Transcript of a public conversation held during the opening seminar of This Must Be The Place (pick me up and turn me round (part one)) at Kino Kino, Sandnes on Saturday 14 September 2014. Author and critic Rob Young hosted/moderated the discussion. Participants were Synne Bull, Ellen Røed, Signe Lidén, Anne Marthe Dyvi, Trond Lossius, Morten Eide Pedersen and Jeremy Welsh.
Rob: I want to start by asking a bit from the curatorial point of view. Could any one of you talk about Re:place and how your practices there have impacted on this show, and I would also like to talk a bit about the title of this show as well. It has quite an interesting title This must be the place as if it was a lyric that you´ve pulled out from a Talking Heads catalogue. You used pick me up and turn me round as a subtitle, which is interesting. Could you talk a bit about the title and the curatorial thinking behind this show?
Jeremy: I would say to begin with: it is not a curated show, it is a collaboration between the people who have been attached to the project and who have contributed to the show with things that they are working on relative to the overall theme, so none of us has taken the role of curator, but it has evolved in a particular way through discussions and workshops and through trying things out together. In that sense you might say that it kind of has curated itself. I suppose all of us have been excluding things that wouldn´t fit within the framework. As for the title, that happened in the same way that you do when you try to find a name for your band; we tried many different names. We didn´t want to use Re:place as a title for the exhibition as we wanted to give the exhibition a particular identity that could have some kind of life or quality and then the “turn me round” thing just fitted perfectly as there is so much spinning going on in this exhibition!
Trond: I also think that using this kind of title for the exhibition, or exhibitions as there are two, this one and the next in Sandnes Kunstforening, we felt that it would be useful to give them both titles that came together, to illustrate how these two tie together. So we are using This must be the place- I love the passing of time, which is another phrase from the same song. Which of course resonates with the works that we are showing there.
Rob: One phrase that came to my mind today as I was looking around in the show, one phrase that sounds or must be from a Brian Eno track from the 1970’s, which is “the velocity of place”. Because it seems like a lot of the works here, except maybe with some interesting exceptions, seem to examine certain locations, but it seems very much it’s about the pace of the rate of change of these particular locations. We might think of place in a very static sense, I think it is a word that proposes a very static sense of observation and also the title “this must be the place” suggests someone encountering a very specific location as fixed, but what is interesting for many of the works in the exhibition is that sense they give you of a fixed location evolving all the time, there is a lot of movement in it, and as you say there is a lot of circularity, a lot of evolution. I think the most extreme example is your piece and your husband’s, (Bull.Miletic) with so many layers of evolving moments. We are in revolving restaurants, we are seeing the urban development in motion, traffic and weather. And of course, the room they are installed in gives an immense experience of movement because of all the rotating machines and projections. I think that is the most extreme example but I think it seems to me as a strong theme in the show, and I thought we could talk about place as something moving through time. Trond, your piece downstairs is very much dealing with this?
Trond: Yes, it is an interesting observation that you make here. The field recordings that I am using are recorded in different kinds of suburban environments in the Ruhr region. It is not the only suburban recordings that I have been doing in recent years. Earlier this year I did recordings in Stoke on Trent and I have been doing a lot of them at Sotra, which is where I live, west of Bergen. In particular at Sotra, it was a way of questioning myself about what is the soundscape of Sotra actually like? Like a revisiting of the ideas of Murray Schafer concerning the soundscape. Because there is so much weather, wind and rain there and through all these changes it occurred to me that our idea of place is often represented in a geological, very static way. But if you do a recording there and then again an hour later, it is basically a different place in many ways, so I think places are in many ways much more in flux, they change whether that is the enactment of weather or of people being there or passing through. So yours is a comment that makes a lot of sense I think.
Synne: Yes, I think it is very much right on track in terms of what we all have in common, everything is in flux, as so powerfully illustrated by the last of Michelle Terans’ works, you think you have something stable but in the next moment it could break apart. Life is very fragile and I think we struggle to accept that everything is movement. The revolving restaurant is a perfect example of an architecture that feeds on the desire of a total overview, a total control but at the same time, that very overview also gives a feeling of dizzyness and nauseousness, caused by sensory overload or vertigo or a combination of the two.
