London based gallery rosenfeld porcini kicked off their cultural programming with an exclusive performance from experimental sound artist Raymond Delepierre on May 24. Installation spoke with the artist about his site-specific performance and the methodology behind his audio and visual practice.
Installation Magazine: The performance Point.0 lasted a total of sixty minutes with four segments that were each fifteen minutes long. What is the structure of each segment?
Raymond Delepierre: This performance unfolds in multiple parts. The first segment (#1) is a sound composition based on word associations. Words are recited and recorded echoing other words in the same recording. The spectator is gently brought into an initial reflection, a game of memory. In spite of the many words heard, a feeling of calm and plenitude materializes through the content. This part of the performance was created after my arrival in London, blending recordings of footsteps taken in the British Museum with voices of ten people who work or visited the gallery. I then accompanied the soundtrack with harmonized sound frequencies. The following two segments consist of contemplative proposals and are biased to sound objects that I manipulate. It is more an emotional work that can be listened to with closed eyes, or even lying on the ground.
What materials were used to create the crescendo of sound and instill an emotional resonance with the audience?
The materials I used include metal roads that I tune and put in action that I got them from a toy piano. I also use liquids changing to solids, and fire. It is a piece concentrated around the looping of sound. Some sounds used in the third part (#3) were recorded on location of the tragic event in London, which occurred on May 22, 2013. Coincidentally, I’ve picked up bass frequencies generated by helicopters flying over the city. The fourth segment (#4) is a piece based on the decomposition of pure sinusoidal frequencies and their harmonics. One part of the sound material was collected in London using a modest approach relating to field recording. This gave me a soundscape that I rework live in front of the audience; no premeditation. A big part of the performance is based on improvisation, accidents and surprises which then become vectors to discovery.
The equipment used in a sound performance is crucial to the experience. What kind of equipment was used to create the audio and video experience?
I use very simple electro-acoustic equipment in order to capture and diffuse sounds; a series of piezoelectric microphones, electro-magnetic sensors, and diverted spring reverb are used to recover the body of the sound material I handle. I also use traditional electro-acoustic amplification hardware: speakers, amps, an analog mixer, a touch reverb, and a panoramic oscillator that I tinkered with photo-resisting cells. I am also very attentive to the space I work in, and make my sounds evolve accordingly. The position of the speakers is important in order to propose proximity in the audience listening to the experience as well as to encourage a visual link with the live manipulations I am doing. To me the microphones become the sound filters and the amplification.
How do you combine technology and art in your practice?
Technology is a tool, a facilitator, and a transmission interface; it does not serve me in an artistic sense. Computer science helps me generate loops from sound fragments captured live on my resonators and my vibrating table composed of metal rods. I use a software created by Ross Bencina called AudioMulch. This program is a tool for creation and sound treatment, dedicated to sound art and experimental music. Hence, there is no technological demonstration; I simply give back what is heard in order to create a space for listening.
The exclusive performance on May 24 featured video and sound derived from sources such as ice, water and fire. What was your process in obtaining these sounds? What is the significance of these source materials? How do you intend on transforming these sounds?
My objective is always to simplify the comprehension of the sound phenomenon, bet it through resonances, vibrations, oscillations or reactions to a change of state. I do not transform reality; I decompose it in order to give a partial reading of a concrete medium. This process allows me to give a different scale of life to sound, and question its existence in matter. Water, ice and fire are very common elements that I like to present as having their own identities through sound. The sounds recorded live are not processed, but are captured in real time by piezo microphones, filters and amplification, giving the angle to the performance, which creates a gap with reality. I work with frequencies from the sound spectrum emitted by the equalizers of the mixing table in order to harmonize and put certain sounds into perspective. The input of the video is completely dissociated from the sound work. It is not about creating sound and visual events in synchronous association. This visual proposition can be seen as complementary and independent to the audio content. The visual moments are built on a foundation of simple macro graphic elements filmed with an iPhone. I enjoy the benefits, aberrations, and technical constraints of the iPhone’s camera system. The approach is the same as for the sound.
What was the collaboration like between you and rosenfeld porcini?
I received an invitation from German artist Silvia Hatzl to create a live sound landscape during the performance for her exhibition finishing at rosenfeld porcini gallery on March 9, 2013. For the occasion, I worked on the materials Silvia used: paper, textiles and dried casings. I later met with Ian Rosenfeld, Dario Porcini, and the entire beautiful and dynamic team at the gallery. They offered a lot of creative freedom in regards to my work and a possibility to participate in their cultural program. After much reflection and exchanging of ideas, I participated in the performance to offer an introduction to sound. This would be achieved by working with the body of materials as their own and unique identity.
The title of your performance alludes to scientific inquiry in that all hypothesis begin with a single point of origin, but it is also rather existential in the suggestion that we are all born from nothingness.
The title is a narrative and graphic proposal raised in the preamble of the present and future audience listening to the performance. But also:
A point of origin, as starting the cultural program at rosenfeld porcini gallery.
A point of origin, as the details of the sound material.
A point of origin, as a first sound experience for some people in the audience.
A point of origin, as a genesis: water, ice, and fire.
A point of origin, as birth.
In what ways does Point.0 reflect on your artistic practice? Does it address particular narratives that have appeared in other bodies of work? Or does it represent a point of departure and exploration?
My main artistic concern, reflected in my practice, is to focus on “experience over habit,” and to allow myself to explore the actual matter of which sound is composed and the shape in which it is formed. The sound is merely a proposition to the listening community that grows by association; we need superposition in order to get a musical composition. My artistic practice consists of being a professor of sound art at La Cambre, Brussels and a sound designer for performing arts. In my everyday observations, I try to raise awareness to the value of sound in every action and gesture. I explore sounds that speak to their original environment and their evolution from silence. My work is constantly pushed to renew itself in order to evolve, and thus is a perpetual point of departure- a perpetual Point.0.
What freedoms do audio and visual performance practices allow that are not present in other mediums?
For sound, it’s the invisible touch of time passing. For the image, it’s the reinterpretation of the movement of light. The running of time makes matter renewable at any moment, whether it is sound or light. A unique paradox is created- the perpetual passing of time and the standardized speed of sound and vision- with which I can create changes in the rhythm of matter itself.
What experience do you hope to create for the audience? In a performance, audience members are experiencing a work of art that is ephemeral but has a lasting impression.
I put the listener at the center of my concerns. The experiment has to provide a journey, a sound body and initiation to hear the sounds in connection with fluids and earth elements. I want the listening community to create an auditory unity. It is possible to memorize a sound after hearing it twice; the body keeps track of the passage of sounds, so its impact is sustainable even if memory gradually changes and becomes emotional. Sounds have the potential to become lifelong memories.
All images courtesy of the rosenfeld porcini gallery and the artist