m a S
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Colaboran en este número / Contributors in this Issue:
José Iges, Miguel Álvarez Fernández, José Manuel Costa, Rosa Pera, Santiago B. Olmo, Oliva María Ruido, Luis Francisco Pérez, Marcela Uribe, Agnaldo Farias, Alanna Lockward, Filipa Oliveira, Juan Antonio Álvarez Reyes, Joana Neves, Brian Curtin, Stephen Maine, Eva Grinstein, Mariana Canepa Luna, Jose Ángel Artetxe, Alicia Murría, Carolina Hernández, Pedro Medina, Vicente Carretón.
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ARTECONTEXTO arte cultura nuevos medios es una publicación trimestral de ARTEHOY Publicaciones y Gestión, S.L. Impreso en España por Eurocolor Producción gráfica: El viajero / Eva Bonilla. Procograf S.L. ISSN: 1697-2341. Depósito legal: M-1968–2004
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ARTECONTEXTO reúne diversos puntos de vista para activar el debate y no se identifica forzosamente con todas las opiniones de sus autores. ARTECONTEXTO does not necessarily share the opinions expressed by the authors.
Primera página: Acordes y acuerdos / Page One: Chords and Accords ALICIA MURRÍA
DOSSIER: MUNDO SONORO / WORLD OF SOUND
82 90 108
Dimensiones (visuales, aunque no sólo) de lo sonoro The (Visual, Although not Only) Dimensions of Sound JOSÉ IGES Christina Kubisch - José Antonio Orts. Notas sobre el arte sonoro en Berlín Christina Kubisch - José Antonio Orts. Notes on Sound Art in Berlin MIGUEL ÁLVAREZ FERNÁNDEZ
11 En el corazón del ordenador. Sinestesia en la era digital Inside the Computer’s Heart. Synesthesia in the Digital Era JOSÉ MANUEL COSTA Always on (en Sónar) Always on (at Sónar) ROSA PERA
Taller Kinshasa Kinshasa Workshop SANTIAGO B. OLMO
Entrevista con KIMSOOJA An interview with KIMSOOJA OLIVA MARÍA RUBIO
Vivir afuera. Sobre Pedro G. Romero y Archivo F.X.: La ciudad vacía Living Outside. About Pedro G. Romero and Archivo F.X.: La ciudad vacía LUIS FRANCISCO PÉREZ
Cibercontexto MARCELA URIBE Info
Críticas de exposiciones / Reviews
Portada / Cover CHRISTINA KUBISCH
Elektronische Grafiken (1961/62)
103 Arten Beethoven zu singen, 2005. Akademie der Künste, Berlín
PAGE ONE Chords and Accords The first pitfall the various segments of the art world encounter when it comes to making demands to public officials and agencies is the absence of representative and unitary voices. Surprisingly, things are now changing, and, slowly and not without difficulties, an associative fabric is being woven which, by using common sense, is proving able to articulate common positions on the issues that affect us all. This unity on specific issues is making the Ministry of Culture receptive to listening to and even negotiating with the art world through its representatives (the Unión de Asociaciones de Artistas Visuales, the Asociación de Directores de Museos de Arte Contemporáneo, the Consejo de Críticos de Artes Visuales, the Instituto de Arte Contemporáneo, the Consorcio de Galerías de Arte Contemporáneo, and the Unión de Galerías de Arte Contemporáneo) about major issues such as the appointments of directors of state-owned museums and of members of their boards of trustees, with a view to establishing protocols for action which, in a second stage, must also be negotiated with the various regional governments to be gradually implemented. What for? For nothing less than eliminating arbitrariness in both appointments and dismissals; for achieving open and transparent apointments procedures; for ensuring that the choice if a museum director is based on the criteria set out in a welldefined project; for preventing political interference (which is not the same thing as having well thought-out cultural policies, which are much to be desired); for fostering medium- and long-term projects instead of sudden starts and stops related to the electoral fortunes of political parties, for ensuring that the boards of trustee of the museums are made up by people qualified to contribute something substantial to the museum, and who are not under pressure from elected officials to change museum programmes (as recently occurred at the Patio Herreriana museum in Valladolid, leading to the mass resignation of the board); for ensuring that membership of a museum board signifies a commitment to that museum, ending the practice of naming the same individuals to serve on the boards of several museums, which erodes confidence in them, for instance, when it comes to acquiring works; for not using appointments to these boards as “rewards” for services rendered in non-cultural areas, such as to bankers or businessmen who have never contributed a cent nor helped to attract private funding for these institutions; to ensure that after the grand openings of new museums they are not left without sufficient funds to enable them to operate with dignity –nothing more and nothing less than all this! There is no question that Spain has museums and arts centres that meet these condition, but there are also many bad examples. We applaud the fact that these good practices are now being discussed and considered –with a view, we hope, to their application– at the Ministry of Culture, but we should not forget that this a result of the patient labours, cooperation, and unified positions of the associations named. Turning to this summer issue of ARTECONTEXTO, it contains our third dossier, this time devoted to the conjunction of sound art and visual production from an approach in which artists, musicologists, and art critics (José Ages, Miguel Olivarez Fernández, José Manuel Costa, and Rosa Pera) examine the past and the careers of several artists, appraise some recent productions, and consider the deep transformations introduced by the use of digital technology for processing or creating images and sounds. There is also an interview with the South Korean artist Kimsooja, work by Spain’s Pedro G. Romero, and the story of an interesting experiment carried out in Kinshasa, along with our usual reviews of major exhibitions held in different countries, and our news pages. On this occasion our Cybercontexto section is devoted to sound art. ALICIA MURRÍA
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Dossier: Mundo sonoro / World of Sound
José Iges Dimensiones (visuales, aunque no sólo) de lo sonoro The (Visual, although not only) Dimensions of Sound
Miguel Álvarez Fernández Christina Kubisch - José Antonio Orts. Notas sobre el arte sonoro en Berlín Christina Kubisch - José Antonio Orts. Notes on Sound Art in Berlin
José Manuel Costa En el corazón del ordenador. Sinestesia en la era digital Inside the Computer’s Heart. Synesthesia in the Digital Era
Rosa Pera Always on. (en Sónar) Always on. (at Sónar)
En el sello Raster/Noton, tanto ALVA NOTO como BYETONE y otros, consideran el elemento visual, desde la presentación de sus CD’s hasta sus actuaciones en vivo, como parte integral de su trabajo
6 Inside the Computer’s Heart Synesthesia in the Digital Era
By José Manuel Costa*
“Modernity is responsible for having introduced time in the practice of fine arts, and, consequently, for having opened the doors for music”. MICHAEL GLASMEIER
In spite of this definitive sentence, tracing a history of the direct relation between visual arts and sound arts is a very hard task. There are two reasons that explain this difficulty. The first one is that the intimate character of each realm is substantially different to the other: dynamic in the case of the sound and static in the case of the visual. The second reason is that, once a coincidence between both fields has been produced, the subsequent studies are focused exclusively on one of them, while the other remains as a merely supportive element. The visual in Opera is considered as a secondary aspect of music, while the musical in a ballet is a secondary aspect of choreography. In short, there is not a critic or theoretical corpus (although there are some neuropsychological studies on the subject) about a sensible, creative phenomena that we can call synesthesia –fully plausible in the digital era. Nevertheless, there are precedents of this direct relation, such as a very ancient tradition of musical automata and works like Händel’s Fireworks Music (1749), that was created in collaboration with the royal master armorers in order to increase the potential impression of the event (which eventually failed because one of the ships got burned and sunk). But here we are, talking about a rare superimposition while the visual, in this case, fireworks, was something as dynamic and diachronic as music itself. 38 · ARTECONTEXTO · DOSSIER
In the label Raster/Noton, both ALVA NOTO and BYETONE, among others, consider the visual element, including the presentation of their CD’S and their live shows, as an integral part of their work
Perhaps it would be harder to imagine Händel creating a “Music for Van Dyck’s Paintings”. We would have to wait for a couple of centuries until painters first attempted to represent the dynamism of bourgeois-industrial society and the abstraction of anonymous society –there appeared titles like Kandinsky’s Improvisations or Morton Feldman’s Rothko Chapel (1971). As we have hinted before, in the case of traditional visual arts, the difficulty of that common origin is derived from the fact that while time, the diachronic and the dynamic are intrinsic elements of music, visual arts are synchronic and immutable according to their Romantic concresion: painting and sculpture. One initial overcoming of this dichotomy between “static” visual arts and “dynamic” music occurred in the industrial-electric era, with the advent of moving images of cinema. Even before sonorous movies, German, Russian and American experimental filmmakers began to explore a perfect concordance of projected images, not only with the words, but also with sound, far beyond the vulgar rose-tinted orchestrations or the more or less boring piano accompaniments in movie theatres. Walter Ruttman’s Lichtspiel Opus 1 (1921), an abstract animated short, is considered to be the first film with synchronized music. The music played by an orchestra was a piece that Max Butting composed specially for these animations. Curiously, this basic experimental piece arrived to Hollywood as the overture sequence (Bach’s Toccata and Fugue) in Walt Disney’s Fantasia (1940), thanks to the German emigrant and experimenter Oskar Fischinger.
