to test out a work in an immersive environment, rather than opt out as before, I’ve used the opportunity to take a closer look at an experiment I did a year ago – an extension of my ongoing habit of recording the audio of noise shows and sound performances – where I wore a go-pro camera clipped to the inside of my jacket to record the entirety of a live show (or until the battery died) by noise/power electronics artist Pharmakon.

The video is played in two channels to allow moments of action, which are slowed down, to sit alongside moments of inaction, which are sped through at 1000x the actual pace,  and for those moments of inaction and of action to sit together for comparison. Other than this the video is relatively untouched in terms of editing.

Reflection

The process and result were both quite interesting. Looking back, I realised recording in this way enabled me to fully experience what is meant to be at least partly an immersive show, rooted in the exchange between the audience and performer because there was no point at which I broke from this exchange to take a photo or video. What did break the experience, though, was observing others doing so – the glare of phone screens and camera flashes. The video did, however, allow me to take note of some of the subtle goings-on of the performance; where eyes and attention normally fall on the performer, I was able to see the other side of the exchange, the awkwardness, discomfort, amusement, etc. felt by those viewing the performance, as well as other things like the stillness of the crowd – largely awkward white men and some women in denim jackets and band tees – as well as how strangely bright the room seems.

This reminds me of research into the work of Bill Viola, that many aspects of his work and the nature of video are closely related to that of performance, and how my own intentions reflect those same connections – that the exchange with an audience are at the forefront, rather than necessarily the subject matter, which I’m realising more and more can be secondary, non-linear, and even the opposite, a littering of ideas through a central structure.

Planning

I think Vignette 4 / GIG, which I’m fast realising is very much paired with Vignette 1 / IWBYD in its lo-fi approach and live-performed presentation, would benefit from including this kind of footage – footage that explicitly focuses on the viewer – because the way in which they differ is the presence of the audience. My initial plan for this section was various viewpoints of the performer at almost ground-level in direct contact with the audience, and encourage more fluid interaction and actually enter the crowd, and capture this from numerous angles. I think what might be more useful, interesting and provoking in a way is to quite intentionally jump between focus on the performer and the audience. Not necessarily two-sided, but literally moments where audience are in focus and an out-of-focus performer breaks into the frame.

The observation of how the actions of the audience, for instance photo-taking, or even the light from checking a phone, seem like something to note here, though the inclination to attempt to control it with a ban seems counter-productive. Perhaps instead, it would be more interesting to do a subtle play of the viewer, in the way I identified with Elizabeth Price’s The Woolworths Choir of 1979 at Tate Britain, which made you aware via a countdown clock the duration of the video. By allowing you to come in at the beginning if you choose to, an informing you of how much time you’re dedicating, this set up seemed to have the potential to overcome what Neumeir states as our  “relationship to the exhibition of pictures,” which “induces us to assume that can be grasped just by ‘glancing at it’.” My thought it a playful nod at a ban that acts as an entry point making the viewer aware of this exchange.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Experimental Music”

Though the use of Pharmakon in the previous video is only really in passing here, other than the suitability of her live performance in illustrating certain points, it has occurred to me this is an area I’ve not researched as much as other things, other than briefly into the birth of industrial.

As the musical aspect of the work, and specifically the opening with sound created by myself, which I’m beginning working on now, is so central to the piece, I’ve looked into some texts that help provide further insight and context (to be added to):

Pink noises: women on electronic music and sound
A brief history of new music
Sonic Warfare: Sound Effect and The Ecology of Fear
And additionally, continue reading materials I stated
Assimilate: A Critical History of Industrial Music
Wreckers of Civilisation

Chain Ouroboros

For Vignette 6: Symbols and vignette 10: CGI I wanted to include computer-generated objects; in the former, a 3D circular object spinning slowly in the expanse of the concrete landscape, it’s rotation paired with a generator-style wurring sound, the latter, the same object appearing in the abstract CGI mood Film in various forms.

To test this I was required to choose a small object to attempt to make a CAD form of and I, intuitively, selected a double-ended chain necklace I wear. I had thought previously that I wanted an image that was immediately symbolic, such as the ouroboros, to be the image, and for the chain to maybe be an item that, alongside potentially a shared eye (or contact) colour, ties together all of the characters in each of the 11 vignettes.

