“Landscape is a natural scene mediated by culture.
It is both a represented and a presented space,
both a signifier and a signified,
both a frame and what a frame contains,
both a real place and its simulacrum,
both a package and the commodity inside the package.” (1)
A metal fence, about 6 metres high, in the background. A group of people sitting closely aligned on the upper edge, detained by the presence of the border police. A strip of bushy vegetation for sight protection in front of the fence, a bit farther aside some taller palm trees.
An ascending hill behind the fence, dry grass, rock, soil. The well cared for, wavy green of a golf course in the front, two people dressed predominantly in white standing on the lawn, one of them is about to swing the golf club, the other one regarding the events on the other side of the fence. (2)
If an image like this – at least temporarily – draws media attention to fundamental questions of humanity and territoriality in the EU refugee policy, then this photographic scene at the same time also illustrates situational, constitutive moments for localised attributions or links between places and experiences of fear and despair. The profane ordinariness of repeatedly superposed, yet radically diverging perceptions and adoptions of spaces by different social groups and individuals that is displayed in colliding situations, thus describes forms of cooperation, conflict and coexistence in a way that often appears grotesque or absurd, sometimes cynically cold. While such documentations of moments of contingent encounters are sometimes represented in an almost more than obvious way, these observable constellations of alleged exemplary antipodes still have concrete, realistic equivalents beyond medial production or political exploitation. Experience of place and position within locations becomes part of a confusing mixture of localisation and dislocation, which in turn are connected to aestheticised adventure landscapes. Those can be analogies of transitory arrival areas, save shores, touristic functional zones, territory fortified by border barriers, or military operation areas. Space reframed to become a landscape – in individual perception, this transformation hardly ever happens without emotional attachment. From a general perspective or becoming operative in a very subjective way, fear being one possible element of this process percolates both an inner experience and the spaces and places of events. Isn’t it ready to smell, to see, to hear, or to recognise in other ways everywhere “here”?
Knowledge about the spaces of fear, handling danger zones and threat scenarios, continuing vague or concrete alert feeling as an aspect of life, information about one’s self in a state of fear – aren’t there constant comparable appeals and demands in order for us to condition and optimise ourselves in a permanent mode of a “training camp”? Territorial conflict zones, no man’s land, local recreation areas, wellness resorts, safety corridors, wildlife reserves, restricted areas, death zones, no-go areas, gated communities, motion profiles, killing fields, shelter sites, reception camps, coach circuits and Segway tours through “dangerous territory”. In the face of such terms and events, and looking at both individual and social perspectives on addressing space and fear – what is it that forms present, contemporary Landscapes of Fear?
Questions like these, along with Yi-Fu Tuan’s (3) book that provided the title, stood at the inception of the present CD-project that resulted from the seminar series Unsite Temporalities at the Academy of Media Arts Cologne. (4)
The project focused on sound-related aspects and auditive experiential modalities for tracing the current conditions for a political and social exploitation of fear from a spatial (e.g. geographical, territorial as well as topological and auditive) viewpoint, in order to specifically examine the individual, subjective interests of the participants. Acoustic artwork, performances, audio-visual installations, soundscape compositions, radiophonic and documental works were the subjects of analysis and artistic practice alongside productions and material related to trash, horror and science fiction.
Excursions to places in the wider surroundings of the “Kölner Bucht” that are historically described as “dangerous areas”, “death zones”, “places of fear”, or “restricted areas”, or that are still declared or well-known as such included hands-on field studies and explorations. The overleaf topographic map of the area shows some examples. The map also shows further spatial markings relevant for the project. Temporary localisations and potential zonings are registered in the map along with current political and geographical facts, as well as historic sites; also, some imaginary or medial-fictional spatial positions are marked in addition.
The contributions collected in Landscapes of Fear cover the participants’ different methods and experiences from specifically developed projects on the connection of sound, space and emotion. Multi-layered overlappings of inner and outer spaces, interconnections of forms of acoustic documentation and the phantasms of a sonic fiction, Deep Listening experiments and data analysis – some terms that exemplify the participants’ techniques and subjects taken up during the project. The data of geographical contour lines of existing areas, for example, form the basis for an audification that reads out these topographic profiles as waveforms. Psychological border experiences are set down in text and verbally staged via radiophone. Audio documents (interviews) are tonally processed in a radical way that is based on the spatial model of an existential, physical injury. Urban paths, generated by GPS navigation are translated into an instrumental composition for two stringed instruments. Components and micro particles of verbal communication reveal explosive, controversial potential for aggression within the club and party scene, or coagulate into a stream of intense, yet pale residual sound that causes a “listening deletion” rather than being a basic means of phonetic communication.
The present works reflect a wide range of analysis on the part of the participants regarding the possible manifestations of fear-causing spaces. Among them are detailed observations as well as quite irritating formulations of tonal (landscape-) explorations, acute areas of conflict, commonplace phobias, sonic dissociations and virtual modifications. The works are communicated experiences, aesthetic experiments, tonal speculations and fictionalisations – all of which challenge the positioning of one’s self within an unabated topicality and continuing presence of Landscapes of Fear.
„The minimum requirement for security is to establish a boundary, which may be material or conceptual and ritually enforced. Boundaries are everywhere, obiviously so in landscapes of fences, fields and buildings, but equally there in the worlds of primitive peoples. Boundaries exist on different scales. Minimally and perhaps universally, three are recognized: the boundaries of the domain, of the house and of the body. […] Fear is not only objective circumstance but subjective response. […] Landscapes of Fear are not permanent states of mind tied to invariant segments of tangible reality; no atemporal schema can neatly encompass them.“ (5)
1 W.J.T. Mitchell: „Imperial Landscape“; in: W.J.T. Mitchell (Hg.): Landscape and Power. Chicago, 2002
2 2014 von der Agentur Reuters verbreitete Fotografie einer Situation am EU-Grenzzaun der spanischen Exklave Melilla in Marokko (Fotograf: Jose Palazon)
3 Yi Fu Tuan: „Landscapes of Fear“. Oxford, 1980
4 2014 – 2015
5 Yi Fu Tuan (1980)
1 Sebastian Thewes / Kölner Bucht Küššk / 10:18
2 Tim Gorinski / Amuse 2 / 05:07
3 Public Demand / Random Supply #01 / 05:56
4 Katharina Mayer / Erdmännchenstelle Funkstadt / 05:26
5 Ali Chakav / a shimmer of reality / 07:48
6 Linda Franke / inside the alphabet / 04:20
7 Achim Mohné / Fritz!Box / 07:33
8 Stephanie Glauber – Miriam Gossing / Mercure/Mondial / 16:11
1 zo-on slows / our earth is a wounded island as we swing around the sun / 07:52
2 Alisa Berger / Der atmende Raum / 16:19
3 Axel Pulgar / iujk/flame / 07:44
4 Lena Ditte Nissen / Imaginary Orb / 08:11
5 Tzeshi Lei / The wreckage that runs our barrage / 06:05
6 Renate Boden / vear2 / 04:21
7 Random Supply / Public Demand #02 / 05:21
15 Tracks (116′32″)
Double CD (500 copies)
Unsite Temporalities / KHM
Concept / Production: Dirk Specht, Sebastian Thewes
Artwork: Dirk Specht, Sebastian Thewes
Mastering: Judith Nordbrock, Dirk Specht
Thanks to: Frank Hardt, Anna Lytton, Anthony Moore
Sound Art Series by Gruenrekorder
Germany / 2015 / Gruen 153 / LC 09488 / GEMA / EAN 4050486922392
Gunter Heidegger | The Sound Projector
One to disrupt the harmony of your CD shelf is this oversized card wallet containing an obliquely labeled, monochrome OS map of the area surrounding Cologne and 2 CDs of discomfiting sound art pertaining to the themes of 1) Landscapes and 2) Fear. A simplistic summary perhaps, but given the density of the accompanying text – which will assuredly sort the men from the boys among us – some distillation is required. We might ponder the dichotomy posed by these two situational extremes: the tangible and idyllic terra firma juxtaposed with the most chaotic and disembodying of emotions; security and exile – two extremes of human existence. Framing this juxtaposition is an image of a metal fence, on one side of which is a crowd of displaced refugees concealed from view by strategically placed bushes and palm trees. On the other, two golfers conducting their game, unmolested by the nearby tragedy.
While the reference to Europe’s current refugee crisis is explicit, the universality of the title’s constituents is such that we could extend the analogy to many situations in which the ‘radically diverging perceptions and adoptions of spaces’ occur in the present day. Take for example the legally sanctioned compartmentalisation of UK homes into multiple ‘apartments’ as a means of revenue generation for landlords and private investors, added to which is the humiliation of full council tax for each (while mansion owners pay proportionately lower rates), regardless of the size of the dwelling, purely on the grounds that there is a lock on the front door. Inhabiting these overpriced shoeboxes are the many who are locked out of the ever costly housing market and who face a future of financial disempowerment.
Needless to say, we needn’t look to the contents of this collection for comfort, but we might take heart that some are watching and addressing the flagrant injustices that visit so many walks of life today. The majority of the music is drone-based; tension-fuelled dark/power ambient minefields paired with location recordings for dislocation effect; splattered with rhythmic and vocal shrapnel in reference to political assassinations and other human rights abuses, as well as – of course – the kind of drones used by Western governments to police and terrorise the Middle East. Lawrence English has produced work similar in sound and agenda, but not with the bleakness of such events as Tim Gorinski’s ‘Amuse 2’ – a controlled explosion of ricocheting beats, sirens and shouting (William Burroughs might have approved of this), or Alex Pulgar’s ‘Lujk/Flame’ – where electroacoustic flames are funnelled through a tunnel of low-fi scum noise.
Hardly content with the alienating effects of such ‘music’, the compilers have seen fit to include Lena Ditte Nissen’s dispassionate German-language narration in ‘Imaginary Orb’ – which many a non-German speaker will instinctively skip – and the uneasy listening of a pair of North American accented sat-nav devices speaking over one another in Stephanie Glauber’s and Miriam Gossing’s ‘Mercure/Mondial’. Even English speakers will find this nauseating. Indeed, our agitation appears to be the overriding raison d’etre. Where so much in the realm of high-concept music can comfortably detach itself from conceptual baggage to exist as listening material per se, works such as this promote a sense of responsibility by insisting upon a level of listener interrogation.
More akin to an art gallery experience, Landscapes of Fear attains a kind of surrealism as a home-listening product. The simultaneous in/coherence of the selection, defined largely by the wilful austerity and disparity of the artists’ methods, would effect a collapsing of borders between internal and external phenomena; occasioning a discomfort that would remind us of the atrocities that take place daily beyond our psychological blinkers, in a world in which even the horror of events like Donald Trump’s inexplicable popularity achieve a circus sensationalism at which most of us can but shrug our shoulders in resignation. At the same time, the experience should also remind us that far from getting downhearted and downhearted at such horror, a constructive response is always possible.
Laurent Diouf | MCD#81 – Arts & Sciences
Entre field recordings et expérimentations, musique concrète et art bruitiste : une double anthologie en forme de topographie sonore dont chaque piste — il y en a 15 pour plus de 2 heures d’écoute attentive — ouvre sur de singuliers paysages et questionne les notions d’espace, de territoire, de frontière…
Constantin Gröhn | Landschaften der Angst und Zuversicht
Zur CD-Compilation „Landscapes of fear“. Veröffentlich in Evangelische Stimmen.
Forum für kirchliche Zeitfragen in Norddeutschland / April 2016
„Abraham aber machte sich früh am Morgen auf an den Ort, wo er vor dem HERRN gestanden hatte, und wandte sein Angesicht gegen Sodom und Gomorra und alles Land dieser Gegend und schaute, und siehe, da ging ein Rauch auf vom Lande wie der Rauch von einem Ofen (1. Mose 19,27f.).“ Orte und Landschaften der Angst sind uns bereits aus der Bibel bekannt. Manche davon wirken noch erstaunlich zeitgemäß; so können in Doris Dörries aktuellem Kinofilm „Grüße aus Fukushima“ durchaus Parallelen zur Geschichte von Sodom und Gomorra gezogen werden. Mit künstlerischen Mitteln wird hier versucht, Angst nicht zu verdrängen und zu unterdrücken. Vielmehr versucht die Regisseurin die Angst so fokussieren, dass wir klug und feinfühlig unsere Wirklichkeit wahrnehmen und dabei Energien freisetzen, die die Quellen der Angst aufdecken. Schritt für Schritt könnte dann auch eine Verhaltensänderung erfolgen.
Die Reduktion auf den Klang, die beängstigende Landschaft zu einem inneren Bild werden zu lassen, dabei auf Sprache aber weitgehend zu verzichten, ist dagegen eine eher seltene Methode der Angstkonfrontation – in der Kunst wie in der Kirche. „Landscapes of fear“ lautet ein aktuelles CD-Projekt des Frankfurter Hörkunstlabels Gruenrekorder. Die Zusammenstellung enthält 15 Werke unterschiedlicher Künstlerinnen und Künstler. Sie alle beschäftigen sich mit von Angst geprägten Landschaften, die sie ins Akustische wandeln. Es geht um Gefahrengebiete, angstbesetzte Plätze, Todeszonen, gesperrtes Terrain. Die Methoden sind experimentell. Dabei werden auch Alltagsszenen als Angsträume gezeichnet. Manche scheinen weit entfernt, andere ganz nah, je nach gesellschaftlicher und persönlicher Befindlichkeit. Manche wirken zunächst recht unspektakulär wie Achim Mohnés „Fritz!Box“, der die Wellen eines Wlan-Routers hörbar macht und dabei daran erinnert, dass wir immer noch nicht wissen, welchen Einfluss die unheimlichen, kaum wahrnehmbaren Funkwellen auf die Gesundheit des Menschen nehmen. Tim Gorinski’s „Amuse 2“ hat einen lauteren Gestus. Die Aufnahmen öffentlicher Unruhen werden mit perkussiven elektronischen Sounds verbunden, die zugleich Assoziationen von Schüssen und Hubschraubern wecken. Gorinski erzeugt so eine Klangwelt, die sich zwischen dem Adrenalin-Kick an der Computer-Console und dem grausigen Terror der aktuellen Kriege bewegt. Der gebürtige Iraner Ali Chakav wählt einen gleichermaßen persönlichen wie auch politischen Zugang. Für seine Komposition nutzt er Fragmente eines Interviews seines Landsmannes Alireza Sabouri. Jener wurde während einer Demonstration gegen Wahlbetrug in Teheran angeschossen und mit einer Kugel im Schädel mehrfach operiert, bevor er 2011 in einem Krankenhaus in den USA an den Folgen starb.
Auch das Booklet regt die Vorstellungskraft an. Es enthält eine Landkarte, auf der sehr detailliert und fein Ortschaften an der Grenze von den Niederlanden zu Deutschland eingezeichnet sind. Die Orte und Wege orientieren sich aber nicht an den gängigen Vermerkungen. Nicht die üblichen Städte und Dörfer bekommen der Größe entsprechend ihren Eintrag. Im Gebiet der Nordeifel ist der Hürtgenwald hervorgehoben, jene Kriegslandschaft der Jahre 1944/1945, in der es zur Abwehrschlacht der Wehrmacht gegen die US Army gekommen war. Das Nuclear Forschungszentrum Jülich, der Flugstützpunkt für die Natofrühwarnflotte Awacs finden sich in gleicher Weise auf dieser Landkarte wie Flüchtlingspfade oder Frontex Operations Korridore.
Landscapes of fear ist ein Projekt, das anregen will, sich in Landschaften der Angst hineinzuhören, hineinzufühlen, hineinzudenken. Das Subjektive der Zusammenstellung, der Auswahl der Orte und Themen, ist zugleich ein Anreiz die mediale Inszenierung von Angst und deren politische Instrumentalisierung zu überdenken und zu hinterfragen. Zugleich zeigt die CD, dass es Zeit und Auseinandersetzung braucht, um ein Gespür für die Angst zu bekommen, welche „Wörter versinken lässt in der Stille deines saugenden Atems.“1
Das ist nicht zuletzt für Predigende interessant. Denn wer in der Predigt das Gefühl der Angst schnell wegpredigen will, bleibt in ihrer Darstellung dann oft genauso allgemein und phrasenhaft wie in der Darstellung der Hoffnung, des Vertrauens, der Möglichkeit und Erwartung. Paulus versteht die Angst nicht im Gegensatz zum Glauben, sondern gewissermaßen als sein Bestandteil (Röm 8,18ff.). Angst ist für Paulus nicht nur eine Grunderfahrung des Menschen, sondern auch Einsicht darin, abhängig von und angewiesen auf Gott zu sein. „Vor Gott“ erkennt der Mensch, dass sein Leben flüchtig und nur ein Bruchstück ist. Auf „landscapes of fear“ bezogen, könnte das heißen, dass zum Klang des Glaubens unbedingt auch die ängstlichen Töne gehören.
Die Angst als bedrohliches Gefühl auch mal ohne Worte zu Wort kommen zu lassen, muss dementsprechend kein Zeugnis der Sprachlosigkeit sein. Im Gegenteil: Sie nimmt auch Musik als eigene Form des Ausdrucks und der Verkündigung ernst. So improvisierte Kirchenmusiker Claus Bantzer im Neujahrsgottesdienst an der Kirchenorgel in St. Johannis-Harvestehude über Einspielungen von der Gruenrekorder-CD. Die Geräusche von Drohnen wurden mit Liedfragmenten kontrastiert. Künstlerisch wurden die Landschaften der Angst in Landschaften der Zuversicht eingebettet und überführt. Und so sind Fritz!Box und Drohne nicht nur CD-tauglich, sondern auch im Gottesdienst kirchenmusikalisch gut paulinisch.
(1) So Axel Pulgar zu seiner Komposition „iujk/flame“.
Duncan Simpson | Musique Machine
Now this is a fascinating thing; a two disk set presented in an oversized gatefold wallet with a lavish full colour fold out. On one side a large topographical map of the area around Cologne marked with strange labels such as „Inner Space“, „Refugee trails“, and „Frontex Operation Corridor“. On the other side a multitude of diagrams, photographs, graphical models and maps, some with accompanying text in English or German. The organisation responsible Gruenrekorder specialises in what they call „soundworks and phonography“ but this doesn’t clarify much for us. The English introductory text begins with a quote from W.J.T. Mitchell’s Landscape and Power which starts „Landscape is a natural scene mediated by culture“. The music contained on these two disks is a result of a seminar series held at the Academy of Media Arts in Cologne and in their own words focuses „on sound related aspects and auditive experiential modalities for tracing the current conditions for a political and social exploration of fear from a spatial (e.g. geographical, territorial as well as topological and auditive) viewpoint, in order to specifically examine the individual, subjective interests of the participants“.
Such a specialised and academically centred project might appear difficult to translate into an engaging sonic experience for a more general audience but the curators have a done a fine job in producing a set of fifteen pieces that easily hold their own without the accompanying theoretical support. Each piece is the work of a different artist with their own specifically developed approach to the project as a whole and as such deserved of their own treatment and analysis. However for the sake of brevity I will focus on a few of the pieces which worked particularly well for me.
Tim Gorinski, Public Demand, and Ali Chakav all address contemporary political anxieties with their contributions. Gorinski’s piece titled Amuse 2 utilises recordings of public unrest which he mixes with tort percussive electronics which could be artillery or small arms fire. It’s difficult to determine precisely what’s going on as wave after wave of shouts, cries and commotion swirl around but if we think about the project’s aim we might imagine the urban environment being transformed into a landscape of protest, resistance and potentially violent encounters. Ali Chakav on the other hand takes up a very personal story for his piece titled A Shimmer of Reality which uses an interview with Alireza Sabouri, an Iranian shot in the head while protesting against election fraud in Tehran in 2009. Chakav arranged a series of loud-speakers to approximate the spatial locations of the bullet fragments that remained lodged in Sabouri’s skull and then (ala Alvin Lucier) played the interview back whilst re-recording. The effect is a characteristically cavernous drone and crackle which is only broken by a sudden reverberation, perhaps representing the gunshot. Sabouri sadly passed away in Boston two years later as a result of his injuries. Finally on disk one Public Demand have produced a suitably unnerving piece around the theme of Drones. The bomb carrying rather than sonic variety. Although the piece does indeed include a good variety of droning textures which appear to have been processed and fed back on themselves creating feelings of tension not unlike that which a wedding party in Afghanistan might feel upon hearing these noises. Here the landscape is territorialised by the cold technological violence of imperial powers as they survey the ground for potential targets.
Elsewhere on disk one Katharina Mayer’s piece Erdmännchenstelle Funkstadt (which seems to translate as Meerkats-Point Funk City!) brings together listening station recordings with environmental sounds. The fold-out shows a picture of large communications receiving dishes pointing upwards perhaps as the title suggests drawing comparison with the way Meerkats stand to survey their environment. The last piece on the disk, a collaboration by Stephanie Glauber and Miriam Gossing is the longest but perhaps the least fun to listen to. It’s ostensibly a duet between a satellite navigation system speaking in both male and female American English voices and amplified feedback, possibly from an internet router. Initially quite an uncanny sound it quickly becomes rather nauseating as the voices talk against each other dictating directions (possibly around Cologne) and the feedback rises and falls along with the utterances. If the intention of the artists was to provide a suitable demonstration of how modern digital technology can render experiences of the environment alienating then this is a great success. Then again I’ve never been an advocate of Sat-Navs.
The second disk is more of a mixed bag with several dark-ambient like pieces and concrete/environmental assemblages grouped with a couple of less accessible vocal led works. Alisa Berger’s Der Atmende Raum (The breathing space) is a long complex composition beginning and ending with the sounds of breathing and is styled as a confrontation with the place and history of a 19th century psychiatric hospital in Gorlitz. It’s a slow burning piece that gradually opens up after the initial breaths with distant voices, bubbling electronics and tense atmospheres. Eventually the hiss drops out leaving more pastoral sounds and incidental talk. If one could compare this to anything it might be Luc Ferrari’s Danses Organique which mapped the progression of a relationship between two women. Here Berger seems to want to map something like the internal experience of a person undergoing early forms of psychiatric care. Moments of clarity are interspersed with numbed atmospherics and unintelligible exchanges. Axel Pulgar’s Iujk/Flame is almost a lo-fi piece of power electronics which comes with a suitably irascible description in the notes: „Fear burns your internal organs and absorbed with delight the liquid bile of your liver“.
The best of the dark-ambient pieces here is surely Tzeshi Lei’s all consuming The Wreckage that Runs our Barrage which at a shade over six minutes in length could do with being a bit longer. The sound sources are suitably obscured but you can occasionally make out a fragment of vocalization, possibly short-wave radio or analogue filter sweeps but it’s all so swamped in perfectly controlled reverb that anything familiar is rendered strange and oppressive. The notes make reference to fear as a energy flow haunting our cognitive representations of reality; „Sound of an organism is distorted into mechanical noises, mechanical orders and harmony are corrupted into organic noises“. Renate Boden’s Year2 and Lena Ditte Nissen’s Imaginary Orb are both vocal based pieces in German which my lack of proficiency in that language prevents me from making much sense of. The latter is a text based piece read straight without augmentation. The former appears to be constructed from a combination of automated telephone messages and weather recordings. The set closes with another sinister excursion into drone and environmental recordings this time from an artist going by the moniker Random Supply. Their Public Demand #02 is accompanied by a sketch of wind turbines in the notes which is perhaps a hint at their sound sources. There are strange metallic scrapes, clicks and whirring noises and at one point we hear a dog bark as if it were inside a giant metal tub. The piece fades out before it really gets going (something which could be said for a few of the pieces here) but then after a few minutes there appears a bonus few minutes of swishing noises before the disk comes to an end.
It’s a suitably perplexing end to an often strange record. The seminar conveners have clearly given the participants considerable scope to imagine the idea of a landscape of fear. While some artists have taken a more direct route mapping the sounds and tensions within real landscapes, others have taken the notion of landscape to include internal places, and perhaps this is not surprising given the very personal experience of fear. If you lack an understanding of German you will miss out as several tracks and much of the notes are not translated. However even so many of the pieces attain a power and uneasy feeling that seems to speak directly to our times where any place on earth is potentially a site for a drone strike, a satellite photograph, or where our digital devices simultaneously help up navigate the space and block the possibility of finding our own way, all the while uploading our metadata to the citadels of power. Landscapes of Fear speaks to these very contemporary concerns.
The Wire Magazine – Issue 384
This thought-provoking sound art project is an offshoot of the “Unsite Temporalities” seminar series at Cologne’s Academy Of Media Arts. It takes its conceptual lead and title from a book by geographer Yi-Fu Tuan. Political and social exploitation of fear is explored and reflected upon through sonic materials that range from recited text to digitised topography, natural world samples, mocked up conflict, interference and intimations of environmental catastrophe. Some make their point with shocking directness: Ali Chakav’s audio mapping of bullet fragments in the skull of a victim of political assassination; or Tim Gorinski’s “Amuse 2”, which seems to fuse the terror of an actual warzone with an adrenalin rush at a games console. Others are ominous rather than overt: Sebastian Thewes’s use of recordings of waterfalls above the arctic circle; Linda Franke’s vocal spooling of letters of the alphabet into a state of alarm; or Stephanie Glauber and Miriam Gossing’s drive along mysterious tone roads between two Cologne hotels, steered by sat nav voices. Fresh discursive means to address persistent plights and problems.
Łukasz Komła | Nowamuzyka.pl
Strach i granice – to odwieczni kompani, przeciwnicy i polemiści. Nowa kompilacja z Gruenrekorder pozwala zastanowić się nad szerokim kontekstem obu tych pojęć.
Projekt „Landscapes of Fear” powstał w wyniku powtarzających się seminariów „Unsite temporalities”, które odbyły się w Akademii Sztuk Medialnych w Kolonii. Głównym przesłaniem tegoż przedsięwzięcia jest omówienie kwestii granic i terytorialności, ale przez pryzmat strachu. Problem syryjskich uchodźców idealnie wpisuje się w zakres poruszanych zagadnień. Nieodłącznymi elementami ludzkiego życia są: strach, dezorientacja i niepewność zwłaszcza, kiedy człowiek zmaga się z różnymi podziałami typu: osiedla zamknięte, rezerwaty przyrody, strefy śmierci etc.
Do podwójnego albumu „Landscapes of Fear” dołączono mapę topograficzną pokazującą przeróżne lokalizacje istotne dla tego projektu. Oczywiście wszystkie są w jakiś sposób naznaczone strachem, np. widzimy szlaki uchodźców czy reaktory jądrowe. Znalazły się też wyimaginowane miejsca. Pomysłodawcy „Landscapes of Fear” Dirk Specht i Sebastian Thewes wybrali piętnaście prac (ponad 130 minut nagrań). Praktycznie każda z nich jest odrębnym bytem, nie tylko pod względem dźwiękowym, ale też w kwestii podejścia do tematu. Artyści prezentują szeroką paletę nagrań terenowych, które następnie poddali obróbce, aby w jak największym stopniu zatrzeć wszelkie granice. Jeśli mamy fragment wywiadu, to niekiedy został on tak zmodyfikowany, że nie jesteśmy w stanie nawet rozpoznać poszczególnych słów.
Irański twórca Ali Chakav swój pejzaż dźwiękowy „A shimmer of Reality” przygotował w oparciu o autentyczną historię postaci żyjącej z sześcioma odłamkami. W 2009 roku ten człowiek został postrzelony w głowę w trakcie demonstracji w Teheranie (dwa lata później zmarł). Słyszymy przetworzone odgłosy maszyn, które monitorowały jego mózg. Początkowo są to przyjemnie pulsujące mikrodźwięki, ale w momencie, kiedy dowiadujemy się o całym tym zajściu, owe nagranie automatycznie wzbudza w nas lęk i strach. Kolejny przykład to całkiem niezobowiązujący emocjonalnie ryk lamy, lecz… ta lama przewozi na swoim grzbiecie kokainę. Te fragmenty znakomicie oddają charakter tego wyjątkowego wydawnictwa.
„Landscapes of Fear” to doskonały przykład prowokacyjnej sztuki dźwięku, z którą warto się zmierzyć.
Guillermo Escudero | Loop
A new release on the sound art series of German label Gruenrekorder conceived and produced by Dirk Specht and Sebastian Thewes. The double CD contained in a vertical case that both art-cover and inside cover is a map, details which are shown in detail in a fold-out map that displays air bases and refugee trails and nuclear bases, sites that instill fear, emotion and spaces that have been worked as a source by a wide spectrum of sound artists. The participants on this double CD are Sebastian Thewes, Tim Gorinski, Public Demand, Katharina Mayer, Ali Chakav, Linda Franke, Achim Mohne, Stephanie Glauber/Miriam Gossing, Zo-on Slows, Alisa Berger, Axel Pulgar, Lena Ditte Nissen, Tzeshi Lei, Renate Boden ann Random Supply. Here we find soundscapes, field recordings, deep Listening experiments, and radiophonic works. Sebastian Thewes on „Kölner Bucht Küššk“ works with microscopic frequencies, „Amuse 2“ by Tim Gorinski are sounds of bullets that are processed while background desperate voices are heard. Sustained and expansive drone „Random Supply # 01“ by Public Demand displays an abstract disquieting world. On „Erdmännchenstelle Funkstadt“, Katharina Mayer mixed sounds and radio recordings of birdsongs. A symbiosis that seems contradictory. „Inside The Alphabet“ by Linda Franke is a recording with different voices that are interspersed and form – unexpectedly – a kind of mantra. „The Wreckage That Runs Our Barrage“ by Tzeshi Lei displays a haunted and deep listening. „Vear2“ by Renate Boden are radio recordings work with a conductor who speaks German. The music describes very well fear that can be feel in such disturbing places.
Obviously the first eye-catching thing about this double-CD installment in Gruenrekorder’s Sound Art Series is the package design, specifically its vertical case and even more the wall-sized fold-out insert displaying track-related photos and text on one side and a map on the other.
Having been summarily dazzled by the visual component, one’s next move is to get a handle on the conceptual side. As a title, Landscapes of Fear carries with it an ominous undercurrent, and sure enough the project, which grew out of the seminar series Unsite Temporalities at the Academy of Media Arts Cologne, deals with issues of borders and territoriality, the lines of demarcation that separate the autonomous from those subject to control and manipulation. The movement of a group from one zone to another, as in the current plight of Syrian refugees, raises related issues of localization and dislocation in a project whose tone can’t help but be fundamentally political. Fear and disorientation invariably emerge as people grapple with the various ways by which human beings are spatially positioned, whether it be the protection offered by gated communities and wildlife reserves or the danger associated with death zones, restricted areas, and killing fields (examples of which are identified on the map). Gruenrekorder’s sound-based treatment, which presents approximately 130 minutes of audio material, explores fear as it’s exploited from a spatial viewpoint and relatedly the emotional experiences of those possessing control versus those without it.
Soundscapes, field recordings, Deep Listening experiments, and radiophonic works appear on the CDs, the treatments encompassing a broad range of responses to the theme by the contributors. Fifteen sound works in total are presented, each one of which is complemented by visual and/or textual content on an individual poster panel. That added context is at times illuminating. The blurry, granular treatment of audio interviews presented in Ali Chakav’s “a shimmer of reality,” for example, grew out of a real-life incident involving a person living with six bullet fragments lodged in his skull after being hit by a sniper at a 2009 public demonstration in Tehran (his death, two years after the assault, was caused by the movements of the fragments in his head). Without the benefit of that background, the eight-minute piece would register as a purely abstract electronic-styled exploration. In some cases, however, the text is shown in German only, which obviously won’t be of much help to those lacking command of the language (much the same could be said of Lena Ditte Nissen’s “Imaginary Orb,” which features eight minutes of spoken German).
For “Kölner Bucht Küssk,” Sebastian Thewes used special software to convert elevation data of two areas, the first around Cologne and the second waterfalls above the Arctic Circle, into waveforms, resulting in a ten-minute exercise in abstract, electronic-styled mutation. At the level of pure sound, it’s hard to top Tzeshi Lei’s soundscaping exploration “The wreckage that runs our barrage,” which advances from a placid intro into disturbing territory. Elsewhere, violence is suggested by simulations of gunfire and the desperate cries of people under attack, satellite data is converted into raw audio transcriptions, and Stephanie Glauber and Miriam Gossing’s “Mercure/Mondial” presents sixteen minutes of vocalized GPS-styled street directions punctuated by grainy instrumental accompaniment. Specific details aside, Landscapes of Fear is the latest addition to a long line of provocative sound art-based recordings from Gruenrekorder. Though it’s conceptually unified by theme, the collection is naturally wide-ranging given the large number of contributors involved and the dramatic differences in sensibility and approach they bring to the endeavour. As one listens to the collection for the first time, it’s impossible to predict what unusual sounds the next track will bring.
Richard Allen | a closer listen
Gruenrekorder’s new double-disc Landscapes of Fear, conceived and produced by Dirk Specht and Sebastian Thewes, explores the role of sound art as psychological reflection and social commentary. The liner notes are as contemporary as the evening news, referencing the European border crisis and military occupation. The fold-out map displays air bases, refugee trails and nuclear reactors, drawn as to minimize man-made borders.
The aural selections demonstrate that a single sound may be a simultaneous comfort and threat, balm and disturbance, depending on both the listener and the environment. The sound of llamas carrying cocaine is still benign to the llamas; the digital sound map of brain damage caused by a sniper’s bullet is soothing to the ear ~ but only until one learns the story. Lawnmower rotors mean that a neighborhood is awake; when one realizes that the true source is a drone, one becomes hyper-alert and vigilant.
neuronsNot everything here is a landscape of fear; the opening track includes field recordings of waterfalls above the arctic circle. But everything here is foreboding, and even this selection sounds like an approaching storm. When bullets fly in “Amuse 2”, the bloom is fully off the rose. Tim Gorinski’s track may sound like a clip from the evening news, but to those living in the recording area, these are ordinary sounds. A deeper irony arises when one realizes that these are also the sounds of big budget movies, who entice with the same sounds that others fear.
The rare nature sound (for example, birdsong) is a reminder that both worlds exist at once: the sweet and the sinister. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Ali Chakaw’s “A Shimmer of Reality”, in which static and hum seditiously overwhelm every competing sound. Other tracks are more overtly musical, for example the dark ambience of Tzeshi Lei’s gorgeously oppressive “The Wreckage That Runs Our Barrage” and Linda Franke’s tenderly sung/spoken “Inside the Alphabet”. Is fear lessened by beauty, or heightened at the thought that there is still something to lose? Specht and Thewes ask many of the right questions, and leave the rest to be implied.
Frans de Waard | VITAL WEEKLY
Another ’no expense spared‘ release here: a large box and inside two CDs and a folded poster that looks like a map on one side and explanations on the other side. Much like the recently reviewed ‚Grenzen‘ compilation (Vital Weekly 1003) this compilation also deals with borders, but in this case limits itself to borders between countries, sources of conflict between them, refugees, big data and such like. A compilation, another one. Here we find such composers as Sebastian Thewes, Tim Gorinski, Public Demand, Katharina Mayer, Ali Chakav, Linda Franke, Achim Mohne, Stephanie Glauber/Miriam Gossing, Zo-on Slows, Alisa Berger, Axel Pulgar, Lena Ditte Nissen, Tzeshi Lei, Renate Boden and Random Supply. To be honest, none of these names mean much to me, but that, of course, says nothing about the quality of the music. Lots of field recordings, as is expected from this label, of open fields with planes overhead. Some of these pieces are more conceptual in approach and use a variety of computer treatments. Nothing too spectacular I think, but there aren’t any weak brothers either. Let’s take a look at some of the highlights. Linda Franke’s piece is a choir of singing and a repeating speaking voice, which is an excellent change for a while, after all the field recordings, and so is the Glauber/Gossing piece dealing with text and sound, or purely text as in the case of Nissen. It’s these pieces, interestingly enough all of them by women, which makes this compilation quite interesting, something that goes beyond the more regular sound pieces, field recordings and laptop processing, which many of the others do around here. I was puzzled by the large map on one of the sides of the insert, which at times I seemed to look at with more interest than I was actually giving the music. That might not be the way these things should be done. (FdW)