Interestingly, the first device designed to record sounds for a soundtrack was created in Germany in 1922: it was called the Tri Ergon and its creators were Hans Vogt and Josef Engl. This invention was eventually bought by the Fox Company and renamed as Movietone. The great geniuses of soundtracks began to emerge at that time, but even in their case we are still talking about interventions in which –except for very isolated examples such as Ruttman’s Berlin, Symphony of a City– music, sound effects and dialogues are often limited to follow the moving images. Undoubtedly, it’s because of the force of the narrative. In spite of the importance of soundtracks for the subject we are dealing with, staying in this field would demand a historical walk through the cinema-video avenue and an examination of its close relation with music. Unfortunately, this is a well-traveled road. My intention is going a little bit further, until the digital-intercommunication era and I have many good reasons to do so. Perhaps this article should have begun reminding our readers of the Russian musician Aleksandr Skrjabiny (1872-1915) and his special appreciation of synesthesia, which we could describe as “the condition that permits one to perceive sensations that correspond to a particular sense when another sense is under a stimulus”, an intuitive definition that would be later confirmed by physiology (and would become reinforced in the 60s with the popularity of the “synesthesic” drug, LSD). Skrjabiny’s vision led him to create a “light organ” in which every note had an associated color –consequently, when a note was played a light with its corresponding color would turn on. DOSSIER · ARTECONTEXTO · 39
It was kind of a raw method, but undoubtedly it constitutes one of the first examples in which the visual and the sound are presented in a perfectly integrated form by means of an electronic resource. It doesn’t matter if the synesthesic composition is imagined through colors or notes. In both cases the final result will be notes and colors. From this point on we must mention some other integrating phenomena or movements such as Futurism, Dada, Duchamp, sound installation-sculptures, John Cage, video-installations, big pop concerts and their light-shows, “son et lumiere” performances, and all those practices that not long ago we used to call “multimedia”. Fascinating as they are, we must abandon these attempts to merge the visual and sound through analogical means and we have to go forward, to the computers –the field in which the term “multimedia” has lost its meaning. And we are not talking here about “many media”, but rather about a single one. Currently, all the arts are inside the computer’s heart. That’s the universal media that permits us to write poetry or prose, make music, record sounds, manipulate and create images…And the most fascinating thing about it is that, unlike all previous artistic tools (brushes, flute, chisel, even the movie or video cameras), it is absolutely unspecific. Who could tell what is the actual use of a Mac or a PC when they’re off? The digital eliminates any kind of privilege between the visual and the sound. The basic code of an infograph or an electronic music piece is the same: long sequences of registered and filed binary data. For instance, we could copy Moby Dick in a word processor and save it with a typical audio extension (*.wav, *.aif). Some programs for manipulating sound (old versions of Cool Edit, for instance) could read that file, not as a text, but as a series of waves that could be manipulated. The contact then can be really close, although the results –that has been my experience- are a white noise that must be purified in order to obtain something that can be listened to. The first sound experiments on a computer were carried out right after World War II, in a remote place such as Australia, by Trevor Pearcey, creator of the CSIR Mark 1 Automatic Computer, a machine that demonstrated its abilities “executing” the pop song Colonel Bogey (from the movie The Bridge on the River Kwai), running a program designed by Geoff Hill. A few years later, Max Matthews, a much more important character in the history of music, designed the first program for digital music composition, “Music”, that was followed by “Groove”. Fundamental steps and paradigms that have remained until our days as their creator’s name has been used to christen one of the programs I will describe bellow, the Max/MSP.
In the field of the visual, the time span was similar. In 1950, both Ben Laposky’s “Oscillons” and Herbert Franke’s experiments in Germany can be considered the first samples of computer art. The evolution in this field was even faster than in music, which was due perhaps to the circumstance that cathode screens (and keyboards) were already used for introducing and then reading alphanumeric data. While that screen was already essential in the first 1977 Apple and the first 1981 PCs, it took more than a decade to introduce the sound card as a standard equipment –and it was thanks to videogames. On the other hand, artists had a relatively quick access to those high memory computers that were installed at universities –since they used them in their free time. Back in those 70s, many of those “mainframe” big computers were not busy all day long. In the meantime, musical experimentation venues were still at the radiophone labs of WDR in Cologne, the ORF in Paris or the BBC in London. The contact with computers among musicians, albeit existent, was not as profound as that of visual artists. Music had still a wide electronic-analogical field to explore in its own terms. Despite images and sounds were simultaneously created with these big computers, digital art and music followed different paths, even though this divergence was mitigated by the fact that, since the 70s, artists such as Nam June Paik began to merge sound and image in their videos or installations –mainly in the works Paik made in collaboration with violoncellist Charlotte Moorman. But in fact, we were still in the realm of the electronic-analogical. It wasn’t digital, not yet. It is generally considered that the first practical –and eventually successful– intuition about the possibility to merge the creation of image and sound in a single apparatus was Alan Kay’s “Flex” computer –which would be later transformed into a Xerox prototype under the name of “Dynabook”–. The idea, conceived as early ad 1968, was similar to a computer that we could locate between what we call a laptop and the new tablet-PC’s. Its control system, the Smalltalk program, was almost totally graphic (actually Steve Jobs and Jeff Raskin used it as an inspiration for their McIntosh). The “Dynabook” was intended to process both image and sound in a simple manner. In fact, Kay always thought to commercialize his idea as a toy for children, since he assumed that the latter had not yet consolidated certain manners to undertake a work. In that sense, “Dynabook” was a success and the few children who had the chance to use the prototypes demonstrated its viability, not only because they used it without any apprehension, but also because they managed to create
And we are not talking here about “many media”, but rather about a single one. Currently, all the arts are inside the computer’s heart. That’s the universal media that permits us to write poetry or prose, make music, record sounds, manipulate and create images… 40 · ARTECONTEXTO · DOSSIER
ALEXANDER SCRIABIN Light Organ Keyboard used in Prometeo: Poema de Fuego, 1910
audiovisual programs that, at least in those days, seemed very complex. Now we can move forward, more or less ten year ago, when computers (the Amiga 500, with is fantastic sound microchip and its quite decent graphics, and then the first Power-Macs) made the “Flex” dream come a commercial true. As a result, thousands of artists finally had in their hands a creation tool that was relatively easy to use and cheap. Once we reached this point of technological usability, we must explain the context in which a new synesthesic relation took place between digital music and image. And the more we rummage around the Academic world, the more we’ll see that this relation was occurring since early 90s at very different places that somehow were the direct descendants of the aforementioned big shows of hippie-progressive rock from the 60s and 70s. All in all, it was something one could intuitively experience in the 90s at some techno parties in Berlin or Amsterdam, where light, sound, video
HANS-CHRISTOPH STEINER Solitude Score in Pure Data.