Screen Shot 2018-02-12 at 14.49.25

My thought now is to combine these images for a more frequently occurring, but less symbolically obvious, motif. A chain, perhaps engraved with a small ouroboros if I’m able to arrange this, can be worn by each of the characters, as well as appearing in a more spectacular and suggestively symbolic way in the most elaborate and stylised scenes. For instance the CGI of the ouroboros can be replaced by a 3D rendering of the chain, coiled in on itself, and appear both giant and spinning in the expansive, iconography littered dystopian landscape of the Symbols vignette, as well as emerging from CG black water in the CGI video or a 3D Printed form of this object shot emerging from real water (perhaps via a slow-motion shot of the shape being dropped into real black water).

This image could then also be used as a basis to build on, both in terms of its aesthetic and the way in which symbolic imagery and iconography are mirrored in stylised versions of mundane everyday objects, to begin to build the visual narrative of album artwork that will appear in my square format zine.

Final Project: Video Vignettes

I’ve begun to properly plan out the content of the video I’m going to present as part of my final installation. Having been stuck for some time on how to adequately create a narrative framework and hang the practical logistical details of having a number of different artists and productions on this, I’ve began working backwards; Using reference images I worked out a number of formats, scenarios, media, etc. I wanted to use and identified 11 different sequences that I was interested in pursuing. Assigning a different performer/actor/vocalist/etc. to each of these formats, I’m going to allow what, combined, will be 11 separate vignettes, to develop organically and apply a loose narrative thread to these as the process builds.

The 11 vignettes I’ve identified as wanting to pursue play with both narrative, documentary, a mix of both, and some totally removed abstract experimental video methods, and I’ve organised as below with a rough narrative structure, overall aesthetic and technical approach for each:

Vignette 1 – IWBYD

Possibly opening with some establishing footage of close-ups of brutalist architecture and an oblique reference to a dystopian-style landscape (without actually using and wide location shots) to give a sense of space, this vignette will otherwise entirely take place in a small, dark, garage-like space. It will also be entirely shot from two static angles – a front angle that’s very clearly a laptop camera in photobooth, and a side angle of a mini DV camera on a tripod (possibly in shot of the first frame), and possibly using the camera’s night vision setting for this part.

The scene will involve me, in the shadowy setting, singing (possibly into a microphone to make use of the actual vocal) a screaming cover of The Stooges’ I Wanna Be Your Dog over a pulsating, industrial backing track I’ll have pre-produced using a simple repetition of the track’s three main chords. As the track builds so will the intensity of both the music, and the vocal aggression and action. The room will be lit only by the light of the laptop, which may, as the song builds to an appropriate moment, switch to a YouTube strobe video.

Vignette 2 – VO

Opening with a shot entering an, again, brutalist-in-style building, but this time more residential-seeming, this vignette will take place in a minimal but reasonably conventional-looking domestic setting. Voiceover will begin to tell a story as a sweeping single shot enters the space, which is then intercut with static shots of details around the room – idiosyncratic but laden with symbolism – until we see the back of a male figure’s head lying in bed. He gets up and goes about a conventional morning routine as the Voiceover ends and a cover song begins to play as background music to the scene.

Vignette 3 – CAR

Opening with maybe two alternate shots giving context – probably a shot through a car wing mirror and another through the back of the same car as it drives through a rural landscape – this entire vignette will take place in a single shot looking straight on at a female character as she drives a car (using a camera strapped to the bonnet of a car).

The vignette will see the character drive and sing along to the radio – a well-known song but an odd version that leaves the performance resting somewhere between a sing-a-long and an actual track – which is then interrupted by a phone ringing. The character at this point pulls to the side of what we’ve so far ascertained as a winding country road through the out-of-focus background and reflections on the windshield, turns off the radio, answers the phone to what ends up being a heated discussion. This device will allow for the next part of the story to be communicated.

Vignette 4 – GIG

Beginning with both camera and phone footage of an actual gig – the vocalist’s real show in which his cover song for this project is planted at the end of the show – the character, with the sound of a band behind, violently performs, writhing on the floor, and reaching a maniacal state as the song climaxes. As the song ends a single tracking shot will follow the character off a stage and into a back room where a scripted, heated and wordy exchange will unfold – again, here allowing the next part of the story to be conveyed.

