Installation : Audio: A magnetic attraction (2012)

Installation held at Wolstenhome Creative Space, Liverpool, UK, as part of the ‘Fixation’ exhibition. Brief video here

Found Sounds – a Magnetic Attraction is a multichannel sound installation with accompanying video. It is a made possible by an obsessive process of accumulation and its sub-processes: seeking, acquiring, processing, categorizing, digitizing, storing and using hundreds of audio tapes on various obsolete or semi-obsolete formats, which in turn reveal society’s fixation with documenting and captutring moments. In 1968 Ray Davies of the Kinks captured this in popular culture when he wrote:

People take pictures of each other,
Just to prove that they really existed.
People take pictures of each other,
And a moment could last them forever,
Of the time when they mattered to someone.

People take pictures of the Summer,
Just in case someone thought they had missed it,
And to proved that it really existed.

A magnetic attraction reflects a couple of premises of  Nicolás Bourriaud’s ‘The altermodern’:

 – Increased communication, travel and migration are affecting the way we live; our daily lives consist of journeys in a chaotic and teeming universe. The effect on art is a new modernity which is global from scratch.

– In a world which has been completely ‘Google mapped’, there is little if any ‘terra incognita’ left. All the ‘geographical’ continents have been explored. As such, history could be considered the last unexplored ‘continent’.[1]

‘ (Thanks to the internet and digitization) we can never again filter our experiences through the incomplete distortion field that is our memory; the distortion field that enables us to take up the perceived essence of a moment in a creative way and distort it still further. Instead, we are doomed to watching those old Elvis performances over and over; seeing Hendrix at Woodstock over and over; trying to look up Marilyn Monroe’s windblown skirt one more time. We have recordings from the 20s and films from the 30s, but they are technologically flawed, making them feel, in Figgis’ mind, more like analog poems than digital clones’.[2]

Are the quaint little audio artefacts presented in  Found Sounds – a Magnetic Attraction a testament to a bygone originality?

Over time, what started out as a shoebox containing few recordings found in Merseyside jumble sales has grown into an international archive incorporating tapes found in Argentina, France, Spain, Germany, the USA, Canada and Holland. The act of gathering the material has also taken over a major part of this artist’s life and living/working spaces; a daily process of skip-diving and visits to junk shops and fleamarkets ensures the continued growth of the archive and underpins an artistic direction.

The found sounds can be seen as unexplored moments of history – fragile ones in fact, as most tapes were obtained only hours before being consigned to landfill and lost forever. In a world entering the altermodern era, which has been completely ‘Google mapped’, there is little if any ‘terra incognita’ left. All the ‘geographical’ continents have been explored. As such, history could be considered the last unexplored ‘continent’.[1]


[1] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bqHMILrKpDY and http://www.tate.org.uk/britain/exhibitions/altermodern/manifesto.shtm

The piece consists of two elements:1. A video (duration approx. 40 mins) consisting of  images of found tapes, each accompanied by a brief sound segment of that recording. This is a sort of virtual overview of the archive.

2. A number of cassette machines  will be laid out on a table. Those visiting the exhibition will be able to physically select and play back a number of  cassette copies of Found Recordings.  Each tape is accompanied by an information sheet detailing when and where found, overview of content, etc.

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exhibition images courtesy J. Shanks
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