"A Resonant Tomb" is a sound installation about distance, either through space, time, medium, or death. How does the shape of our longings persist over time? How does it change—would we be able to recognize it?
Through the use of two opposing radio stations on the same frequency, "A Resonant Tomb" provides us room to contemplate the difficulty of communication and separating signal from noise. Moving through this space, we are aware of our own body's affect on our surroundings and of the information passing through us. The old, not yet dead, media plays with our memories, crackling with the nostalgic resonating echoes of that which was, that which could be, and that which has been only a comfortable dream.
This installation was produced especially for the cavernous post-industrial space at Hey! It's Enrico Pallazzo.
Produced with the support of Skup Palet. Thanks to Anna Ganslandt and Jan Pilgaard for the space, their support, and set-up advice.
The title for the exhibition comes from Jonathan Sterne's 2003 book The Audible Past.
This installation consisted of a ring of radios, a floor drawing, a sine wave oscillator, and two "living rooms."
In the centre of the space I installed 11 radios in a circle. Within the circle I drew a labyrinth, using chalk.
All of the radios, in this instance, were turned on to receive a broadcast at 1000kHz (AM radio). I built two different simple "radio stations," both transmitting at 1000kHz but each transmitting different musical programs. The power of these stations is so low that I can decide which radios will play which program by placing the antennas in the right location.
Thus, half of the radios play one program, the rest play another. The musical program consisted of old folk, jazz, and popular music recorded from 78rpm records. At the end of each song, I have manually spun the record in the lock groove for several minutes. This not only prolongs the song at its end, but also damages the stylus. Each song recorded sounds worse than the last. This grinding halt has a lasting effect.
This poor fidelity is of course compounded by the poor radio transmitter and vintage receivers. Every sound bears this patina and sounds truly "vintage" due to the historicity of the components, and certainly the sound would not be possible without having built the entire system. Transmitter interference abounds, and the radios themselves interfere with each other, occasionally bursting into loud cacaphonic oscillations.
Due to the prolonged lock grooves, the gap between songs is quite long, so often the spectator is not expecting a song to appear out of the noise. This can cause a surprise, meant to catch the listener off guard, to better let the music serve its historical sensation.
You are allowed to walk the labyrinth, surrounded by the sound and thrum, slowed down in solitary contemplation. The cultural meaning of the labyrinth is loaded and in this context is not easily parsed.
To either side of the central installation are two entire "living rooms," assembled from vintage furniture. The lights are off, the seats are empty, as if they are waiting, or perhaps they have been vacated. The radio you may expect to find in the living room has moved on to an unusual place.
In addition, hiding in the back corner of the room is a large subwoofer connected to a sine wave oscillator. This device provides a 19Hz background tone. This tone is not audible to humans but is felt in the body as an uneasy, sickening sensation, as if the room were haunted.
Live performance from Dec. 12, 2010.
This was a live action performance, which beyond the live sound element also involved a lot of movement within the installation.
I am tied with a rope to the floor at the center of the labyrinth, thus being restricted to move only within that space. In my hands I am holding a radio or a radio with an analog filter. Slowly walking the maze, I strafe past the radios in the circle. Since they are turned on, they interact with the radio I am holding.
The performance program involves a small introduction, spending the first half with the filter off while entering the labyrinth, and turning the filter on for the second half while escaping the labyrinth.
The title relates to the impossible promise of perfect sound fidelity, and the strenuous demands of the performance itself. It comes directly from an early ad for wax cylinders made by the Indestructible Record Company.
Thanks to Mappe Persson for recording!
photos of "Do Not Wear Out" performance, Nov. 27 2010. By Hanna Eliasson (first three), Louise Lam (next two), and Jan Pilgaard (last two).