Audiable Audience

Audiable Audience
2015, audio performance
Shown as part of Radio City, Tate Britain, London, UK

Over two days all visitors were asked if they would like to record a short sound that would be looped and instantly added to a developing collection of loops that comprise one large expanding loop. We ended up with a number of pieces of sound, 2 long tracks (6 hours – the length of the entire period of recording), and a number of shorter pieces, some extracts from which are played here.

We were particularly concerned with notions of ‘capturing’ or ‘collecting’ sound since these terms seem synonymous with ethnographic ‘taking’, or ‘shooting’, in which case objects (or subjects!), sound, stories etc. might be collected, classified, re/de-contextualised, objectified for the purposes of analysis and archive/data collection/objective knowledge. The loop-effect is also system of ordering or control. So perhaps in this sense the listening/recording room was a bit like a sort of Wunderkammer? We found this very interesting and also problematic. The association with ethnography comes in part through the recording’s aesthetic connection to field recordings – the crackle, the repetition, the bird-like calls, the clicks and rhythms. Field recordings are made ‘out there’, whereas our recordings were made in the ‘in here’ of the gallery.

The audience is always somehow beyond capture, or always more than what we can imagine it might be.

Its perhaps important to mention the scene – intense cobalt blue fabric hanging in loose drapes all around the walls from floor to ceiling, very low light with spotlights directed on the blue fabric, an overhead projector with coloured gels and hand-written text reading ‘Recording’. Very visible recording and amplifying equipment (e.g. speakers looking as if they belong to a large music event or live gig) placed on desks. Set-up was akin to a recording studio, theatre, cabaret – a mix of private space and public space.

All sounds, each no longer than 3 seconds (with silence cropped either side of the sound in cases where the sound is shorter than 3 seconds, i.e. most cases), are rehearsed and then recorded via a free-standing microphone directly into the computer. The sounds are then looped and immediately join an ever-expanding loop. So all the individual sounds are looped and then all those sounds together are looped. We did very little in terms of other forms of manipulating the original material. Volume and density are significant terms here? Our recordings gained both volume and density over time, with the background noise of the room (including the amplified sound) always seeping in. Both terms are also spatial terms, used to describe physicality? What’s very interesting is the surprising or unexpected nature of the sound produced. There is definitely a sense of a collectively-produced sound, a sound-space that’s inhabited by a community, and acts as a very coherent whole. While there is no presence of personal narrative, personal history, there’s a very strong sense of different voices, and the fluid/constant move from individual to mass.

Perhaps the sound alludes to a space elsewhere, and so it might produce space rather than record it, and in turn maybe the sound produces an audience rather than attempting to faithfully record or authentically represent it. Perhaps the sound even jars or somehow disconnects with ones visual image of the audience, especially since many of the sounds are mechanical or animalistic. The idea that the unseen audience, audience underbelly (!!), or something to do with an aspect of the audience that can’t be visually represented, might here start to become tangible is really exciting. People as a collection of animals, machines, materials…?


Audiable Audience
We asked for 3 very specific sounds, one made by the mouth, another by the body and a third by other material. The sounds are in sequences of categories, and are layered on top of each other, so more than one track plays at once. All sounds recorded are played simultaneously and looped – cca 40 tracks playing over the top of each other.