projections (made by VJ’s) and even tradition artworks like a huge painting by Attila Kovacs, would make up a single totality for one to get lost: the New Post-Romantic Gesamtkunstwerk, without sentimental adherences or self-expresive, and, unlike big concerts, without a visual or sound center of attention. In short, an environment that was likely to accept both visionary creators and indulgent partygoers. Big labs and traditional centers still exist and play a meaningful role, but towards mid-90s they stopped being the technologic avant-garde in the artistic realm, as they were replaced by small cells of young people who had grown up in this new paradigm. We’re talking about an age in which any user –preferably an artistcounts on a tool that is useful for producing both visual arts and sound arts, regardless of the specific techniques that not long ago used to define those arts. The new creator doesn’t need to be a virtuoso with the brush or the violin. All he needs is controlling the computer. As always, any
DOSSIER · ARTECONTEXTO · 41
THOMAS KÖNER has been merging sound and image for ten years in such works as Banlieu du Vide, 2003.
information or additional tuition can be interesting, but strictu sensu it is not indispensable. It’s not only about knowing how to use this or that program. The key is to be aware of the possibilities of the tool itself and also knowing that those possibilities are equally valid for any kind of aesthetic expression, ranging from videogames to conceptual art. Computer can act as a system of not-common notation or also as a simple color palette. However, technology hasn’t made all this journey, arriving right in front of the doors of an absolutely new world, just to use this “universal tool” as a means for camouflaging the past. The “aesthetics of error” that has been discovering the intrinsic possibilities of this new media, plays a relevant role in this case. Not much later, artists and program designers (in some cases, artists who were also program designers) became aware of the fact that they could not only synchronize image and sound in microseconds, but they also had the intuition that it was possible to control sound through image and image through sound. The first commercial programs of this kind were commercialized in mid 90s –it’s worth to mention that the real software innovations have been often made by restless individuals and not by big corporations. Language programs such as C++ began to appear and their subsequent development with regards to programming (Max/MSO or 42 · ARTECONTEXTO · DOSSIER
Audiovisual edition program Pure Data
SupperCollider) eventually produced Pure Data or Processing –programs that, apart from music, permit their user to create and manipulate video, graphics or images in real time, besides their virtually unlimited possibilities of interaction with sound or external sensors. All these developments made possible that Japanese artist Toshio Iwai would present his work Piano as Image Media on the occasion of Karlsruhe’s Transmediale in 1995. By means of a lever and a button the user would mark stripes of light that would appear as a keyboard, like an old pianola. When they light reached the keys, a note would sound in the space and a projection of multicolored forms would emerge. It’s impossible to be clearer. And that’s the point we are now. Visual artists or musicians have discovered the possibilities of programs such as Pure Data, and, even if they don’t use it, they all have assumed that a close relation between image and sound is more than a simply decorative element for livening up a concert in which the interpretation is reduced to watching the laptop’s screen and moving the mouse. This idea led Thomas Köner to leave the stage, or at least to locate himself in a corner of the stage while the main role was transferred from the interpreter to a series of projections (on one or two screens) in which very slow variations of frost landscapes appear, quite in keeping with Köner’s melancholic music. Likewise, Ryoji Ikeda came to a similar conclusion when he
HERBERT FRANKE’S Elektronische Grafiken (1961/62) where, together with BEN LAPOSKY’S Oscillons, the first computer-generated graphics
interrogated himself about his concerts. He became aware that he was not a virtuoso in any of the specialties that can be shown on a stage, but he had enough skills on visual arts to provide an organic totality of image and sound in which the political aspects of his work would outstand (according to his minimalist style, we could compare him to Barnett Newman). Even earlier, the first Panasonics were presented in Berlin behind a pub’s bar (The Panasonic Bar). The audience’s attention was focused on a TV screen in which a white line would move on a black background following the oscillations of sinusoidal waves used by a Finnish duo. We should not wonder that Ikeda published his latest work with the German label Raster/Norton (from Karl Marx Stadt, in the former GDR). One of its founders, Carsten Nicolai (Alva Noto) has had a presence in Kassel Documenta –initially he used to make paintings, but he also made electronic music, so it didn’t take long for him to combine both aspects. The final result are installations as simple as Bausatz Noto (1997) or the most recent and terrific one, AntiReflex, presented at Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt, even though this facet is also evident in his concerts, where he projects a reticule that oscillates and mutates following the rhythm or the spectrum of music. A similar technique is used by his label-partners Frank Bretscheider and Olaf Bender, musicians and graphic designers as well as videoartists. En the realm of pure programming we have to mention Farmers
Manual, a group of virtuosos whose graphic aesthetic practically responds to the same breaking-trough principles of their music. However, we must not forget the work of some Net-Art collectives such as Jodi, acknowledged precursors of interactive, sonorous or visual practices on the internet. But the list of artists who combine the visual and the sonorous is even larger. Gerwald Rockenschaub has been dealing with this problem for more than ten years. Although his activities as DJ leave a lot to be desired, in the end he has managed to create a much more organic and interesting body of work. These examples (and some others like Phon O, Skotz Kolgen, Rechenzentrum, or Safi…) reveal what in a pragmatically way was commented a few years ago by some art and design students from London’s St Martin College: that the example of the latest traditional artists (the YBA, headed by Hirst or Emin) could not be valid in these times; that hey prefer to take art out of the museums and distribute it in the field of music, of moving image, of game and spectacle; that they already belonged to groups or were taking part of projects and they were planning to make their living working as designers or digital programmers; in short, that Art in the age of computers and the internet cannot be alone by itself anymore. *José Manuel Costa is an art and music critic.
DOSSIER · ARTECONTEXTO · 43
58 路 ARTECONTEXTO
Kinshasa Workshop By Santiago B. Olmo*
In the history of African colonisation and de-colonisation the case of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is a story of cruelty and cynicism. The Congo was a private colony “owned” by Belgian King Leopold II, an absolute and despotic ruler, who enslaved the people to obtain ivory and rubber. Ownership was transferred to the Belgian state in the early 20th C., and after a turbulent independence struggle beginning in 1960, Mobuto seized power and ruled from 1964 until 1997. Authoritarianism, greed, and despotism impeded the development both of an organised society and of the economy of a country blessed with rich and varied natural resources. The Congo is now undergoing a fragile transition to democracy, with elections scheduled to take place later this year. Against such a political backdrop, the photographic workshop held in Kinshasa this past January was a wonderful opportunity to show how the relations between artists working on specific projects can spawn and invigorate changes that sometimes spill over into the political sphere. Kinshasa is a city of more than 5 million people who live in a degraded and insecure urban setting. Criminal gangs make the streets unsafe to walk, and an undisciplined police force offers little protection. If we consider that for many years state officials and employees have received their salaries irregularly and with long delays, it is easy to understand this insecurity and the abuses of power with which the country is rife. Corruption and graft have not diminished with the recent political changes, and any official position is regarded as an opportunity to enrich oneself. Infrastructures have crumbled to the point of uselessness. The Kinshasa harbour is a graveyard of hundreds of semi-sunken ships where thousands of squatters now dwell, surrounded by pestilent waters, since there is no sewer system. Roads are full of potholes and few railroad lines remain in service. Despite these hardships, the city throbs with vitality, which often takes the form of music and dance, but there is also a vibrant theatre and film scene, since here, as in many African countries, these media somehow carry on the central narrative tradition. Poverty has obliged musicians to make their instruments from cast-off materials –plastic bottles to create marimbas, and metal boxes as drums. One local band, called Konono, led by Mawangu Mingiedi, who is a virtuoso of the likembé, a kind of acoustic piano, has won international attention, and has realised a CD called “Congotronics”, merging percussion with electronic sounds. Among the city’s many busy theatre companies is Les sapeurs, a
group of highly imaginative elegantes or dandies, who stage spontaneous parades down the streets of Kinshasa, sometimes wearing expensive overcoats. Since the early 20th C. photography has been a popular channel of Congolese creativity, thanks to the presence in colonial Leopoldville of photographers from other West African countries and Angola, but also from Belgium, such as Van Eyck, and the Pole Zagourski, who established the city’s first photography studios. Many new studios were opened after independence, and tradecraft is passed from parents to children across the generations. Folk painting is widely practised, and tends to portray everyday life from a somewhat satirical perspective, using some traditional elements mixed with others borrowed from comics. A leading exponent of this art is Chéri Samba, which is perhaps the most widespread and closely linked to the concerns of the people. Though often abused as an instrument of political propaganda, photography is still used as a channel for the expression of an internal viewpoint and a critical reflection that extend beyond the immediate. Some years ago the Senegalese critic and curator N’Goné Fall undertook a study of photography on Kinshasa for Revue Noire. The results were displayed in the exhibition “Photographers of Kinshasa”, held as part of the IV Rencontres de la Photographie Africaine in Bamako en 2001, and also published as a book which has enjoyed a wide circulation.1 There are many photographers who run their own studios and make portraits on commission, while also doing photo stories and covering sports events for newspapers and magazines. But only a small handful are also able to make worthwhile pictures at their own initiative. In 1971 when the Congo became Zaire, Mobutu launched a campaign of forcible “Zairisation”, or “Africanisation”, and obliged photographers to reflect his ideas of what was “authentic”, in an exercise more of propaganda than of interpreting reality. At the same time there was a severe shortage of photographic paper, film, and darkroom chemicals, which made photograph and even more precarious activity. Since the Rencontres de la Photographie Africaine in Bamako, Simon Njami, its artistic director, has promoted photography workshops in numerous African countries, as a methodology of work, research and experimentation, permanent training follow-up, and a search for new talent. In the most recent exhibition a selection of those made in the course of these workshops were the most popular.
