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grey line [twilight]

grey line [twilight]

Tomorrow we perform Grey Line – an interventional new public art work for radio, that Rosa Casado and I have been developing since spring, and that has turned out be simultaneously one of our smallest and largest scale works. The piece has been commissioned by Consonni, and takes as its context and broadcast platform an all-day radio symposium and public event within their LaPublika programme, into which we will intervene throughout tomorrow…

 

Grey Line [twilight]

 

Grey Line will attempt to track the twilight edge of the shifting shadow of night, as it slowly moves across the surface of the planet – following the progress of one day’s sunset, and its passage, over a scattering of disparate and diverse locations across the earth, towards and over the public event site of Tabakalera in Donostia, northern Spain. As this thin line of twilight slowly and relentlessly travels around the world – from the Pacific, across Asia and the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Africa, to the Atlantic – we will open a series of short live audio connections to people stood out on the earth’s surface.

By giving us temporary access to the microphones of their mobile phones, these individuals will allow us to eavesdrop onto whatever may or may not be audible around them, as daytime passes into night where they stand – in Nagoya, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Kathmandu, Kuwait, Hebron, Athens, Donostia and Bamako – as they step out into their own landscape to watch the shadow’s edge reach them.

These provisional live audio connections will attempt to open moments of access out onto the relentless journey of one day’s perpetual sunset, and onto one of the planet’s inevitable rotations… carrying familiar sounds of other public spaces… or only fragments of recognisable sound… or simply offering a reflective minute of somewhere else’s silence…

 

Image: Brookes 2016

 

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no matter how many people believe in it

no matter how many people believe in it

Here are a handful of photographs taken during our performance of What if everything we know is wrong? within a cleared out floor of Alhóndiga in Bilbao last weekend.

This latest manifestation of the work was commissioned by Azkuna Zentroa as part of their final 3, 2, 1 programme – and was again retitled specifically for the occasion, in this case as A fantasy is still a fantasy, no matter how many people believe in it. The title taken from a statement by the science fiction writer Algis Budrys – and published in Playboy Magazine in 1963 – within an article entitled 1984 and beyond, which transcribed a speculative conversation about the future between twelve notable science fiction writers of the period, including Isaac Asimov, Arthur C Clark, Ray Bradbury…

In Bilbao we introduced a verbatim recorded reading of that transcript into the room of the work, once we had built it. As part of a reflection on our understandings and imaginings of the future. And more specifically, as a record of how others have previously envisioned our present in the past…

 

What if everything we know is wrong? [performance still]

 

What if everything we know is wrong? [performance still]

 

What if everything we know is wrong? [performance still]

 

What if everything we know is wrong? [performance still]

 

What if everything we know is wrong? [performance still]

 

What if everything we know is wrong? [performance still]

 

Photos: Eva Zubero, for Espacio Azkuna Zentroa

 

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hindsight

hindsight

what if everything we know is wrong?

 

The last still and silent trace of ‘what if everything we know is wrong? – as we performed it tonight, here in this cleared and appropriated Madrid studio – after we, our sounds, and the gathered crowd, have all left…

 

Image: Mike Brookes

 

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introduced birdsong

introduced birdsong

Today we conclude our Historic parking lots of Providence project, highlighting thirty of downtown Providence’s surface level parking lots that – contrary to assumptions that they are spaces of transition, neglect, or failed development projects – have in fact been designated as parking lots, and have remained unchanged and in use as such, since at least the 1950s.

 

introduced birdsong [detail]

 

Our intervention into the autumnal city streets today – which we are calling Historic parking lots of Providence / introduced birdsong – completes a line of work that we initiated here back in August with the proposition that the selected lots might be collectively nominated for listing, their impact and character being considered against the National Register’s eligibility criteria of ‘age’, ‘integrity’, and ‘significance’.

 

introduced birdsong [detail]

 

Actively considering the selected lots collectively, as a single site, as a single element of the city’s use and structure, we have introduced identical small movement-sensitive audio devices, each containing the recorded song of a single bird – in this case a Lincoln’s sparrow – into all thirty lots simultaneously, for one working day.

