Circles and cycles | Kg Augenstern

 

Circles and cycles (Tentacles in Sicily – scratching the surface)
Kg Augenstern

Gruen 202 | Book & CD > [order]
Reviews

 

Kg Augenstern (Christiane Prehn and Wolfgang Meyer) have been exploring the world for many years with their “Tentacles,” extendable fiberglass canes that allow them to touch and extract the sounds of the places they are travelling through. These tentacles have become a kind of prostheses to generate subtle experiences that require attentive listening. The various aspects of the project are constantly transformed and presented as audiokinetic installations, live-streams, radio broadcasts or sound installations in contemporary art spaces.

 

In autumn 2019, the artists explored places in Sicily that have been abandoned within the last few decades. With their tentacles, they scratched circles on the surface of these contemporary ruins to reveal the specific sounds of the various surfaces and their surroundings. A camera installed in the center of the circles recorded the images. The research was accompanied by experiments with raw sheep’s wool and clay as materials corresponding to the ephemeral appearance and transitory atmosphere of the places. The outcome of the research was presented as an exhibition in an old prayer hall in Palermo.

 

The CD invites listeners to explore 10 abandoned places, including the location of the final exhibition.

 


 

 


 

TRACKLIST

 

1. Intro (owls in the night close to Lido Las Vegas) 00:21
MP3
2. Scratching a Lido 03:27
MP3
3. Scratching a Mountain Village 02:52
4. Scratching a Commercial Area 05:20
5. Scratching a Castle 03:24
6. Scratching a Furniture Store 05:16
7. Scratching a Brick Factory 02:42
MP3
8. Scratching a Paper Mill 03:42
9. Scratching a Borgo 04:33
10. Scratching a Forwarding Company 02:36
MP3
11. Scratching a Prayer Hall 02:33

 

11 Tracks (37′44″)
Book & CD (500 copies)

 


 

KG Augenstern’s “tentacle” performs surgeries on abandoned places. The duo from Berlin seeks out locations that lie between the states of life and death, populated and depopulated, places constantly changing, and thus in an enduring state of malleable equilibrium. They are the apocalyptic souvenirs of humans’ attempts to form landscapes. That which exists tends towards new shapes, which slowly bury mankind’s contingencies and intentions.
The forgotten place and its surfaces are scratched in circles. The media to be studied are the subtle sounds caused by the scratching.  At times the tentacle glides lightly along the surface, barely touching; on another pass it might bite in, leaving a mark. It stretches itself out, or blends with the material beneath it, all the while releasing its tensions in the form of deep, diffused sound vibrations.
Or it springs in powerful leaps across the ground beneath it. An intense sound is called forth, rhythmic and repetitive, embedded in the temporal cycles of the described circles. Time is rendered instable, volatile, surreal, and reveals its magic.
The process is repeated in the same or another location.
The combinations of time and material transform themselves into a cyclical continuum.
KG Augenstern creates an additional cycle out of sheep’s wool, clay, and fire. From materials found in the ruins, burned objects are created which are fragile and subordinate to their own disintegration. The observer slips outside the field of consciousness, and attention is directed towards the revelation of baselessness, not from within the realm of understanding, but in the form of realization in a material sense. Life is transformed into a question, and this uncertainty reveals the instability of existence.
Ennio Pellicanò
Curator

 


 

Step by step, staying in this lonely place by the sea, with that empty beach, working in all these ruins without ever seeing any living person, only birds– mostly pigeons–, insects, and lizards, a kind of hypnotic, apocalyptic dimension develops. In almost every place there is an abandoned camp somebody homeless used to use a long time ago for a temporary shelter, with worn out clothes and an old mattress. Shy dogs: one, a German shepherd with two puppies vacillates between being curious and afraid, same as me. Circle by circle, rubbish, wet walls, cracked ceilings, holes to take care of and another uncertain stairway. Contemporary archeology in contemporary ruins. Disgust, fear, tension, expectations. Layers of birdshit on children‘s toys, suddenly left behind, hard material under soft organic patina…. a baby carriage, furniture, pictures on the walls and beds still made …what will wait in the next room, the next building, the next structure?