Jeremy: I think with the revolving restaurant as a phenomenon, also interior to a work like theirs, is the utopian moment that is always on the verge of collapse. That energy which is inherited there is very interesting, so I think we are looking at various time scales but in a way all of them have some sort of feeling of compression and expansion built in, so the things that I have been looking at in the piece that I´ve been showing here have a very long history. The oldest objects in this video are from almost 200 years ago and the most recent ones are immediately before the whole factory was closed down, about six years ago. They are the same kind of thing but the way they appear, the way that they are made and presumably also the way that they are used have changed and evolved over that long historical period and suddenly it stops, there is a rupture, they don´t have any function any more but they still have encoded in them some sort of potential for continuation. It is this sense of abrupt interruption of history that I find interesting.
Rob: we should probably say that Spode China, that you have been visiting is one of the oldest factories..it dates from the industrial revolution.
Jeremy: It has all sorts of layers of history, it has a long tradition...from the industrial revolution, but is is also one of the great trademarks of the empire, so it has these kinds of political things to it that makes it all...complicated.
Rob: That touches upon something that we perhaps could explore a little bit, because Jeremy, you are English, and in Britain these days you can’t go anywhere without bumping into a psycho geographer...It is sort of a field of alternative research that has penetrated literature, you know people like Sinclair and Robert McFallen? And the novelist WG Sebald, although German, he was mostly working in Britain. It is a sort of sense of traversing landscapes that are very rich in history, observing a sense of decay and resonating with some kind of forces, maybe even occult forces in the landscape both in the countryside and in the city. Having moved to Norway, I find it much harder to read the landscape than I can do in Britain, as when I walk around in Britain there is always some kind of battle that has happened there, or some kind of ancient stone circle that resonates in the landscape, whereas in Norway I find it much more hard to read the landscape. Maybe it is my radar, but this is something I want to extend across the whole panel: when we deal with place, how much are we interested in channeling these kinds of... spirits of place, which is something that I think is quite inherent in the British state of mind. Is that something that crosses over with a Norwegian way of experiencing place?
Ellen: I think it is a very difficult question. I have been wondering about the whole Norwegian landscape tradition as a very much image based tradition that has a lot to do with vistas and views on one hand, on the other hand it has to do with the new territory that has not been touched by the masses before. Many Norwegians, like the British, spend a lot of time walking in the mountains and I think a part of this drive is the illusion that nobody has been here before. And this is an idea that is very strongly preserved in the way we approach nature and it is considered a taboo to leave traces because then you destroy this experience for other people, so I think this preservative approach to nature doesn’t resonate so well to that way of thinking, but I am not sure.
Rob: It is a feature that I felt quite strongly in Signe´s piece in the big cinema upstairs. Something which makes it interesting is that it is actually field recordings. Field recordings have been used in a wide range of contemporary music and as we just heard in the last presentation, also in sound art. We have people like Jana Winderen and Chris Watson and these kinds of figures who are releasing CDs of pure location recording, presented as a piece of music or a piece of sound. Signe´s piece has elements of that in it but what is interesting here is that it seems like Signe takes the microphone for a walk as far as I can tell, it is beyond picking up the sound from a certain location. It is like using the microphone as an investigating tool, moving from a village or a town, following the sound towards a more industrial complex outside the peaceful village. The microphone turns into this detection device. I think that is an interesting approach, using the microphone to take you on a journey through. Would you like to talk a bit about your work?
Signe: What I am searching for through my recordings of places is in a way impossible, because what I am interested in is what is no longer there and I use the microphone as a digging tool in search for it. Sinclair, Sebald and the psychogeographical approach to landscape is relevant to my work upstairs. I often choose to work with quite symbolic places which almost figure as scenography for ideas, sociocultural movements or history. Histories which have left traces or scars on us but are passé or have found new places. Many of my locations are already decaying, about to change into something else or are in a state of limbo, as is the situation in the region of Bytom and upper Silesia where I did the recordings for this work. Through approaching its soundscape as an echo, I use the microphone to dig by walking. I think this walking and digging is the form, not only of the way the piece is recorded but also the way it is installed in the space. As the sound sources are spread out on the floor, the piece changes when you walk around on the stage, which means that you will have a very different experience of it if you stand still and listen or explore it by walking. Actually the idea for how it was installed came prior to the recordings, since the old cinema too, once apparently the largest in Norway in the 1940’s, a limbo in a way. The architecture and lights are the original but the seats are gone and instead an odd stage is built on top of the amphitheatre. I wanted to turn this stage into a loudspeaker and to make a piece that sounded like an echo of a film that once could have been shown. So in a way it is two layers of imagined echoes and formally two layers of digging, walking, searching.
