Gasworks | Gerald Fiebig feat. EMERGE & Christian Z. Müller

 

Gasworks | Gerald Fiebig feat. EMERGE & Christian Z. Müller
Gruen 179 | Audio CD > [order]

 

„Gasworks“ by sonic artist Gerald Fiebig collects his sound installations, radiophonic compositions, and live performances relating to the former gasworks in Augsburg-Oberhausen. They were created between 2010 and 2016, some in collaboration with colleagues EMERGE and Christian Z. Müller. Among the compositional materials of the album are processed recordings of the sounds of gas and industrial machinery, stories told by a former gasworks employee, and live improvisations in the echo chamber of the large gas tank.

 


 

Liner notes by Gerald Fiebig:

 

Cities phosphorescent
on the riverbank, industry’s
glowing piles waiting
beneath the smoke trails
W.G. Sebald, After Nature

 

The former gasworks in Augsburg-Oberhausen (not to be confused with the better-known Gasometer in the city of Oberhausen in the Ruhr area) have been a subject of my artistic practice for more than a decade. This album collects all the works related to the gasworks except a site-specific installation version of Echoes of Industry that did not lend itself to documentation as a recording.

 

Opened in 1915, the gasworks are a testimony to the spirit of what one could call the ‚heroic‘ age of industrialisation. The architecture of the ovens and machine halls features stylistic quotes from the façade of Augsburg’s renaissance city hall as well as from cathedrals. Technological progress is presented as both raison d’état and religion. This stands in stark contrast to the extremely hard, dangerous and – for a very long time – poorly paid working conditions described by long-time gasworks employee Johann Artner in Nach der Industrie / After Industry. From our contemporary viewpoint, informed by climate change and the impending end of fossil resources, the optimism expressed in the beautiful architecture of the gasworks also appears less than justified for ecological reasons: until 1968, the gasworks actually produced gas by burning coal in large ovens. They then continued to operate as a distributing station for fossil gas from transcontinental pipelines into the local network. Operations ceased in 2001.

 

After almost two decades of merely intermittent use for festivals and other events, 2019 saw the re-opening of the gasworks area as an arts centre featuring a theatre as well as artists‘ studios, rehearsal rooms, and office spaces for creative businesses. This seems to imply that it has now entered the ‚post-industrial‘ age where clean, almost immaterial computer screens have replaced the factory floors once so dirty and dangerous.

 

In fact, there is no such thing as a ‚post-industrial‘ age, just globalised capitalism increasingly outsourcing the dirty and dangerous work (manufacturing the microprocessors for the ‚post-industrial‘ devices, for example) to poorer countries. And of course industrial manufacturing still does form an important part of economies of the global North, even if the leading role in ideological narratives of growth and prosperity has been taken over by the ‚post-industrial‘ businesses.

 

Both post-industrial, which is partly based on processed sounds of a metal tool factory quite close to the gasworks, and Echoes of Industry can be heard as reminders of these ambivalences. Echoes of Industry brings the space of the gasworks into contact with the sounds of textile machines. This is a reference to the fact that the decline of the gasworks as an industrial site paralleled that of Augsburg’s once-thriving textile industry. It also alludes to the role of the textile industry as one of the most prominent examples for the exploitative use of cheap offshore labour.

 

But my interest in the gasworks is not only due to its historical ‚echoes,‘ documented so well by the committed friends of the gasworks, or Gaswerksfreunde Augsburg. As an artist working with sound, I am constantly fascinated by the literal echoes inside the large metal gas tank, 84 metres high and 45 metres in diameter. This unique sound effect is at the heart of Echoes of Industry, as well as the two live performances I did inside this space in 2016 under the title Ohrentauchen mit Echolot / Ear-diving with Echo Sounding. Doing this live improvisation in which acoustic sound-generators, from hammers to whistles, interacted with the physical features of the room as well as with its resonant properties, I felt it brought to completion the work I had begun in 2007 with a tour of the gasworks, guided by members of Gaswerksfreunde Augsburg, and the interview with the late Johann Artner.