 

SCRATCHING A LIDO
Lido Las Vegas was built in the ’60s and was closed by the authorities in 2017. Before its closure, it had been run illicitly within a nature reserve, and without any authorization, state concession, or certificate of use. It is a wooden structure with small rooms for summer guests, a restaurant and a playground for children. A solid, newer but also abandoned structure with more rooms was built just beside.
The scratching circles were recorded on the terraces, between the rooms and next to the playground. The surface is tiles, sand, rubbish, wood and stones. Everything is sandy. The waves of the sea can be heard in the background.

 

SCRATCHING A MOUNTAIN VILLAGE
Cunziria is a village the dates of whose founding as an urban nucleus are unknown, but it is known that in the 1920s a slow decline began, until the 1960s, when the artisan practice of tanning stopped. Some houses have been restored but left behind unfinished and are now used as stables. In one house we found raw sheep’s wool covering the ground. At a nearby sheep farm, the farmer offered us plenty of raw wool for free. The scratched circles are partly inside and partly outside of the houses. Sometimes it was hard to move the tentacle through the plants covering the buildings. One of the circles is performed inside of a cellar, with basins formerly used for tanning. The surface varies from dense, thorny bush, stones, mud and clay to tiled floor in the restored rooms. In the background it is possible to hear sheep and sheep bells, birds, and from time to time a car on the close-by small road.

 

SCRATCHING A COMMERCIAL AREA
Beside Route S115 south of Catania is an abandoned commercial area with five big buildings. They were built in the 1990s, and given up after a short period of usage. The reason was that the new Catania-Syracusa highway was built only a short distance away, and the formerly busy road along the coast was almost forgotten.
Patinaed signs on the wall still show that there once was a supermarket, a car-dealership, a furnisher….. Now a semi-organic layer covers the almost-new concrete floors, and birds fly about the huge halls, while wild plants crack the surfaces.

 

SCRATCHING A CASTLE
Castello del Duca di Misterbianco is an old castle-like villa, built in 1930, not far from a river and the beach. It has many rooms, and horse stables. It was abandoned in the Second World War after it was heavily bombed and partly destroyed by english soldiers, attacking the Germans who had occupied the castle.
It is covered with plants. The surface is rocky. Two of the scratched circles were done on two different flat roofs on a windy day, the other ones inside of the structure, where it was even difficult to move the tentacle because of all the stone shards and plants scattered around.

 

SCRATCHING A FURNITURE STORE
Sicilmobile is a big furniture store built in the late ’70s in Brutalist concrete style. It was abandoned around the year 2000 for economic reasons. The building with its two levels is amazing and spacious. A restaurant was connected to the commercial area.
The area has been used by skateboarders for some time. The surface is tiles, concrete, small stones and pieces of glass. In the main halls, broken bricks, fallen from the ceiling, cover the floor. One of the scratched circles was done outside of the building and the rest in different parts inside. There are two roads with a constant flow of traffic close to the building. The airport is also close.

 

SCRATCHING A BRICK FACTORY
Noted art critic Vittorio Sgarbi described Fornace Penna as “a secular basilica by the sea.” Indeed, this abandoned industrial structure echoes some of the crumbling medieval cathedrals scattered around Europe. Built entirely from solid stones in the early 1900s, Fornace Penna specialized in manufacturing bricks sold them across the Mediterranean region. However, business lasted only a little over ten years. On the night of January 24th, 1924, arson turned the factory into the fascinating and deserted stone skeleton we see today. The wind blows through the arcs of the ruins, which are heavily covered with all kinds of plants. There is an almost round, accessible vaulted kiln under the center of the building.
With so many plants and rocks all over the place, it was difficult to find any locations for the scratchings. The waves of the sea can be heard in the background. At one place, a lizard tried to attack the tentacle during scratching.

 

SCRATCHING A PAPER MILL
S.p.a Cartiere Larena is a paper mill that was closed more than 30 years ago. It appears that the first paper made in Europe was produced in Sicily toward the end of the tenth century, and there are still several specialized paper producers, but this mill didn‘t survive the economical crisis of the ’80s. It is a beautiful building, still containing two big huge stone bowls, with motor-driven millstones inside. The surface is variable, from stone to clay and gravel. A road is close to the building and in the background a football match can be heard.