Vignette 5 – SEX

The climax of the story, a euphoric high before an inevitable crash, will culminate here in a provocative, sensual exchange – possibly a group. Shot in close up high definition, the intention here will be to present a documentation of a real sexual exchange, but captured and presented in a cinematic spectacle – blurring the line between reality and fiction. The graphic sexual nature of the footage will be unmistakably real, but its presentation make it seem less real, less intimate and more part of the narrative.

Vignette 6 – SYMBOLS

The biggest production out of all 11 vignettes, this will involve opening with a number of wide shots of monumental industrial and brutalist landscapes – for example, the Thames Barrier and Southmere Estate, Thamesmead – to give a wider

Vignette 7 – SET

Vignette 8 – URL

Working between London and Hamburg, where vocalist and producer DVDV who will star in this vignette is based, will inform the approach to this. Either the music she creates is used without her being physically present in the video, or the limited communication – and methods of that communication – could lead the presentation, creating visuals from a mix of screen recorded Skype calls, shared images, etc.

 

Vignette 9 – AIR

A paired back visual diary-type approach that presents nothing more than a series of shots of natural forms for Music, and possibly Voiceover, to back. This could include some more monumental landscapes that touch on the earlier openings, but this would essentially be devoid of narrative and more contemplative – a moment of pause in what may otherwise end up being quite a turbulent rollacoaster of chaotic peaks and intense dramatic calms.

Vignette 10 – CGI

For this I wanted to play with the blurred line between narrative and fiction and Ideas around the familiar that dominate a lot of my thinking for this and other projects, and extend it to something more literal and physical. I hope to create abstract visuals that present a series of ambiguous forms, textures that could easily be computer generated or live footage: the surface of water, black latex, etc.shot at extremely close range, and computer generated forms that mimic this. I also hope to inject here references to symbolic images from other parts of the project, perhaps by the emergence of a symbolic form from water, which, lamp lit, shot at an extremely allowed down rate and close up, might easily be mistaken for computer generated, or visa Versa.

Vignette 11 – CHAT

Here, in perhaps the most different and perhaps seemingly out of place, I wanted to present a static chat show type set up. A number of fixed camera angles in a set-designed studio set up will follow an over the top – but fairly empty in terms of actual dialogue – exchange between a central figure and an interviewer, possibly with the inclusion of canned laughter.

Vignette X

Though I’m still not sure whether I’ll go ahead with this, this is for a potential 12th vignette that takes place only in live performance.

Concrete Monstrosity

As I’m drowning a little in the great mass of what I have to complete for my final project – 11 vignettes that I’ve realised will involve 11 different production set ups yo complete – I thought it would be useful to try and tackle something a little more manageable and less overwhelming.

For the physical takeaways part of my project I’d planned to dismantle the album object in a number of ways including a series of sculptural manifestations of the shape itself in various materials – 3D printed, concrete, etc. – digital audio in the form of a download and the paper artwork, which will take the shape of a square zine. I’m going to begin researching and collecting references for the visual nature of this, which I presume will go hand in hand with the video production, but also thought it might be useful to continue some practice-based research using an existing project.

Two years ago I went to photograph – just using my iPhone – Birmingham Central library as it was being demolished. The building was an interesting example of, and my first exposure to, brutalist architecture. Never meant to fall into that category, the original designs saw the building clad in marble, but after the council refused to foot the bill the building was finished in concrete. Described by Clive Dutton, the city’s then director of planning and regeneration, as a “Concrete Monstrosity”, the building has always been a contentious issue in the city, deemed by so many as something ugly to the point that no real effort was made to save it.

I’m going to put together a zine of the photographs I took whilst it was being torn down.

UNIT 2 / FINAL SHOW PLAN

Now that Unit 1 is over, all focus now is on the final show and work made in response to my project proposal. Ahead of my tutorial this week, where we’ll discuss the next six months, I thought it useful to try and map out that time to better understand timelines and what’s doable:

Final Show: July 2018 – this leaves 8 months until the actual show, so 6 months to experiment, research and produce work directly related to the piece.

Rough plan for final piece:

PART 1: DIGITAL VIDEO

a film made up of 22 vignettes, with 11 different collaborating artists or vocalists (each appearing in 2 vignettes each totalling around 3-5 minutes). Each vignette is defined by the performance, inclusion or reference to a particular cover song.

