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Around (en español)

Please see Around: Demo Video (6meg)

(Get Quicktime plug-in windows or mac)

Around addresses surveillance through an interactive sound-and-sculpture installation, tuned to make the viewer conscious of her physical and mental entanglement with systems that map meaning onto experience. Searching for meaning implies a hunt for a system through which to organize experience; but if we find a system, are we not mapped or watched by it, to the degree that we allow it to sort our experiences?

Visitors to Around move at first in unprogrammed ways, interrupted by words and out-of-sync bursts of room-tone emitted in the space. Some people listen, consider, and exit unconcerned as to why sound plays – they experience Around as a fixed piece. Others walk carefully on the green felt dots, sure that will trigger more words and meaning. Visitors’ explorations of the space shift the ground-covering of green-felt sound-absorbent dots about, subtly altering the quality of the sound played in the room. Such entropic elements suggest freedom in the midst of the programmed experience. But seeking "mastery" of Around lures visitors into moving about four speakers in hypnotic, seemingly choreographed gestures. And the expectation that mastery will be rewarded with meaning is turned upon itself as the words played reveal the phrase "it's around here somewhere."

Balanced against this somewhat dark view, is an interest in Deleuze & Guattari's proposal that sound play - chromatics, as they call it - might eventually push language towards a "beyond of language". As visitors move closer to speakers, sound and intonation become quieter; moving further away increase volume & anxiety in the intoned words. With certain motions, visitors can "scratch" words. Some sensors when approached trigger recorded sound incidents present in the real room tone. Visitors play with these variables, turning temporal, spatial and linguistic logic into malleable games. Perhaps the watched can thwart the watchers.

A long loop of recorded room tone plays continuously against the real room tone, creating a subtle sound-time-space warp. This is hard to pick up in the video, but adds a dizzying quality to one’s experience of the space.

Visitors leave traces of their presence through the varying sound constructions and dot-shifts* their interactions generate. At the end of each day there remains a floor drawing – the organized grid of green dots evolves into a map of a more entropic nature. (*Grid may be re-set each day, or dots may be fixed permanently if necessary.)

Technical Notes
As a visitor approaches a speaker, sound is often emitted from speakers behind her, or from those adjacent. A ricochet effect is created which is not reproduced in the video documentation - the visitor finds herself chasing after sounds bouncing around her.


photo © 2004 Steven A. Heller. All Rights Reserved.
photo © 2004 Steven A. Heller. All Rights Reserved.