 

SCRATCHING A BORGO
Borgo Rizzo is one of the borgos in Sicily that were built between 1939 and 1940 under the then fascist government, with the goal of transforming agricultiral production systems and colonizing fertile, unused areas by attracting farmers to new villages that provided all main services, such as schools, churches, post offices, etc. Some of the houses have been partially renovated with EU funding, but remain unfinished and unused, tending to turn into the new generation of ruins.
The area is very quiet with only very few cars driving on the nearby road. A wild dog with two puppies lives on the terrace of one of the houses. All in all it has the atmosphere of a ghost town.

 

SCRATCHING A FORWARDING COMPANY
Transporti Avimec was a big Catanian freight-forwarding company which was seized and closed in 1989 on suspicion of having been owned by the mafia and used for illegal transactions. Several attempts by mafia members to buy the company back were not successful. It was possible to enter the closed property by a hole in the wall. In the private house on the property, everything seemed to have been left behind from one minute to the next. Children’s toys, furniture and beds appear recently abandoned.
The halls and the courtyard are empty. The area’s surface is partly covered with rubbish or birds‘ faeces. In the distance, traffic and the neighbours‘ trucks can be heard.

 

SCRATCHING A CHAPEL
The final exhibition was presented as a site-specific audiovisual installation at the former Oratory of Santa Maria del Sabato in one of the oldest parts of Palermo. The chapel is in a state of abandonment, waiting to converted into a synagogue. In the past it was a mosque, then a synagogue, and an oratory. The first scratch was taken in the empty hall, with just one tentacle scratching a circle.
The second one is, as it was during the installation, recorded at the center of the middle circle of three motor-driven circle-scratching tentacles, with raw sheep’s wool covering parts of the floor, being moved from time to time by the tentacles. The third recording is the sound of the three tentacle circles, recorded from beside them.

 


 

 

Project curator Ennio Pellicanò
Design Chiara Calcavecchia
A cooperation with Goethe Institut Palermo

 

Field Recording Series by Gruenrekorder
Germany / 2020 / Gruen 202 / LC 09488 / EAN 195497186013

 


 

Reviews

 

