My work at STEIM consisted of work on a project titled Inheritance. My time was divided between studio recording, daily walks through the ribcage shaped canals that form the inner part of the city, and field recordings of intersections of different strata of activity, which, in this city, seem to converge seamlessly to occupy the same space.
Inheritance is a sound and video piece I will be working on through 2014. It is a piece about immersion and presence, themes that are extensions of the ideas of agency that I have dealt with in past projects. My question while at STEIM was, how to express immersion and presence through the language of sound. I found the new phenomena of Whisper Videos to be relevant to what I see as a longing for presence (or being rooted in time and space). That our arms and limbs can go numb from a profound stillness we have cultivated with our hi tech extensions and cyberbodies, renders the tingling sensation numerous people feel as a result of these videos an awakening of sorts. If you have never seen a Whisper Video, they can be found easily on youtube. I studied these and used some of the sonic qualities of them in recordings I did in the studio, recording textured materials being crumpled, lips and saliva sounds and other sibilant noises. I started to feel like a foley artist. And I remembered some of my earliest excitement about sound- as a kid at the movies hearing the sound of cars tires on gravel or pavement in a scene. I always got excited when there would be a sound like this and the texture became the lead actor for a moment within the film.
At STEIM, I was the only resident artist and to avoid feeling in a bubble of my own construct, I tried to get lost a few times, which is both difficult and easy. I found that the use of public space and the proximity of different spheres of activity was the largest cultural difference between Amsterdam and cities in America. That the same small spot could be home to bikers, lovers, tourists, playing children, partiers, and also a thoroughfare for people moving from space to space was truly like watching multiple trapeze artists skillfully navigate space. The convergence of sounds in these spaces too fascinated me. So I made many recordings of these kinds of shared spaces. And I wondered if this fascinating social aspect of the spot could come through in the sound.
Staying in the “penthouse” at STEIM also afforded me a certain sonic perspective that was at once personal, private and lofty, while being flooded by sounds of people’s intimate daily rituals. For the first few days I had a strange experience. I was convinced that someone was trying to get my attention in various ways. Occasionally, I would hear several kinds of whistles, the kinds meant to get another person or dog’s attention. Interspersed in these whistle types I heard a brief alarm clock sounding (the digital alarm clock sound of the staccato de de de de). After a few days hearing this every morning and night I realized there was a pattern to the combined whistles, a composition, a regularity. And I soon understood that it was some type of bird that was making these sounds. Sounds of disruption or interruption- attention whistling, alarm clock, “hey you!” types of sounds. I spent a good deal of time trying to get a decent recording of the mystery bird.
I am now winding together these different expressions of immersion and disruption, using the sound and video I accumulated while in STEIM. There is a text I am writing that will surface as multiple narrations. I hope to be able to share this people by the end of 2014.
Thanks for having me! ~~~~~~~Jenny Gräf