Friday, March 18, 2005

Audio as an Enchantment

Witness is an audio sculpture by the artist Susan Hiller. Tiny speakers of various lengths hang down from the ceiling. From a distance it seems like the babble of a crowd but, unlike a crowd, people are not trying to make themselves heard individually. So, each voice is more moderated, more rythmic. If you listen carefully, the combined pitches of all the steady voices sound a bit like music.

Each speaker is telling a story. For this particular sculpture, Hiller collected hundreds of accounts of people's encounter with extraterrestrials.

If you do not get a chance to see this work then you can buy the book from Artangel, which not only includes all the stories in written form but also an audio CD. First a man with a deep voice and a thick New Zealand accent tells us a story. Followed by a woman with a delicate British accent and another woman with a lazy Southern american accent. They are different ages and sexes and come from different areas and economic classes. But, their stories of abduction sound eerily the same.

As Hiller says:

I got very interested in the way that people see things and how they tell stories about what they’ve seen - sometimes it’s quite outrageous. In former times these would have been stories about angels or ghosts. Now people always tell you these UFO stories. Then I began doing this research and found out that there were just thousands of these stories.... As you walk through you’re hearing little bits of stories. I was very precise about not letting it deviate from a formal coherence. But because each voice is as individual as a fingerprint, there are no two voices that are alike in the whole piece; it becomes much more than I could have ever imagined.


The Quiet American has been releasing unquiet one-minute vacations for over two years. Its an audio presence delivered to your ears:

One-minute vacations are unedited recordings of somewhere, somewhen. Sixty seconds of something else....If it's your birthday, this is your present.


The Audium is a sound-sculpture place here in San Francisco, a project organized and run by one man who believes strongly in the solidity of sound:

We are conceived in sound
we grow
and emerge in its wake.
Our history is a collection
of sound sensations,
experiences, emotions
All uniting into an aural identity.
It is this ocean
of recollections, sound images,
dreams, memories
We share.

No comments: