3 Channel Audio Installation
Matthias Kassmannhuber 2009
Contextually situated somewhere between 1970’s sound compositions using feedback, like Steve Reich’s Pendulum Music or Body Feedback by Tom Marioni, generative music and minimal sculptural aesthetics known from artists like Olafur Eliasson, Reflections is a spatial sound installation measuring aural and architectural space in an artistic and audible manner. Yet it differs significantly from the performative contexts the preceding feedback related works were presented in.
Feedback, in its various forms and derivatives also serves as the conceptual foundation of this piece. The artist bridges thoughts about the phenomenon of feedback with the various disciplines it permeates, starting from cybernetics, the science of steersmanship, to self- organisation, autopoiesis, randomness and its connection to generative music. Apart from these conceptual backgrounds, he also raises, to some extent, the subject of surveillance (the scanning motion of the glass and the beams of sound almost resembling searchlights), in relation with law enforcement - the technology used in this piece has recently seen a premiere as a sonic weapon at the last G20 summit in Pittsburgh, used by police to control and repel demonstrators.
The installation itself consists of three hypersonic loudspeakers, capable of generating directional sound with an unparalleled focus by using the distortion of ultrasound in the air to create audible frequencies, giving it a light-like quality. Hung from the ceiling, they are pointed at a randomly rotating glass plate that serves as a reflective surface which deflects the emitted sound throughout the room and eventually back to its source. Situated at this origin are microphones picking up the signals and sending them back to the speakers therefore creating a stable feedback loop. The emerging sounds are varying textures similar to sine waves, whose pitch, timbre and rhythm depends entirely on the aural properties of the surrounding space and the movements of the glass plate, since the only sound source is the white noise of the system itself. The piece therefore scans the room and measures the aural space around it.
Further, due to the fact that it relies on feedback of directional sound (which is far more controllable than feeding back regular speaker – microphone combinations, which tend to oscillate out of control at some point, especially in close quarters) and the random movement of the reflector, the composition of sounds will change depending on the recipients and how they move through the exhibition space. This makes it a unique experience every time visited since it reacts delicately to the amount of people in the exhibition space and even to the different clothes they are wearing, even though it isn't, strictly speaking, interactive but merely randomly controlled. The reactivity becomes apparent when approaching a speaker - the reflective glass surface is replaced by the human body of the recipient, which now serves as a deflector, but at a much closer distance, and therefore triggers an instant change in the overall soundscape of the installation, turning the recipient into a performer who has, at least to some extent, control over the composition.
Exhibited at "Noise Control", IMT Gallery London, 2009