Rigobert Dittmann | Bad Alchemy Magazin (109)
KG AUGENSTERN? Das sind doch die mit den „Tentacles“ (Gruen 170) und der Flussfahrt mit ihrem MS Anuschka von Berlin nach Paris, auf der sie unterwegs mit ihren Tentakeln, ihren Fühlern, an sämlichen Brücken kratzten. Circles and Cycles (Gruen 202 w/Book) zeigt Christiane Prehn and Wolfgang Meyer auf einer anderen Mission: Archimedes, Kierkegaard, nein, Tentacles in Sicily – Scratching the Surface . Als doppelköpfiger Herakles lösten sie nicht zwölf, aber doch zehn Aufgaben und alle wieder nur mit ihren Tentakeln. Sie scratchten und kraulten 1. ‚a Lido‘ (die in den 60ern erbaute Feriensiedlung Lido Las Vegas), 2. ‚a Mountain Village‘ (das Bergdorf Cunziria, wo Gerberei betrieben wurde), 3. ‚a Commercial Area‘ (ein in den 90ern entstandenes Gewerbegebiet südlich von Catania), 4. ‚a Castle‘ (das 1930 errichtete Castello del Duca di Misterbianco), 5. ‚a Furniture Store‘ (das Ende der 70er eröffnete brutalistische Möbelhaus Sicilmobile), 6. ‚a Brick Factory‘ (die alte Ziegelfabrik Fornace Penna nahe beim Fischerdorf Sampieri), 7. ‚a Paper Mill‘ (die Papierfabrik S.p.a. Cartiere Larena), 8. ‚a Borgo‘ (das 1939-40 modernistisch erbaute Borgo Rizza), 9. ‚a Forwarding Company‘ (eine Transportfirma der Mafia) und 10. ‚a Chapel‘ (Santa Maria del Sabato in Palermo). An all diesen Örtlichkeiten hausen aber keine Ungeheuer, es sind Ruinen, gescheiterte, obsolete, verlassene Projekte, das Castello 1943 zerstört beim Ausräuchern der Wehrmacht durch die Alliierten, die Papierfabrik schon 1924 durch Brandstiftung. Verfallend und vandalisiert bieten sie nur noch Unterschlupf für Obdachlose, Vögel, verwilderte Hunde, Eidechsen, das Sicilmobile als perfekte J. G. Ballard-Kulisse. Ob eine Kapelle oder ein ganzes Dorf mitsamt seinem Gewerbe, sie sind hinfällig. Nur ein deutsches Künstlerpaar kratzt da mit metallenem Tonabnehmer wie mit einem Blindenstock an der Oberfläche der Vergangenheit nach den Genii locorum, denen sie Schaffelle und aus Schafwolle und Lehm geformte Fetische als Opfer darbringen, wobei manche davon toten Ratten oder steinzeitlich primitiven Idolen ähneln. Bei aller Liebe zu trauerspielerischen Lauschaktionen, rein akustisch verlangen die mit eisernem Stichel abgezirkelten Krikelkrakel der kauzigen Karnevalsg… Kommanditgesellschaft einigen guten Willen, um sie in ihrem Schaben, Scharren, Schrappen, Reißen, Knistern von nur skurrilem Hirnschiss zu unterscheiden. Als taktiles Gedankenspiel rührt die Tour entlang von Abfallprodukten und Hinterlassenschaften des Anthropozäns allemal an juckende Stellen, an die man nur mit Rückenkratzer hinlangt.
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Frans de Waard | VITAL WEEKLY
First, let me say something about the package. I know I usually don’t, but in this case: great stuff. The first comes with a square 18×18 cm book with lots of photos and the other on a sturdy piece of carton and separate leaflet. Both packages detailing what we hear. KG Augenstern is not the name of one person. It is a duo from Berlin, Christiane Prehn and Wolfgang Meyer and explores sites with what they call “Tentacles“, „extendable fibreglass canes that allow them to touch and extract the sounds of the places they are travelling through“. I’d say, watch a YouTube from them and things will become clearer. In the autumn of 2019, they went to abandoned places in Sicily and explored these. The eleven pieces are named after the places they explore and in the book, there are photos and descriptions of these places, which makes a nice chance for once. Normally there is something to guess in that respect but here’s all laid out. It makes all the scratching all the more understandable, I’d say and had there not been this amount of information I would have that somebody was trying to rake a concrete floor. Which, of course, as a sound event can be nice too. There is not always a lot of difference between the pieces, the tentacles sound upon a furniture store, brick factory, paper mill, a forwarding company and so on, sound pretty similar and sometimes the difference is made from the point of recording; starting outside we hear birds, far away some voices but once inside it is pretty similar, but, then, such is the nature when you go for an all conceptual approach and as such, I found this most enjoyable, mainly because, I must admit, there was quite a bit to watch and read.
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Robert Klages | Der Tagesspiegel
Mit dem Schiff unter Brücken In der Luft fischen
Christiane Prehn und Wolfgang Meyer erforschen als Kunstduo „Kg Augenstern“ den Klang von Brücken und verlassenen Orten.

 

Die unter Brücken kratzen: Christiane Prehn und Wolfgang Meyer ertasten als Künstlerduo „Kg Augenstern“ die Überführungen von unten.
Mit ihren Tentakeln erforschen die 60-Jährigen die Welt. An ihr Schiff haben sie teleskopische Fiberglasruten angebracht. Sie sehen aus wie Angeln, die nicht im Wasser, sondern in der Luft fischen.

 

Jede Brücke hat ihre eigene Klangidentität
Prehn und Meyer gehörten vor mehr als zehn Jahren zu den Ersten, die auf dem Rummelsburger See in Friedrichshain anlegten. Und da Berlin bekanntlich mehr Brücken hat als Venedig, gibt es einiges zu erforschen. Die Künstler fahren unter die Brücken und kratzen mit den Ruten an ihnen entlang, nehmen die Geräusche auf.

 

„Jede Brücke hat ihre eigene, durch Form, Konstruktion, Material und Verwendungszweck hervorgerufene Klangidentität“, sagt Meyer am Telefon. Prehn erinnert sich an die Elsenbrücke als erstes Untersuchungsobjekt: „Die war nicht schlecht, die hatte einen guten Klang.“

 

Der Sound der Weidendammbrücke ist auf Soundcloud zu hören. Die 23 Sekunden klingen nach Metallstangen, die über etwas anderes Metallenes schaben. Interessanter seien allerdings Pariser Brücken, so Prehn. „Die Konstruktionen waren vielfältiger, dort entstanden richtige Komposition. Da sind schon fast Ornamente in der Stahlkonstruktion, das ist schön, die zu fühlen und zu hören.“