3Antoni Socias, one of the directors of this workshop, surrounded by policemen who joined the group of photographers. Photo: © SBO
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While observing these photographs and chatting with the photographers in Bamaka, I also was preparing a photography workshop to be held some months later in Kinshasa. One of the biggest problems with the workshop was to confront one of the weirdest legacies of Mobutu’s protracted rule: since the 1960s it was against the law to engage in photography without the express permission of the authorities. This control applied to the movements of the photographer around the country or even within the city, and required accreditation by a publication or agency, and approval of the theme of the intended work. All photography has to meet the government’s expectations and contribute to Mobuto’s personality cult. In 1968 the news agency Congopress was closed and international agencies dropped their Congo operations because of these restrictions, which made it dangerous for photographers to leave their studios and take their cameras outdoors, where the police pursued them as spies. Any photographer lacking official identification was liable to have his film and camera confiscated, and there was a chance he would be beaten or jailed as well. Indeed, this could happen even if the photographer could show official permission, since the police, who operate from shipping containers installed on street corners in the capital, answer to no one. Even today, professional photographers must obtain official accreditation from the Ministry of the Interior to take photographs. The must show their published work from the past few years to prove that that really are photographers, but since the media rarely print photo credits it is often a nightmare for freelancers to obtain permits, which must be renewed every two years. For decades Kinshasa, which was nicknamed Kin-la-Belle because of its location on a beautiful site on Congo the river, its buildings and boulevards, and the vitality of its people, making music in the bars and in the streets when sizzling temperatures ease a bit, has been photographed only clandestinely and with considerable risk to the photographers from police who are very jealous of their prerogatives. From the 1990s to the early part of the 2000s Kinshasa was periodically convulsed by riots and pillaging by the desperate poor, in incidents without political overtones. Some photography studios have been destroyed in these disturbances. This happened in 2001 to that of Kuhanuka FumuGilamba, who later said “My worst memory is having lost to the flames my whole combat arsenal –10 cameras, 2 camera bodies, a VHS recorder, 2 flash units, all my papers and a career’s worth of archives. That 23rd of May of 1997 was a hammer blow to my head, a sword through my heart. I have a head, two, arms, two eyes, and the will to regain all I have lost. God gave me the courage to start over again from scratch. Life is that, too.”2 Despite the most recent political changes (changing the flag and even the name of the country, dropping Zaire) this unwritten but implacably enforced law, has remained in force, and with devastatingly effects on history and its documentation. Since then Congolese photographers have worked with a very low profile of intensity, circumscribed by officialdom, and with a very narrow margin for recording daily life, customs, and the street.
Thus the workshop became a pilot experiment that was going to make it possible to explore the way that photography could be addressed in contact both with the population and with the police. Likewise it was going to make it possible to draw up a list of places, public buildings or military installations that had to remain off limits, while work proceeded on a ministerial dossier of viability for liberalised photography. The workshop proposal was an initiative of the Spanish Embassy, with the enthusiastic support of the Ambassador José Pascual Marco. The event coincided with the presentation at the Fine Arts Academy and the National Museum of the exhibition entitled Human Landscape, showing the work of ten Spanish photographers. and the idea was to a more direct encounter with active Congolese photographers, after long years of isolation. The project had the full support of the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Tourism of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, aware that the workshop itself provided a good occasion for introducing a bill to repeal the prohibition, while enabling professional photographers to participate actively in the transformation and opening up of the country intended by the current provisional government. Two of the photographers taking part in the Spanish inhabitation, Valentín Vallhonrat and Antoni Socias, were put in charge of organising and running the workshop, along with the author of this article, who was appointed curator. Participants were selected among members of Kinshasa’s four professional photographers associations. They were not all young –some had decades of experience behind them, such as Kuhanuka and Anicet Florent Labakh. The workshop was not conceived as a training project, but an opportunity to exchange ideas, in a practical and experimental encounter, about how to deal photographically with a reality that cannot be viewed freely through a camera. To ensure the smooth functioning of the workshop the Ministerial of the Interior issues permits and accreditations to all participants, and a number of armed police were assigned to protect the photographers and to coordinate with police units stationed around the city. The permits were valid for one month, which was regarded as time enough for Kinshasa’s photographers to do their work with more freedom and to make pictures that could be shown while also competing for a prize financed by the Spanish embassy and to create a record of the city today as a starting point for the revival of photographic activity in Kinshasa. Because of the precarious conditions of security and mobility problems in a city where photography had long been banned, a single group was formed, and in keeping with decision made after discussions in the workshop a collective work of 180 photographs was assembled, to summarise the way Congolese photographers view Kinshasa. Accordingly, along with police escorts the group toured the maze of the central market, where everything is sold, from fish, meat, spices and clothing to mattresses, tools, and fruit, and where the merchandise stands next to huge improvised rubbish heaps. Other sites visited included the Botanical Gardens, the cemetery of La Gombé –where every burial becomes a party where the mourners get drunk–, a coffee factory, a hospital under construction, and one of the many districts of makeshift
since the 1970s it was against the law to engage in photography without the express permission of the authorities.
