The footage itself is actually slowed down through video manipulation software.
Created with Apple Mac ‘text to speech’ software using the voice of “Vicki”. This software sometimes mis-pronounces words where emphasis is needed.
“…the revolution came with the initial capturings of the voice over a century ago, and even then it’s debatable as to whether mass acousmatization via sound recording and transmission had the same impact on the human psyche as the reduction of reality to an endlessly-reproducible (and disposable) photograph, or if the changeover from analog to digital sound is as radical as the jump from grainy film stock to HD video in terms of a perception of reality” (Licht, 2010)
The collaboration between Jeff Harbourne and myself took place entirely virtually, via sent files, emails and phone discussions.
“Conceived for, made for, and experienced within a particular part of a particular city, Janet Cardiff ’s walks paradoxically thrive on the disjuncture between what is being heard or described and what is being seen. After five years and some 20,000 other participants, I just borrowed The Missing Voice from Whitechapel Library again. The disjunctures have become gradually more pronounced, but the work holds together just as well. I wonder now what the experience of the work will be like in a hundred years’ time.” (Lingwood, 2004)
Zeppelinbend: Multiplicity, encyclopaedic strategies and nonlinear methodologies for a visual practice
Drawing on Italo Calvino’s notion of multiplicity, the Zeppelinbend research project investigates its possibilities, using the internet as an information source, for generating multiple associations and constructing these into an ever-expanding digital archive out of which to create new art works in digital and material forms.
Italo Calvino’s notion of ‘multiplicity’ as applied to literature (1988) forms a paradigm for the research. This stems from Calvino’s lecture ‘Multiplicity’, which introduced the notion of the "...contemporary novel as an encyclopaedia, as a method of knowledge, and above all as a network of connections between the events, the people, and things of the world" (Calvino, 1988, p. 105). Differing from Calvino, this methodology is applied as a process for making artworks.
Calvino uses the novelist Carlo Emilio Gadda as an example, describing Gadda’s writing process as one in which the writer "...tried all his life to represent the world as a knot, a tangled skein of yarn; to represent it without in the least diminishing the inextricable complexity or, to put it better, the simultaneous presence of the most disparate elements" (Calvino 1988, p.106) Calvino focuses on how Gadda’s digressions and descriptions multiply to become almost infinite. He also draws upon the unfinished novel as a result of the process and here there is a direct parallel with the archive and its resulting practice, which also implies infinitely multiplying associations.
Initially the method of applying notions of multiplicity concerned the sole production of the Archive which connects the unconnected, using combinations of mundane and unusual objects, text, images and film in the creation of an ever expanding digital network. The archive, while constituting a work in itself, is then used as a production tool, a central platform from which new practice can multiply. The first layer of works are referred to as ‘satellite film works’ that have a point of departure within an archive page, usually a list or word which is then used to create narratives. The second layer of work utilises these satellite film works to create further works (as with The Wings 2009, for example). This process has the potential to infinitely continue and multiply.
The practice is hybrid, involving the production of works that are immaterial/online and material/physical. This hybridity necessitates testing the notion of ‘mobilised sites’ where work is shown (sometimes simultaneously) in both online and material spaces. This process for the dissemination of the work also interrogates how the work might be received, read or used and the difference in audiences for each site.
Hybridity is also present in the methods of production where a symbiotic co-authorship exists between (myself as) author and search engines as ‘co-authors’. The process of digital appropriation from the Internet and also the digital presentation of the work references McKenzie Wark’s theories of the ‘hack’: "In art, in science, in philosophy and culture, in any production of knowledge where data can be gathered, where information can be extracted from it, and where in that information new possibilities for the world produced, there are hackers, hacking the new out of the old". (Wark, 2004, s.004)
The submission is structured as a website so that holistically the presentation of the research mirrors the methodology of the practice itself, connecting the separate parts as a net. Its online presence reflects the fact that the digital plays a central role in the research and the practice it generates from its conception to its presentation. This enables the practice to be cross-referenced with theoretical concerns discussed in the form of four pieces of writing titled under ‘critical context’, including extended footnotes and internal and external links that provide an overview of the research. This also makes it possible for the visual work to be accessed online at different points throughout the commentary when it is referred to. The open ended nature of the activity is in many respects captured by the website format at the time of submission.The archive itself will continue beyond the boundary of the PhD to expand and exist as a continuing laboratory for the further creation of art works: "...found arks of lost moments in which the here and now of the work functions as a possible portal between an unfinished past and a reopened future". (Foster, 2004, p.15)
Below is a list of each section of the website (with links) in the order they appear on the left hand menu with an overview of what each contains:
An explanation is provided of the origin of the name zeppelinbend, the name of a knot reflecting the structure of interconnectedness that threads throughout the practice.
A brief summary of the key methodologies used and hypotheses tested.
A summary of the research and explanation of the submission, including an outline of Calvino’s notion of multiplicity.
Twelve art works developed through the project and generated by the methodology described above. These consist of film works, installation, digital works, photography and drawing. Each work has a page in which films, images, contextual explanations, narratives and information about the testing of the work in various sites can be found.
Spitfire Beach (2010) film/sculpture/photography
The Wings (2009) film/installation
The Messenger (2008) film
Apprehension (2007) film
The Cloud Collector (2007) film
The Cloud Collector Installation (2007) Interactive projection
Odoo (2007) film
Archive H (2007) Interactive archive
The Emperor of The Moon (2006) film
Testbed Archive (2006) Interactive projection
eBay (2006) Interactive drawings
Arcade Games (2006) Installation
The interactive archive that formed the basis of the project. This is a self-contained archive of combinations of Internet sourced imagery and text with my own images and fictionalised text. It also contains film works where they stem from an archive entry.
A series of hyperlinked texts critically articulating the primary themes of the research and providing the context for the art works. The critical context themes were derived from the originally identified ‘key terms’: Fluid Archives, Appropriation and The Hack, Non-linear Structures and Narrative. The process of writing these texts mirrored elements of the research process: the collection of key (referenced) quotes appropriated from a wide variety of sources create parallels with concerns within the practice and cite examples of precedents from contemporary art practice. The contextual texts in the submission act to demonstrate a form of praxis, the practical application of various theories and their relationship within the work. The relationship of the different and sometime disparate themes within the work(s) are merged and drawn together through the cross-referenced (hyperlinked) text, which places these themes in the context of the specific methodologies, processes and works used throughout the research.
Hyperlinked documentation testing the practice in 'mobilised sites' (material and digital) from 2006-2010. Associated research in the form of conference papers, visits, interviews and symposia attended.
The research objectives identified at MPhil stage were as follows, and the extent to which each has been addressed is outlined :
As discussed in the Fluid Archives section of the critical context writing, the archive was originally created in a linear format. Since then the disruption of this format has been developed so that the structure of the archive is now a combination of forking paths, loops, dead-ends, seemingly infinite linearity and crossing paths. This results in differing experiences for a user and ultimately reflects the unpredictability of linked information (as on the Internet). Systems of randomness are also discussed and reflected upon in the critical context writing section Non-Linear Structures.
The methodology as outlined above has been expanded and to-date there are six satellite works, five of which are film works with a direct lineage to an archive page. Alongside this, satellite works have been used themselves to create new connective branches and points of departure for further practice. (see practice section)
Both the digital and material works have been tested in sites offline and online and the evaluation and reflection of the testing is contained within the critical context writing. The medium of the work also becomes fluid as the format of the work becomes flexible, adaptable and open to continual re-sampling, so a number of works have been re-presented in different formats and sites.
Notions of control of knowledge are discussed in the Appropriation and The Hack section of the critical context writing. The Archive’s contents, while reflecting entropy, are reigned in and organised by an underlying classification system that is the medium of the website. Its presentation online reflects concerns located around the 'Hack', and it remains a work to be freely appropriated and re-used.
The trajectory of the research includes the six film works and it can be seen that chronologically as each film is constructed different considerations are posed for the use of sound. Taking the first film The Emperor of The Moon (2006) as an example, it is evident that the use of a voiceover to read the narrative is a first step in utilising audio voiceovers alongside visuals. The selection of an electronic voice creates a dominant automaton presence which functions to deliver the story devoid of place and emotion. Unintentionally, the mechanistic quality serves the story well, adding an element of unsettlement that reflects the character’s situation. The film’s imagery is related to the story (unlike later films) and in this sense co-operates with the audio. The near static imagery of the ferry boat returning to the cruise ship gives a slowed sense of time  , and this is heightened by the disjointed mechanical audio delivery as the computer attempts to imitate speech  . This delivery makes the audio difficult to understand so subtitles were added. Reading subtitles with the audio results in a viewer receiving less of the film imagery (as reading is required) so that the small amount of movement contained within the film, balances the request for a viewers attention as ‘…the listener accedes to the slippage of time’. (Toop, 2010, p. VII)
In considering the use of voice, nearly all of the films' voiceovers have a ‘fixed pace’ with very little intonation, almost no pauses and the narration could be seen as merely functional in that it recites the narrative. The use of a pause(s) in this case could result in a silence that requires attention, an unexpected gap that is space for suggestion, contemplation, an emphasis on the passing of time and perhaps might make use of absence where presence is expected. The recording process of the voiceovers has previously been in the hands of the narrator and perhaps the digitisation that expertly smoothes and encodes the voice might be disrupted so that ambient noise, glitches and interference could be incorporated . A further development might include voice in a non-traditional way, altering the functionality of voice by creating sound mediated by not using words, losing the attachment and expectation of signifying meaning, whereby the narrator becomes both speaker of information (narrative) and instrument of sound.