PART 1 TO DO:

  • Experimentation with sound – a key thing to begin ASAP as it will be the base the rest of the project sits on, and is something I have the least experience in experimenting with
  • Begin experimenting with shooting vignettes – for practicality I may begin by videoing myself and make a couple of songs myself. I’ll also attempt to identify and reach out to a handful of potential collaborators to get the ball rolling, probably people from within my existing sphere.

PART 2: PHYSICAL INSTALLATION

This comprises of the physical presentation of the above film as well as any material artefacts.

PART 2 TO DO:

  • Begin some intentional practical research into exhibition presentation using any exhibitions on show in London, Birmingham, Paris, etc. (wherever I’ll be in the next few months), adding to concepts explored in my research paper, to begin a proper practical plan of how the final installation may look.
  • Engage in some practical, workshop-based experimentation.

PART 3: ONLINE PRESENTATION AND DISSEMINATION

This is the part I have the least clear vision of, in terms of how it will actually work. Instead I have some intentions which may help shape activity: rather than simply upload to a streaming/video channel or try to get  (which may still be a useful tool) but think of a way that this presentation might become part of the work. Initial ideas I’ve had are to add a transient element, maybe a pair of vignettes that have to be performed live? However my intention was more the opposite, for the work to be as impactful online as in person,  rather than making t even more clear the online is an incomplete version.

PART 3 TO DO:

  • Again, building on some f the ideas explored in the research paper, begin looking at ways that the work can continue to exist online in a meaningful way – i.e. not just a static relic sitting in a video player.

Project Proposal Edit 2

Aims:

My overall aims with this project are to find a way to define and manipulate the relationship between prescribed notions of experiential comfort – ones I feel I’ve never been confined by – and find a way for the media in which I articulate these interests to extend beyond the confines of the gallery setting; in essence I wish to follow the viewer outside of the white cube and penetrate the arena in which their lives are lived.

My purpose for undertaking this line of investigative practice is to create for myself a dialogue for articulating ideas and a means of communicating those ideas in a certain way, one that poses direct questions about social structures, one that questions a general propensity to go along with prescribed structures around issues of identity and ways of living –wider things like gender, sexuality, race, national identity, etc. but also more specific observations like modes of experiencing popular culture, etc. – and really, point out a failure generally, to take an inquisitive attitude when addressing these lines of thought. Essentially, the purpose of this project is to provoke as a means of survival.

An important aim in this investigation is born of something I’ve identified as a failure in much didactic work: work that is uncomfortable, esoteric or inaccessible in some other way, limits the gravity and reach of its impact. The aim is, therefore, to make accessible the inaccessible, make comfortable the uncomfortable, and attempt, at least, to demystify the obtuse.

Essentially, I want to create work that, through its narrative and execution, provokes the viewer to question the framework of the subject matter the work, and them through its viewing, engages with – I want to create an unspoken dialogue between myself and the viewer.

Objectives:

To achieve the above, I intend on using a conceptual framework built around the observations I’ve mentioned before, to try and cheat the system. Experiential comfort – the idea that certain sounds, images, etc. are not immediately accessible and as a result are rejected, avoided, not questioned, not acknowledged, missed, forgotten, eroded – may be approached by applying another factors, say familiarity.

I also intend on attacking another failing in much work viewed in a gallery, that it is easily ignored. I plan to create a totally immersive installation – an enclosed space that consists of audiovisual, and other, components to grab hold of the viewers’ senses. Within this space I plan to utilise a refined visual / aural / written / spoken language with which to communicate, within the framework of a narrative structure, questions about the abovementioned ideas.

Context:

The context within which this project, and my work more generally, exists is constantly shifting and changing, but it becomes more and more apparent with each project how tied up it is with other pop cultural, subcultural, crossover media: print and digital media (in terms of the landscape of digital publishing, fashion, music, club culture, social media, and only as a reasonably small component of this wider framework, the artworld.

In terms of format, the project will tread the line between the world of video art, experimental and documentary filmmaking. In terms of subject matter, it will fall within the history of counterculture and subculture.

More than ever now as a result of planned collaborations with musicians and noise artists, the project is inextricably linked with the musical genres and associated scenes tied to their musical production. Specifically this refers to the history of industrial music and noise, more loosely sound art.