 

introduced birdsong [detail]

 

With this act, the work finds a initial form, that we hope might at least enable direct and daily personal encounters, at a city scale, while allowing us to subtly shift the aural ambient of this city centre in actuality. And its realisation has – as we had also hoped – already provoked questions, conversations, encounters with bemused police officers, and amusement for some of the area’s parking lot attendants…

 

Photos: David Higgins

 

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chorus

chorus

As the low evening sunlight floods the studio, we are opening its doors, for the first public prototyping of some of our introduced birdsong boxes. Installed, in this case, simply as a single fifteen metre choral row along one wall of our temporary home here in Salina – waiting to be met and triggered…

 

introduced birdsong

 

Image: Mike Brookes

 

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here we are…

here we are…

Eighteen months after the last public work in the series – in which we ‘revisited’ the now absent buildings of the former Euskalduna Shipyard in Bilbao – we have shifted our focus back to the development of our long term just a little bit of history repeating project. And for this phase, we have moved to the US for the next few months, to work through two separate and distinct located commissions – one in the Rhode Island city of Providence, the other in Salina Kansas.

After an intensive initial ten day research tour of Providence – kindly guided by local residents, historians, archivists and journalists – it’s already time to pause, regather our thoughts, and preparing for the move inland and our introduction to Salina…

 

flag

 

Image: Mike Brookes

 

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speaking of art

speaking of art

balloons

 

Gathering with our colleagues from NIDO here in Madrid, we have now initiated the Hablando de arte (Speaking of Art) audio and radio project, after a year of periodic planning.

Drawing on William Furlong’s transcripts of interviews from the Audio Arts archive – we are inviting a selection of guest professionals, friends, and relations, to help us to re-voice translations of those transcripts in to Spanish, as an ongoing independent series of located audio recordings.

To open the series, we selected Furlong’s short conversation with Michael Craig-Martin in London in 1974 – discussing his piece The Oak Tree from the year before.

The words of Furlong, as will always be the case in these recordings, were kindly spoken by secondary school teacher Íñigo Estévez. And those of Craig-Martin, by social worker Paco Fuentes.

For the purposes of this series, those interviews originally taped within London will be voiced and re-recored at locations within the region of Sierra de Guadarrama. In this particular case, we occupied a relatively quiet shady corner of a community swimming pool in the small town of Collado Villalba…

 

balloons

 

Images: Mike Brookes

 

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screens and headphones

screens and headphones

Giving myself a little time and distance to reflect on the realities of our run of Coriolan/us last month, I have been spending some of my days slowly reviewing and combining the continuous camera and headphone feeds that we generated and broadcast live within the work – and which were captured and recorded on the evening of our penultimate performance.

Revisiting the details of these mixes, as they formed and unfolded in real time, I have been consciously avoiding the temptation to be drawn to any of the additional images or sounds – or even colours – of the event of that evening. Just focusing instead, as I layer these various mediated threads back together, on those that we intended within the live action itself – and which we met there, via the two large black and white projections and our personal headsets. Trying simply to reconstruct the specific media window that we had opened onto the things that were happening amongst and around us – without any attempt to represent the place and wider activity of the work in its actuality, or our experience of it.

As a real time record, that often not-so-simple act of reconstruction seems to have left me with something as direct as it is revealing – detailing many of our choices and their consequences, if only across the period of one single complete live performance. And while I made it purely as a personal reference document, here are a few low resolution clips – fragments of scenes lifted from the continuous flow of that whole. Small reminders for those who were there. A very partial taster for those who were not…

 

 

Coriolan/us  – Hangar 858, St Athan, 17th August 2012.

 

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Houston, we’ve had a problem

Houston, we’ve had a problem

Yesterday saw the latest version of our initial work from What if everything we know is wrong? – performed under soft early evening sunlight, within one of the large empty shower rooms of this former pit head bath house, amongst the vast Zollverein colliery site here in Essen.

This time we subtitled the event Houston, we’ve had a problem – a quote from the American astronaut James Lovell. And after building what we had hoped to meet here, again using only those few fragments and tools that we had chosen to carry in to the room with us, we left everyone following the crackling audio from a contemporary documentary record of the almost fatal Apollo 13 space flight of 1970.

 

chair drawing

 

And that is where we leave the work for now. And shift our focus to other projects for the rest of the summer. Giving the meetings of this month’s interventions a little time and distance to mature and settle. Confident, at least, that there is something tangible to pick up again, when we next decide to return to this conversation.

 

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what if everything we know is wrong?

what if everything we know is wrong?

Last weekend, commissioned to perform the initial work from our developing What if everything we know is wrong? project, Rosa Casado and I stepped into a large clear room in Artium – Vitoria’s ten year old contemporary art gallery – carrying a bag of pocket dictaphones, a small roll of tape, a black marker pen, and four polaroid photographs. This time we subtitled the event Nosotros pusimos los muertos y ellos disfrutan del cuadro – a quote taken from the writings of painter Antonio Saura (which translates roughly as: We provided the dead and they enjoy the painting). Ultimately using the place built by the work as a context to introduce a recorded reading of Saura’s polemic text Contra el Guernica (Against the Guernica), written in response to the arrival of Picasso’s Guernica in Spain in 1981. Our contribution to the gallery’s current celebrations of the painting’s 75th anniversary.