In Elizabeth Price’s 2009 film User Group Disco the narrative is delivered via text rather than a voiceover. The text appears machine typed in different formats at specific intervals throughout the film, delivering ardent messages. The text is taken from found texts, a combination of management and knowledge-organisation theory, with elements from apocalyptic essays by Theodor Adorno, Edgar Allan Poe and Jorge Luis Borges. The text, sound and visuals are all choreographed to appear at specific intervals, creating a building sense of expectation and intensity that fits with the seductive high definition futuristic shots of functional objects, which appear to be moving on their own. The music by Jem Noble creates a sci-fi sense of disquiet in its pauses and silences but builds into rhythmic seductive melodies from popular songs that create a sense of exhilaration.
Apprehension (2007) is the first film to incorporate music. The method for the production of the score was to collaborate with a musician, Jeff Harbourne. However on reflection the construction of the sound is almost entirely handled by Harbourne, who develops a number of different scores after reading the narrative (but never viewing the film). When considering how the music is used in a collaborative set up such as with Price’s piece, the conclusion can be drawn that if collaboration were to take place in future works, it might be useful to work alongside the visuals and the musician in ‘real time’ . In Apprehension in particular it is by chance that the footage appears to respond to the rhythm of the musical score. The following film The Messenger (2008) was also originally intended to have a mix of recorded found sounds and a score by Harbourne (original score). However in editing the music with the voiceover narrative, it was felt the narrative’s pace and complexity made it difficult to integrate with a complex score, so the found recorded garden sounds were solely used. It is apparent, as in this example, that because the films have distinctly separate components that are ‘slotted’ together, this has resulted in a disjointed aspect to the use of sound.
Spitfire Beach (2010) also uses a score and voiceover and was constructed in separate parts as with previous films. The film is most successful in the early and later stages where the score seems more ambient and immersive, in keeping with the slow camera pan shots. It was decided that Spitfire Beach’s audio would be used to experiment with the use of found and recorded sound instead of music. In the re-edited audio piece the voiceover is treated with digital effects. “…the shape-shifting audio effects that can be applied to the voice can be interpreted as striking at the core of identity itself.” (Licht, 2010) The background's unverifiable found and ambient sounds are multi-layered and exist at non-equal repetitive points. Falling (much like the narrative) between semi-recognisable and abstract, the listener tunes in and out of this ‘background’. In researching other audio pieces it is evident that further manipulation could take place through creating immersion by developing 3D surrounding and passing sound.
Janet Cardiff’s The Missing Voice (1999) is an audio-walk situated in London. It consists of a multi-layered fiction that requires the listener to follow a set path. The piece features a female narrator present as two voices, a voice that guides you through the present environments of the city, and as a recording that recounts personal and civic traumas. The piece is intended to be heard on headphones while walking to create a personal experience, the narration is directed at you. The audio itself is a rich layering of voice and audio directly relating to the narrative and sites of the journey. The listener is fully immersed in the sense they are physically within the environments described (working even when the described environment has changed over time ) combined with the immersion enabled by the 3D sound design, layering voices and meticulously crafted sounds that create sonic fiction in a parallel world. This treatment of sound combined with a complex and changing narration adds a psychological element to the narrative and provides a more interactive relationship between what is seen and heard. Cardiff builds on the spectacle of what is experienced bodily via physical environments and how acoustic exaggeration and manipulation can create coincidences and new individual narratives for the listener.
The production and creation of sound for future projects might also be more closely linked to the processes and concepts of the films themselves, as the narrative and visuals are. A whole methodology can be applied to production of the audio from processes of capture to the treatment and collaging, through to placement within and alongside visuals so that a relationship between imagery and sound is integral to the film itself.
Calvino, I (1988) Six Memos for The Next Millennium. New York, Vintage.
Foster, H (2004) An Archival Impulse. October Fall 2004 vol 110: 3-22, M.A, MIT Press
Licht, A. (2010) Voice Operated: On VOICE: Vocal Aesthetics in Digital Arts and Media Rhizome.org Publications December 8th 2010 [Internet] Available from: http://rhizome.org/editorial/3903
Lingwood, J. (2004) The Missing Voice: Case Study B www.cardiffmiller.com [Internet] Available from: http://www.cardiffmiller.com/artworks/walks/missing_voice.html
Toop, D. (2010) Sinister Resonance: The Mediumship of The Listener. New York, Continuum books.
Wark, M (2004) A Hacker Manifesto. Cambridge M.A, MIT Press.