On the first day, the workshop took place at the Central Market of Kinshasa and its surroundings. Photographer Constantin Kuhanuka in the front line. Photo: © SBO
dwellings that constitute Kinshasa’s urban complexity. People reacted with both fear and expectation. They asked how it was possible to take photographs, which was against the law, but also asked the photographers to take their pictures. The presence of the police was disconcerting, but the first few days were also days of fear and surprise for the police themselves, since they did not feel entirely safe in their job of protecting photographers. We were all afraid, and this sense of extreme vulnerability marked the experience. After years of silence and precarious activity, during the workshop the photographers of Kinshasa decided to join forces among their associations and organise a biennial event for showing their most personal work. The workshop not only stimulated communication among them but it also revealed the importance of open discussions and debates over the quality of the photographs, and how cooperation and teamwork may be useful tools in a creative sphere in which the individual is certainly the basis but in which collective experience can transform more profoundly. The products of the workshop are to be shown at several venues around
the country through the French cultural network and will be the first exhibition by Congolese photographers ever to be seen in their own country. This workshop also furnished a photographic record of the city of Kinshasa at a time of political transition amidst a ban on photography, but is contributing to the repeal of this ban, allowing and for the photographers themselves to construct from their diverse viewpoints an image for the city, that did not previously exist –not even as a panoramic cityscape. * Santiago B. Olmo is an art critic and independent exhibition curator. NOTES 1 N’ Goné Fall, “Photographes de Kinshasa”, Revue Noir, Paris 2001 Summary in “Mémoires intimes d’un nouveau millenaire”, IV Rencontres de la Photographie Africaine, Bamako 2001. 2 Quoted by N’Goné Fall
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By Marcela Uribe
Perhaps one of the broadest aspects of the current confluence between art and sound –the central theme of this issue– is the exploration of the possible interconnections between space and sound. The Internet, a field for experimentation and a meeting place for artists of the most diverse disciplines, becomes the ideal venue for creating, disseminating, swapping, nourishing and feeding their works. Expressions like “sound landscapes”, sound art, sound cartographies and ecologies, etc., refer to a great variety of offerings with which a part of the art community in recent years has exploited the relationship between space, sound, and
culture, using new technologies and transformations, both in art and in music. This intersection, which brings the body to recomposed and re-interpreted ambients, broadens the spectrum of visual culture and of aesthetic experience itself. Thus it alters, reinscribes and resignifies the sound-placevisuality relation. This conjunction between art and sound is what leads us to the concern for atmospheres and the body, hence stripping itself of its multiple versions and making the aesthetic experience a restorative proposal of space and perception.
TOY BIZARRE Cédric Peyronnet, a French sound artist and sculptor from the Limoges region, began to work in 1985 under the pseudonym of Toy Bizarre. The crickets on a small country lane provided his first experimental scenario, and he set about recording every sound in the area. The plane of the real is the artist’s field of research, and he makes “sound explorations of the place”: mountains, one square metre of lawn, a beach, an electric power station. Toy Bizarre describes his process as one that never varies: “to record all the typical sounds of a place and then to compose pieces by means of sound ‘sculpting’”. He defines his work as a cross between different approaches: phonograpy (sound photography of the environment), sound ecology, land art and techniques of specific music and electro acoustics. His web page, Ingeos Art Sonore (www.ingeos.org/), is a good introduction to the world of theses soundscapes. It is quite complete and boasts efficient interactivity, enables us to find extracts of audio, discography, documents about his projects, interviews, the Ingeoblog, activities and interesting links to related sites, such as www.phonography.org/ and the World Forum for Acoustic Ecology: http://interact.uoregon.edu/MediaLit/WFAE/home/index.html
FRANCISCO LÓPEZ www.franciscolopez.net Quite well-known, the work of this tireless artist has been classified as concrete music and it includes sound installations conceived from a purist approach to the perception of sound. His “Acousmatic Rooms” are intended to inhibit any referential elements (relational, symbolic, visual), which are regarded as disruptive of the experience of “pure and profound listening”. In this closed, empty, and dark space, in which sound is emitted through a multiple stereo system making it impossible to identify a point of emission, the aesthetic experience of the act of listening is redefined, which is why his purist concepts distance him from the documentary and referential objective of soundscapes. His work has been published by more than 140 record labels around the world, and he has staged his performances and sound installations on numerous world tours. In addition to the tour of his projects, essays, photos, installations, and discography, on his web site we can hear extracts from his sound material. This prolific artist has taken part in numerous festivals, among then Mamori Art Lab, an interesting and recent (2005) initiative in the Amazonian jungle, where with laboratories and creative workshop ranging from photography to design, sound, and architecture the idea was to foster experimentation and culture exchanges with the inhabitants of the Lake Mamori district. Although still incomplete and apparently under construction, it is worth looking at this project’s web site, www.malab.net