 

This album is dedicated to his memory.

 


 

Excerpts:

 

1. post-industrial
Excerpt of a sound installation in the so-called Apparatehaus during Grenzenlos festival, 2014
Sounds of hissing gas from a kitchen stove, processed by Gerald Fiebig, are combined with field recordings from a nearby factory in a building even older than the gasworks, processed by EMERGE.
Composed & realised by Gerald Fiebig & EMERGE
Commissioned by Christa Spaniol (Künstlergruppe 38/40)
MP3

 

2. Ohrentauchen mit Echolot
Excerpts from performances in the large Gaskessel during Asche zu Farbgut festival, 2016
Various unamplified tools, toys, and instruments, as well as Gerald Fiebig’s voice and body, were used to create sounds inside the 84-metre high metal chamber. This included hitting the metal surfaces themselves. The performance took place in the centre of the chamber, with the audience walking around the performer.
Live sound mix: www.yetiplanet.de
Commissioned by Christa Spaniol (Künstlergruppe 38/40)
MP3

 

3. Nach der Industrie
Sound installation at Lange Kunstnacht festival, 2010 (reworked version)
The late Johann Artner worked at the gasworks from 1947 to 1989. He was interviewed by Gerald Fiebig in 2007. Excerpts from more than two hours of recorded material were arranged and combined with processed sounds of gas from a kitchen stove. A transcript and English translation of Johann Artner’s narration can be found at www.geraldfiebig.net/gasworks.pdf.
Narration: Johann Artner
Commissioned by Elke Seidel (Stadt Augsburg – Kulturamt)
MP3

 

4. Echoes of Industry
Radio piece for Radioatelier on Radio Vltava, Czech Republic, first broadcast on 29 May, 2015
Two of Augsburg’s major industrial monuments meet in this piece: sampled recordings of textile machines (heard in part 1 of the piece) from the State Textile and Industry Museum Augsburg are played back inside the large Gaskessel. As they are transformed by the echoes of the room, a saxophone takes up an improvisational interaction with both the samples and the echoes. Part 2 of the piece is composed from live recordings of these improvisations in the gas tank. As the ‚remembered‘ machine sounds of industry become increasingly blurred, the theremin in part 3 gestures at the ambivalent perspective of a disembodied, ‚virtual‘ future of digital production.
Christian Z. Müller: saxophones, theremin
Gerald Fiebig: sampler, field recordings, processing
Composed and realised by Gerald Fiebig & Christian Z. Müller
Commissioned by Michal Rataj (Radio Vltava)
MP3

 

5 Tracks (68′18″)
CD (500 copies)

 


 

Credits:

 

Composed and realised by Gerald Fiebig except where noted
Audio mastering: Tomislav Bucalic and Tobias Schmitt
Design: Martina Vodermayer – www.martavictor.design
Photography: Sigrun Lenk, Martina Vodermayer, Gaswerksfreunde Augsburg

 

Thanks to: Tobias Brenner, Oliver Frühschütz (Gaswerksfreunde Augsburg); Julia Quandt (Museen und Kunstsammlungen Augsburg); Wolfgang Riß, Annette Trass (Stadtwerke Augsburg); and to Jutta Weber, Manuel Schedl, Bonnie Lee Turner, and Tine Klink.

 

Archival photographs are used by kind permission of Gaswerksfreunde Augsburg.
www.gaswerk-augsburg.de
The completion of this album was made possible by a residency at ELEVEN artspace, Starzach-Börstingen, Germany, in August 2018.
The production was generously supported by Arno Buchegger Stiftung, Augsburg, and Kurt und Felicitas Viermetz Stiftung, Augsburg.

 

 

 

 

Sound Art Series by Gruenrekorder
Germany / 2019 / Gruen 179 / LC 09488 / GEMA / EAN 192562755822