last week i did a small performance/occupation/process work at west space gallery, as the first in a series of project about the role of headphones/sound in the public sphere. it was an impromptu work, facilitated by the presentation of the great sound art show magnetic traces, curated by philip samartzis and eric la casa.
my particular work was in response to the piece by jean-luc guionnet, lac. lac was the sound object of a working lake in france, transported to the gallery in melbourne – the rush of water, the sound of boats and littoral public life was amplified into the main space.
i did a feedback loop of sorts – me sitting in the space for the duration of the lac work with headphones on: not listening to the ambient sounds of the public which are transported into the private domain, by listening to the sounds from a private domain, by a member of ‘the public’.
being and not-being, whilst being and not-being.
it was quite an enlightening experience and valuable research for my masters, which looks at the reconfiguration of space through headphone use*. i found myself regularly switching between being ‘present’ in the gallery, and then remembering the last time i heard the particular song, or some other kind of connection. it was interesting to be hangin’ out, experientially speaking, in the interstitial space of real time and nostalgia.
and in terms of heaphones as a social ‘code’, headphones in a gallery say ‘participation’ in a way that they clearly do not in the public realm. in fact, they’re more in line with adorno’s sense of ‘we-ness’ than at any other time. and in the gallery, i confused some poor chap who couldn’t hear anything in the peace and assumed it was being transmitted into headphones. he asked phip if he could have a set and she had to explain that some slightly potty artist was doing an artwork and that it wasn’t a headphone piece. i’m glad, though, that i found out about this little ‘interaction’ – it did reveal what i thought to be true anyway about some of the clear ‘messages’ that headphone-wearing has in the crossover between public and private.
it was also a great chance to respond to another artists work on an authentic level, without paying homage, or critiquing the work, but creating an echo of it from a place of appreciation and connection.
tomorrow some friends and i will be listening to the sounds of the city using/not using headphones. it’s the extended remix of the listening to the city work from earlier in the year. expect to see more soon.
*extending from theory about the effect of radio and walkmans on the public by kracauer, bull and adorno.