 

Polaroid #16

Polaroid #15

 

Turning our attention back to this work, after laying the foundations for it last summer, feels quietly positive and timely. And as we have often found in recent years – especially with our most direct interventions – the piece has matured since our last meeting with it, simply by having become a reality in our subsequent thinking.

So now we have gathered up our dictophones and moved the next phase of the project to Essen, where we have taken up residency in PACT Zollverein – another ten year old cultural centre, but this one housed within the former shower facilities of the largest colliery in the Ruhr – part of the vast Zollverien colliery and coking plant complex, closed in the late 1980’s, and now listed as a UNESCO world cultural heritage site.

We will be here for the rest of the month. Three weeks to focus and develop our thoughts within the tangible calm and support of this venue, and the impressively pragmatic and expansive industrial architecture that hosts it. An opportunity to revisit everything we already know about this intimate work, acknowledge what is wrong with it, and find useful ways to live with it.

 

Polaroid #17

Polaroid #18

 

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¿todo bajo control? [ everything under control? ]

¿todo bajo control? [ everything under control? ]

Rosa Casado and I [foreground] snapped at a successful ‘bring your own wine and headphones’ silent concert experiment in a small Madrid apartment last weekend – courtesy of colleagues Gichi-Gichi Do.

 

Gichi-Gichi 'silent' concert

 

And the sound experiments continue…

 

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can everyone see me if I stand on this chair?

can everyone see me if I stand on this chair?

chair #1

 

Last night Rosa Casado and I performed the first public work from our What if everything we know wrong? project, under the chandeliers and crystal wall lights of Brown’s Alumnae Hall, where we tried to reconstruct somewhere else – somewhere specific that we know, and have been trying to unpick.

From a bag containing thirty pocket dictaphones, three polaroids and a piece of chalk, we built a meeting place under the title Natural is how you found things when you checked-in – a line taken from a lecture by the late Buckinster Fuller – for a crowd gathered within the otherwise cleared room.

The polaroids imperfectly detailed two chairs and a radio. The chalk simply allowed me to locate those objects at scale. The dictaphones carried fragments and details of captured sound, and one archive recording from Buckminster Fuller’s epic forty-two hour lecture – recorded over two weeks of January 1975 – which he called Everything I know.

 

dictaphone #2

 

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unnecessary activity in a room

unnecessary activity in a room

Over this past week it has become increasingly clear that the work we are trying to propose here is simply a visible public attempt to construct one place, from collected fragments and details, within another place, where it wouldn’t otherwise be present – and the use of that attempt to allow the possible meeting place that then becomes at least apparent in that act. There are other things that we enjoy doing at the same time, and other things that we would like to be able to do there – but in reality, none of them are helpful.

The more I explore drawing to locate those otherwise absent details, for example, the more minimal the ‘pictorial’ elements of the place I am trying construct demand to be – however engaging the hastily drawn forms and the act of their drawing might be.

 

flower #2

dictophone #1

 

So I am focusing on what I can directly construct from a bag full of fragments of captured sound. And limiting the pictures simply to a few objects that are useful for us to have with us, but which aren’t present. In this instance, what I can build directly with placed sound is both more tangible and more complex. And retains enough of the ambivalence and indifference – and reality – of both places.

If that is where this work sits, that is where we will work with it.

 

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an act of representation

an act of representation

Today I am packing for a month long residency in the States – an invitation split between New York and Rhode Island, culminating in an event at Brown University. The invitation, and our intention, is to find form for a new performance project we are calling What if everything we know is wrong?.

Creatively, all I am packing is twenty pocket dictaphones (each containing a separate fragment of ambient sound), a handful of Polaroids (partial reminders of a selection of visual details), and some chalk.

At the heart of What if everything we know is wrong?  there was always going to be a direct act of representation. Overt representation, devoid of metaphor. I find myself increasingly irritated by assumptions of metaphor. There was always going to be an open public space, in which we might try to reveal where we are through our attempts to construct a tangible representation of somewhere else – and hopefully realise a meeting place in the process.

I have decided to build that place using only drawing, fragments of captured sound, and a handful of blurred snapshots for reference…

 

Polaroid #1

Polaroid #2

Polaroid #4

Polaroid #6

 

…what that act of construction might propose and enable is yet to be seen.