Rob: This walk through the landscape made me think of the earlier movement that drew artists back into the field, the land art movement. I was wondering about this early land art movement in relation to the works that we see in this exhibition. As the land art artists often made sculptures and would work with and in the landscape, leaving traces, whereas for the works that we get much more here are works that are examining these sites in a more forensic way. I would say, an examining for example in your work Trond where you can see the microphone in a frame, you are aware that this as a project in space being documented. Do any of you site yourselves in relation to these earlier traditions of situating oneself into the landscape?
Jeremy: then you have to turn to Anne Marthe as she is the only one who directly interfered with the site around.
Rob: Yes, Anne Marthe, you left bits and pieces around.
Anne Marthe: This place, KinoKino, has been my space of exploration, and I would like to pick up on something which has been brought up earlier in the talk, the spirit of a place. I have tried to get to know this building and interpret the spirit. You can say that KinoKino and I have had an ongoing conversation for a long time now.
The original way of using this building has changed, for example the doors behind Signe´s space, when you had to leave the cinema, these were the doors you would exit to get out. So the whole building, both outside and inside is new in a sense, or different. I think I have been searching for the original body of KinoKino. The building has a lot of overlooked spots, all our surroundings have, and I have been digging in a very concrete way to make them more visible.
I want to mention something else, that came to mind when you talked about the British landscape, Rob. I found a stonehenge! It is a stonehenge not far from here, called Domsteinene. Similar traces of the past that you find in Britain. I was out biking one of the days to get to know the area around Sandnes and I accidentally passed it. There was nobody there, not like the Stonehenge in south of England with buses with tourists stopping. But the spirit was possible to pick up on. I think it is more to do with us, than the space or place. The spirits of them are all around us. We have to open up, use our senses, be the sensor. Anyway, I think the change of the building KinoKino is a part of the same ongoing change that Jeremy is talking about. A change of values.
Rob: Is it a sense of nostalgia that you talk about or how do you perceive people’s relation to these changes?
Synne: I think this particular cinema represents, for me anyway, a sense of loss of a specific way moving images entered and became part of everyday life. As the double feature of City Hall and Cinema signals, this old Sandnes Kino was an important part of society like so many other cinemas at the time prior to broadcast media. This was the site for news and information, this was where two new feature films came on every week and everybody saw them. This was the city’s public social space, where people met up with the crowd exiting the cinema to discuss the recent experience. The exhibition venue, KinoKino, came as a replacement when the screenings had already been long gone and all activity was moved to the new multiplex-cinema downtown. But there was not enough money to renovate the big cinema theatre upstairs, so that still exists to this day as a huge and decaying cinematic time capsule. This change happened with television and finally the VHS in 1982. Now, in 2013, we are in the midst of experiencing another big change in how we are perceiving moving images. The 19th century saw the rise and fall of the Painted Panorama, and the 20th the rise and fall of cinema. The 21st introduced networked technologies and flatscreens, and we now have millions of different digital platforms, iphones and tablets as well as ambitious home theatre installations. So the last seminar in the Re:place series will try to discuss this, the title is “Re:placing the Cinematic” and brings scholars and artists from different cinematic and expanding fields together to discuss “where is cinema today”?
Rob: I wanted to ask you about the Cern piece, that is another fascinating dissection of that particular accelerator. Could you talk about this piece and how it was developed? You went into its archive and for example into this dialogue around finding a name for the accelerator, which is the genesis moment because everybody seems to choose names from Greek mythology, one of the most ancient stories that we have, and then the names of constellations. It is fascinating that always when there is a new movement in art and music and also it seems in science, at the kind of cusp of modernity, there is always a sense that people tend toward framing or naming these modernities, people often go back to the ancient origins and mythologies. I was wondering if these were ideas that you had when you were extracting these aspects of the archive?
Ellen: I think the mythological part of this work came along with the search into the archives and I think one of our main interests in these letters is in them as documents of negotiation. An aspect that has been important for both of us, especially in relation to place, like how to come back to Schafer, the tuning of the world, how to create a place is a constant negotiation through devices, through your body. We have been reading a lot of documents and reading about the negotiation of where to place the accelerator, where to put it, and then the documents of the naming of the place became a representation of the communal attempt to create a place, a new foundation of a platform for a brand new way of perceiving or understanding the world. It was also an attempt through collaboration to heal some of the wounds from the 2nd world war and in that sense it has similarities with the art world´s Documenta. As for the sound piece, we have tried to contain this negotiation as something that the listener has to do with his own body. And it is the same with Signe´s sound piece upstairs, there is nothing fixed or given.
