This is something I wrote, an aeon ago, for/about the Gastarbyter installation, created in collaboration with London Fieldworks and commissioned by the ICA (London) back in 1998. It was written in a fairly uninformed way, perhaps even naïvely, but connects closely with the reading I’ve been doing recently (Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, Guattari even) which should result in some writing sometime soon…
Ours is a culture which encourages us only to watch and not to listen or feel, nor to analyse how sight, sound and touch infiltrate each other. It is a culture whose excess of ‘noise’ requires that we severely filter what we are capable of perceiving. Against this then, Gastarbyter is an experiential pocket, a hortus sensorium, which encourages the formation of connections between channels of perception, the engagement of close perception skills, a movement into the interior of sound, light and tactility. From a sensory perspective Gastarbyter represents a movement away from the dominance of the visual in Western culture. There is no primacy of the eye within this environment but nor is there a primacy of the ear or body. Instead there is the tactile, the audible, the visual, in symbiosis. Symbiosis being a leakage between what are normally regarded as discrete elements. In creating sound for the installation the central concern is therefore the exploration of this process of contamination and projection. An object is never the same after we have touched it. A sound is radically changed if it is also felt on the skin. The quality of a light source will mutate depending on the irradiation it receives from a sound skittering between different states. Given the above, music is anathema to Gastarbyter. Music has no place in an environment which constantly calls attention to a multiplicity of perceptual modes. It is too much a cultural object, something into which we slip and lose ourselves. Instead there is Klangkunst [sound-art] – the laying bare of the interior of sound itself – in which much of what characterises music (harmony, melody, rhythm) has been stripped away. Discrete time (based on pulse) and discrete pitch (the 12 chromatic pitches) return only as marker points in a play upon basic cognitive processes: the detection of change and the denial or fulfillment of this expectation. This is the closest Klangkunst comes to being music.
Gastarbyter by Dugal McKinnon is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.