The Sound of Indifference (in Amersfoort)

At Kaalstaart – a Festival for Beta-Art and New Crafts – in the Dutch town of Amersfoort, I have set up my installation ‘The Sound of Indifference’ for a second time. The installation was shown before on the Summer Interim Show at Camberwell. Now, it was my purpose to adapt the installation and see how the (programming) adjustments in a different exhibition situation would turn out. Important was how the audience would react on it.

Unfortunately I could only be there during the opening on Friday night and on the Sunday closing afternoon. This was because of another project and limited my feedback moments and video opportunities quite a bit. That is also why I decided to put up a text, that explained the ‘raison d’être’ of the installation. The translated text was as follows:

“There is a lot of waste on the street nowadays. Robin makes a small walk through town, takes the litter he finds as base material and documents the findings (see here). In this way he made the installation ‘The Sound of Indifference (in Amersfoort)’ which is a sub-interactive installation in which Found Objects became Sound Objects. By moving around the installation, the audible and the visible will be influenced. Because the installation reacts also on former motions, the question is whether one can perceive the interactions“.


Feedback and learnings

During the built up I tried several ways of projecting the video of the findings. I wanted to set up a visual and immersive connection with the interactor as well. However, as the partly daylight situation was too much of a hinderance, I decided to withdraw this concept because of its weak execution. Although I had done a location visit a week before, to get a suitable place for the installation, in hindsight I should have asked for a different setting.

About sound: the installation was sometimes almost timid and at times quite noisy. The other artists, we were with 7 presenting different works, had luckily no problems with the fact ‘my objects in tin sounds’ were travelling throughout the room. Sadly, in return my video recordings did also pick up a lot of (unwanted) backdrop sounds and voices of other actions around. This made a good video documentation hard to do.

Sharing the making process: in total 350 visitors came along at the festival. This was a bit less than two years ago, when we exhibited with the installation Light stuff. On Sunday I had some really interesting conversations with about a dozen people who were really engaging with the work. Some were first reading the text, others became intrigued right away. Most talks were about the way the installation was made, what it did and then about why I did this.

About the perception: I must say that only few people looked into the cans themselves. Nobody went on his knees as in London often happened. Maybe this had to do with the older age group that attended this exhibition. Many visitors stayed on a respectful distance. As if they were a bit afraid of ‘the thing’. Happily that the unconscious interaction took place within a 5 meter circle.

A couple of comments to be shared:

  • fascinating but I do not get it, what is happening here?
  • I had no idea that I was part of it
  • I see it is not random, but I would like to be more in control of the movements
  • the sounds are so unexpected, beautiful as well
  • good to see ‘something so out of the box’

Furthermore, 5 personal artist friends came along. Their advices and reactions were equally appreciated as well:

  • Simple put, I could see this on a much bigger scale
  • Both in size of the tins as well as in the number of rods
  • The work should be at least as big as we humans are, so that it becomes an environment on its own
  • You should make more of those litter walks and make the sound documentations the key thing
  • Great that you do this, but is it not sad that visitors are missing the interactive point; this evolved in a discussion about what to tell and how to direct the necessary…
  • Thinking about where this installation could go next, some fine recommendations were made too.

Lastly, I  have to address this troublesome issue of making a thorough documentation. I do not want to make a hidden camera recording of a first encounter of an unaware interactor. I find it really hard to ask for their consent afterwards, it is like cheating with social conventions in the art setting. But in fact when I ask the visitor beforehand for consent, I know this will influence their actions much: they may become performers.

This challenge made me think about a special set-up how to work, not around, but with this double sided ‘sword’ to get more insightful documentation and analysis. Nevertheless, I have to say that through this second exhibition, I understand the potential of this installation much better and feel that I am able to build upon that.