 

Über 250 Brücken in ganz Europa haben sie untersucht. Die längste Reise führte das Schiff 2014 über Flüsse und Kanäle von Berlin durch die Niederlande und Belgien bis Südfrankreich. Die beiden geben an, alle aufgenommenen Brücken am Klang und am Rhythmus erkennen zu können – und an den Umgebungsgeräuschen, die mit aufgenommen werden. Die Klangkunst ist dabei allerdings nicht das primäre Ziel. Viel mehr geht es um die Performance und das Experimentieren: Konzeptkunst mit Klangerzeugnissen.

 

Sie setzten die Fassadenveränderung eines Hochhauses in Klang um
Kg Augenstern macht aber nicht nur in Brücken. 2012 haben sie sich mit dem Hochhaus der Allianz Versicherung am Spreeufer beschäftigt. Im Tagesverlauf verändert sich das Aussehen der Fassade permanent, durch das Öffnen und Schließen der Rollos sowie das An- und Abschalten der Beleuchtung in den Räumen.

 

„Hier entsteht eine Komposition von zufälligen Aktionen, von den Menschen, die dort ein und aus gehen, dort arbeiten“ so Prehn, die Bildende Künstlerin und Bildhauerin ist und an der Akademie der Künste in Stuttgart studiert hat.

 

Einen Tag lang haben sie und Meyer alle vier Seiten des Hochhauses einmal pro Stunde fotografiert und die Vorgänge auf ein zwei Meter hohes Modell des Gebäudes projiziert, die Veränderungen an der Fassade des Originals nachempfunden, diese dann in Farben und Klänge übersetzt. Jede Seite des Hochhauses zeigt ein sich veränderndes Mosaik aus farbigen Glassteinen, die sich wie das Öffnen und Schließen der Rollos im Original bewegen.

 

Die Farbpatterns des Mosaiks werden, wie eine Partitur, in elektronisch erzeugte Töne umgesetzt und die Kompositionsdauer von 24 Stunden auf 240 Sekunden komprimiert. Zur Nachtzeit hört man wenig, dann summt es wie ein Bienenstock. „Eine Komposition der Arbeit in dem Haus“, sagt Prehn.

 

Zur Documenta brachte „Kg Augenstern“ 50 Kanister Wind mit
Bei einem anderen Projekt hat das Duo in einer 48-stündigen Performance die Schöpfungsgeschichte aus der Bibel im Neuköllner Schifffahrtskanal aufgeführt. An die Ufermauern brachten sie bunte Oblaten in einer Reihenfolge an, die dem Schöpfungstext entspricht. Die entstandene Farbpartitur wurde auf dem Boot live als Klangfolge gespielt.

 

Zur Documenta 13 in Kassel, ebenfalls 2012, brachten Prehn und Meyer, die in Friedrichshain wohnen, über 50 Kanister Wind mit, eingesammelt auf dem Weg nach Hessen – beschriftet mit genauen Angaben zu Ort, Temperatur, Luftfeuchtigkeit, Luftdruck und einem Foto. Die Kanister waren dann Teil der Documenta-Ausstellung.

 

Für ihr letztes Projekt im November 2019 haben Prehn und Meyer ihr „schwimmendes und tönendes Labor“ verlassen und sind in Sizilien an Land gegangen, um dort verlassene Orte und Ruinen mit ihren Tentakeln abzutasten.

 

„Wir wollten den ihm eigenen, spezifischen Klang eines jeden Ortes erforschen. Die Untersuchung wurde ergänzt durch Experimente mit roher Schafwolle und Ton, sowie in den Ruinen vorgefundenen Materialien“, erzählt Meyer. „Die Orte befinden sich in einen Zustand zwischen menschlicher Anwesenheit und ihrer Abwesenheit.“

 

So zum Beispiel die Kapelle der Santa Maria del Sabato in Palermo, die mal eine Moschee, dann eine Synagoge und später ein christlicher Betsaal war – und nun verlassen ist. Hier fand die Ausstellung „Tentacles in Sicily – scratching the surface“ statt. Das dazu entstandene Buch mit CD „Circles and cycles“ ist gerade beim Klangkunstlabel „Gruenrekorder“ erschienen.
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