Thematically and in terms of style, much of what has been/will be captured for this project could be more closely aligned with certain threads of the history of documentary photography than film or video – specifically mid and late twentieth century photographers photographing from within subcultural communities including Diane Arbus, Nan Goldin, Larry Clark, Corinne Day, Derek Ridgers, Max Natkiel, Araki, Daido Moriyama, Wolfgang Tillmans, Jeff Burton, Rineke Dijkstra, Slava Mogutin, Anders Petersen, and many more. Photography theory, similarly, is more relevant here than perhaps film theory; specifically texts by the likes of Walter Benjamin, Susan Sontag, John Berger, etc.

The performance aspect, which will come as a by-product of my both intention to script as well as provoke, would most closely be aligned with two groups: COUM Transmissions and Viennese Actionism, performance aimed at pushing the boundaries of expectation and acceptance.

Word artists and conceptual art have a big influence, particular the likes of feminist artists Jenny Holzer and Barbara Kruger, as well as conceptual artist John Baldessari, whose work, again, pokes at playful provocation.

Video artists like Bill viola, Bruce Conner and Nam June Paik are obvious influences as such key figures in the history of video art. However, as expressed in my research paper, the emergence of a new breed of video artists placed within this context, who have emerged from various other diciplines and arenas, for example music video director-turned-artist Kahlil Joseph, is important in considerations of how work coexists in numerous spheres, specifically the balance of works existing in both the gallery-artworld-context and mainstream media spaces like editorial sites.

Media art, specifically the history of independent publishing and fanzines, alongside more formal formats of photography monograph and magazine publishing, will play an important role in the way in which ideas planted at the core of an installation are disseminated, carried from the white cube space into the lives of visitors.

Object art or small-scale sculpture, which I saw as being a key component in the final outcome, seems less relevant now. Instead, the dialogue around object, and specifically found-object, art may become relevant in conjunction with the development of print or other media. Objects – say books – may be imbued with some of the same aura as a result of presentation and even price. A £1k zine will seem weightier on a plinth than a £5 one.

Methodology:

As mentioned previously, video is becoming more of interest, and would appear to be the most relevant media in articulating the ideas expressed above – specifically the merging of narrative and documentary, dialogue, written word (cards, titles and subtitles), visual sequences and sound to form a disjointed, multimedia narrative.

This will then be presented within a physical space, either built or dressed, to act as immersive experience presenting each of the varied media in the most effective way. The space will need to be completely cut off, as sound will be a key factor in not only communicating ideas, but making these ideas accessible. I plan to create the sound using a structure I’ve developed, a looping gradient of accessibility whereby the most aggressive, confrontational or uncomfortable content has tied to it a mark of familiarity – in music the lyrics, melody or both of a well-known song – or approached from the other side, where the accessible media has attached to it some element of confrontational execution – a well-known song’s lyrics are screamed or the layers of sound build up to become less bearable.

Various 3D objects and print media: CD-style “album”, 3D artefacts, rendered objects referenced in music and film cast in cement, 3D printed, etc., digital design, photography and print binding in book (zine) and fold-out poster art are what I currently have in mind.

The digital element, as it stands, will involve using the digital media related to the above exhibition installation and additional pieces, namely music and video, and attempting to place these within the world of digital media. Available to share or download, allow the pieces to live on digitally in an intentional way.

Outcomes:

Using the above methodology, the outcomes of the project can be put into three categories, and may well form three separate but connected pieces: an installation piece, that exists within the gallery space, physical takeaways, something to extend physically beyond the walls of the exhibition, and a digital aspect, to extend in a similar way through the digital sphere.

The video installation may be, multi-channel (perhaps four screens to totally envelope the space) will loop a narrative story hung on a series of cover songs, created collaboratively in-line with the structure mentioned above. This will be presented within a, self-contained space to provide ‘inside/outside’ spaces (the former for immersive installation, the latter for additional material takeaways)

The material ‘takeaway’ elements presented in adjacent ‘store’ or stand containing all purchasable (or free to take) artefacts, which will consist of: An ‘album’ of 22 cover songs (1 hour continuous play) with bound artwork (zine), potentially artefacts rendered in 3D – cement, 3D printed, etc. – to replicate physical things from story (narrative touchstones).