“WHAT YOU HEAR CHANGES HOW YOU SEE” www.o-a.info/ “Sound alchemists” is how they describe themselves. Sam Auinger and Bruce Odland have been working for the past 16 years, under the name O+A, on a perspective for listening to the sound of our culture. By means of urban interventions they play and rewrite the supposed “mimesis” between space and sound, by transforming, deforming and distorting the sound identity of a particular space. Resignifying or, rather, retuning our industrial sonic landscape is the nodal point of O+A’s exploration of the relation between public space, culture, resonance, and architecture. Among their urban interventions are those in the Kongresshalle, Potsdamer Platz, and Alexanderplatz in Berlin, in the MASSMoCA of Salzburg (USA) and the Linz Castle, as well as Rotterdam and Rome. We recommend that you browse their interesting project HIVE MUSIC, whereby they attempt to reveal the music spawned by human activity using images and sounds in real time, set in urban spaces. On this sober but wellconstructed web site we find a small archive of their intervention projects, each with a colourful technical and conceptual description. O+A’s approach is to dislocate the referentiality between sound, visuality and place, harmonically recomposing the sonic landscape of the culture of noise in which, they explain, we live. Thus it is by means of sonorous-spatial decompositions and recompositions pointing to a
ABINADI MEZA http://abinadimeza.net/ This Chicago-born artist with Latin roots boast a large and varied oeuvre centring on installations, videos, and sound art. On his web site, quite simple but easy to browse and with a refreshing design, there is a biography that tells us little about the artistâ€™s life, but in which we find a good descriptive archive of his work, with photographs and audiovisual fragments. Several of his installations consist of playing staging that address art and the act of listening. An example us Bobbing for Apples, presented in Stockholm in 2005, where participants were invited to use only their mouths to retrieve apples floating in a metal tub while listening to a variety of sounds: laughter, apples banging on the sides of the tub, and real-time sounds made by the participants. Stages in a gallery, this installation, which was broadcast on several European radio networks, was a comment in action about the intricate conditions for participation in interactive art. Qingming, 2004, shown at the Janalyn Hanson White Gallery in the United States, was conceived as a memorial to an 18-yearold Chinese boy. The installation used low-frequency sounds emitted from loudspeakers on a column in a basement. To this room, inhabited only by low-frequency sounds and panels of light with a black background placed in the windows with inscriptions telling the story of Qingming, access was forbidden. From outside one could feel the vibrations in the building and oneâ€™s own body, while reading the illuminated letters of the panels. For Soft Jaws, another underwater installation, the artist made his audience submerge in a public swimming pool in Copenhagen. In the midst of the game, the participants themselves created the work. On submerging they heard sound excerpts from the film Jaws, drunken sailor songs, and real-time sounds made by the participants themselves. Another of his participative sound installations was The Burning Question, which used a webcast to question systems of property and social change. Participants made their own lists and freely burned their musical preferences from a collection donated by sound artists and musicians associated with the copyleft movement, becoming simultaneously and collectively the programmers of this radio station that broadcast around the clock from gallery during the exhibition. Abinadi Meza is also published of the online review Mysterious Object (http://mysteriousobject.org/), dedicated to experimental art in different media: image, sound, animation, poetry, and video.
URL SOUP Lastly, we recommend a visit to some other pages to continue on the interminable navigation route: Acoustic Space Lab (http://acoustic.space.re-lab.net/), is a prolific artists collective that studies and creates using telecommunications tools and ration and satellite technologies. Though its web site does not have a large archive it is a good thematic introduction and an orientation guide to this type of work. SOUNDSCAPEFM (http://www.soundscape-fm.net) operates as a server and on-line data base that was installed during the Garage festival in Germany in 2004 (http://garage.in-mv.de/) and for which several artists specialising in field recording contributed material. During the festival, which was broadcast on FM radio, and at the same time soundscapes from different parts of the world were uploaded to the web site. Today the site works as a data base from which one may download different â€œtracesâ€?, and subscribers can also upload their own audio tracks. Kaon (http://www.kaon.org/) is a French organization founded in 1996 and dedicated to promoting experimental, electro acoustic, atmospheric, concrete, and electronic music. On its site we can learn about its varied activities: concerts, dissemination events, radio broadcasts and releases of CDs, records, and cassettes. Lastly, we suggest a visit to the web site of the SPARK festival of electronic music and art (http://spark.cla.umn.edu/index2.html), whose 2006 edition features such leading sound artists as Scanner, a British artist focusing on experimentation with sound, space, images, and shapes; and who has worked with Laurie Anderson and Radiohead (http://www.scannerdot.com/sca_001.html). In February the University of Minnesota hosted this festival, where visitors could enjoy performances, more conventional concerts, exhibitions of musical research projects, panels on rave culture, and presentations by artists from all over the world. Along with exhaustive information about the artists taking part in the 2006 festival, the site carries links to them all, as well as an archive of the 2005 festival, where we can discover the proposals of such sound artists as Paul D. Miller, aka DJ Spookey, whom we will discuss at length in a future issue.
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