Jeremy: I just want to add in that in the early discussions of the project and in what we could do, it was chosen as a kind of a metaphor of place in its extreme, which is also artificially constructed, as Ellen just said, from international negotiations. But I also would say that it probably also represents the end of the space, our frontier of knowledge about the entire world. You can say that the point when a particle accelerates to the fastest speed possible, “place” ceases to exist, seems to be an impossibility at that moment, and there is something nice and kind of poetic about that idea I think.
Rob: Lets open the discussion up to the public. Anyone?
Per Qvist: Jeremy, if the exhibition had been curated, would it have been much different?
Jeremy: I supposed that would depend on who had been curating it.
Trond: I would say that in one way that the point when this exhibition was curated was when the application was being written with the people involved and so on. As this is a research project, a curator could easily interfere with the research aspect of this, still of course it has been a discussion between us back and forth on finding solutions for making this exhibition in the best way possible and I have particularly been interested that we make this function as well as possible for everyone, where everybody gets a space that works for them. It hasn´t been a strict curation but deliberate choices have been made, with a degree of consistency, some choices already taken from the point of initiation of the project and some throughout the process.
Lars Ove Toft: Morten, do you find that your way of thinking composition is different or more alike the way the visual artists in the group think of composition?
Morten: I could say as we usually do: yes and no. Do you think in terms of music and art, that something could go in between or cooperate in both directions? I think yes. When we create music and when I talk to my students who come from a very practical and tactile instrumental background, you do something and then we create sound. But what is sound representing? And what do you create when you want to free yourself from the instrument and the moment itself when the sound is being created? Visually, very often you scribble, you sketch, or speak, or dance or whatever. Then first, we might see clearly how things come together because you free yourself from one music or art tradition. Still, you need to be careful that you know enough about what you do and the fields which you are stepping into, is it adding, or adding in the wrong sense?
Lars Ove Toft: I was also thinking now when you have been working with this exhibition? Until now, you have talked about the things around the exhibition but how has the group work been, has being a part of this group changed or affected the different works?
Morten: In my case, yes very much. Initially I came with some ideas to use certain technologies or strategies of working with the material and then through listening, watching, to see what is in the air, so to say, pick something up and work further on that. And from when I arrived here in the exhibition space a few days ago and saw the line-up of works, to understand what is possible and what is not possible, I tried to build up ideas from this. In a way, this is what I think is important in general in art: you have to have a lot of background knowledge and then, in the moment you have to be quick and do something that has some strength and can communicate. What is difficult is to leave so much behind and see what you sit back with, but you must trust it, which is stressful always.
Jeremy: For me in particular, the sound impacts obviously very directly on my piece as it is sharing the same space. It has been very interesting observing how they have been trying out different combinations of sources. They have been listening and watching, watching and listening to the sound in the room. Not to the sound source itself but what the sound does to the room, so for me it was very instructive in a way, of thinking about how they are thinking about how I am thinking about my work and the space, so it has been a very interesting dialogue going on there.
Rob: I wanted to just ask in the end about the choices of the sources that we are seeing in the particular works in the show. Synne, the revolving restaurants are apparently a recurring theme in your practice the past ten years but how did it start? Was it that you happened to be in revolving restaurant one day with your camera and started questioning them?
Synne: Exactly. That is how I work, and how we work. It started with the revolving restaurant in Las Vegas and we caught something then, in 2001, that we have been working with since. It is only now that we actually found a name for it: found cinema or cinema trouvé. Which is a cinematic experience that you get outside of the cinema, through mechanical movement through space, for example like elevators, escalators, train rides etc. It is something that we have been very interested in and that we are investigating through the camera. So in many of our works we use these types of mechanical elements , Ferris Wheels and things like that, as operators for the camera. So we have not been so occupied with the framing but more of sending the camera out in space, getting the information and working with it afterwards.
Trond: Are you planning to work with drones?
Synne: That is something that we are super interested in, yes.
Rob: Also Trond, obviously your piece is a montage of different locations. There is a crossroad there in several sequences and I am wondering about why that particular location. Is it just the audio aspect or?
Trond: It is sort of a long story of how I arrived at this and this work is an experiment in a sense, it is in a way that I am venturing into a new field where I am making my first experiences. I have been working with spatial audio installations for a very long time and that has led into a more general interest in how we perceive sound in space and how we perceive space through sound.
This Must Be The Place (I love the passing of time (part 2)) at Sandnes Kunstforening opened on 24 October, featuring works by Line Bøhmer Løkken and Eamon O’Kane. Questions to Line and Eamon follow….