Artists: Haroon Mirza, Richard Sides
The world is not defined as a unified whole of bodies ‘in’ space, nor as a happening ‘in’ time. Instead, it is understood as a ‘system of events.’ Ernst Cassirer
The exhibition relatively prime brings together two artists whose aesthetic stances and practices concentrate on the transferences and interactions between tonal, spatial and visual perceptive events. Through objects and installations, Mirza Haroon and Richard Sides investigate aesthetic interferences as well as possible syntheses of visual and acoustic media phenomena, both in their individual works and in the interaction between exhibits. At first sight, the artists work separately, staging their own ‘playing’ tonal systems, each of which is coupled with a visual plane. However, above and beyond the independent performance of the works, they combine to form a complex system of mutual references, in which seemingly disparate media channels and layers of perception dovetail. The phenomena by which the visual becomes acoustic, but also moments of intermedial transference appear in this process to be neither linear nor coincidental. Instead, a system is produced in which cause and effect are blurred; linear causality is superseded by circular circumscription.
The focus of the exhibition, the actual ‘object’ that it would have us ‘observe’, is therefore located in the invisible, in the switches and mutual de- and re-codings of visual and acoustic signals and data. The artists’ aim is not to idealise either of their media nor to achieve aesthetic ‘results’ in the sense of work-like entities. Instead, they are interested in the processes of transcoding as an aesthetic performance. Consequently, Mirza und Sides often work along the borders of individual media channels, compromising their thresholds. The phenomena by which disturbance becomes information or noise becomes music evoke an area of cognitive uncertainty that confronts the observers and/or listeners with the conditions and conditioning of their own perception. Seen systemically, the observers themselves become an interface within this cognitive system, part of its processes of transmission and layering. The barely audible, but also the information contained within white noise and disturbance become themes of the exhibition. These receptive-aesthetic transmissions and syntheses put an end to the hermeticism that is caused when parts of the medial system are separated out from each other, thus opening up new spaces for a processual aesthetics of possibility.
In Reflexions caught in the sun forever pulsing Richard Sides confronts the observer with a system of opaque resonators. Sides uses glass surfaces of various sizes to transmit vibrations. The glass plates are made to sound by magnetic solenoids; he plays a simple melodic line on the structure via a microprocessor, thus making it into a percussive instrument. The ability of the glass surfaces to resonate and to transmit sound is however relatively limited. The original music, the pitch of its individual notes, that it to say its vertical structure, is translated into a temporally linearised sequence of impulses. In this way the piece of music is rendered in terms of space, through the observers’ ability to locate sound, it becomes perceptible in space as a geometric sequence. Nevertheless, the audible in Sides’s work always remains a liminal, transitory event. Sides confronts his public with the limits of their perception. Through the reduced, unspectacular form in which this is staged, he provokes them into moving closer to the glass plates that evoke sound, in an attempt to verify or even to ‘understand’ what they are hearing. In the final instance, Sides’s installation challenges its observers and listeners to verify their spatial standpoint, and then by extension, their cultural perspective on their own ways of hearing and perceiving.
In Nonlocality and the Akashic field, Sides condenses a wide range of mechanical and electronic components into a glowing Dadaistic sculpture which seems to function like a self-playing instrument: two old cassette recordings, lots of very diverse found footage material and some light sources form a kinetic object that produces a contingent, abstract light event. This then appears projected onto a half-transparent screen, similar to a back light projection. A video camera installed in front of the projection screen films everything and, through a series of algorithms, simultaneously translates the pictorial event in real time into an ever-changing, abstract visual scheme and a tonally-structured sound continuum. At one and the same time, therefore, the same signal as that of the video recording is transformed into image and sound that form the basis of an audiovisual real time composition. In this way, the introverted system seems to perpetuate itself in an almost autopoietic manner. Because of the limited nature of each of the individual components of the system – the camera, the processors, the screen – each medium becomes a determining constituent part of this self-writing, self-perpetuating aesthetic.
In Sanctuary (Paik Remix) Haroon Mirza develops an experimental installation of objects and gadgets to generate rhythmic patterns. The central gadget is a record player, used not to produce sound but as a turntable upon which rotates an analogue radio with extended antenna. With every rotation, the radio’s antenna passes close by a lamp, whose electromagnatic field interfers with its reception, creating a repetitive, regular impulse, a metrum (beat). In a similar fashion, each rotation brings the antenna comes into contact with a sensor, which, after a slight delay, activates an LED striplight located on the floor. The light’s different colours produce different tones and tonal dynamics, corresponding to the different electromagnatic frequencies. A small television aerial receives these interferences from the striplight and broadcasts them to a loud speaker and to an old television set – once again a simultaneous translation in image and sound. In this way, Mirza creates a self-playing, interactive instrument that, once it has been put into motion, produces an endlessly self-perpetuating sound-rhythm continuum.
As in earlier works, Mirza also investigates in Sanctuary (Paik Remix) the point at which interference becomes a signal. Morphologically speaking, there is no essential difference between noise/interference and signals, it is the degree of complexity that determines information content. In the final instance, the meaning of information relies on cultural consensus and conventions. Mirza therefore also asks: what does light sound like? Like Sides, he also attempts to ‘capture’ an immaterial moment (light), to translate it into different media and, once again, to make it into something that can be experienced aesthetically. In Mirza’s case, intermedial transmission always leads to individual, uninformed, semantically indeterminate sound events at first, but these, along with their interactions and sequences, are then cognitively synthesised by the listener into a rhythmical structure, based on the repetitive order created by the rotations of the turntable. The rotation speed of Mirza’s record player has been synchronised to keep time with Richard Sides’s work, so that the rhythmical figures and elements of both systems refer to the same metrical structure. The musical syntheses that emerge in this interaction of sound and space constitute an ensemble effect that is positively orchestral.
Divisions between space, image and sound seem to be ineffective, if not actually obsolete in both Sides’s and Mirza’s work. The various aesthetic events and media channels not only refer constantly to one another, but are interleaved, slotted into one another. Both artists combine the acoustic and the visual in order to produce a musical event in the final instance – even beyond the systemic limits of each ‘instrument’ and in coordination with the other sound systems in the room.
In relatively prime, therefore, two different kinds of spatiality meet. On the one hand, both Richard Sides's and Haroon Mirza’s installations function as sculptural arrangements, they address the observer kinaesthetically, challenge him or her to enter their space and change his or her perspective, thus forming differentials of spatial perception. On the other hand, as sounding ‘instruments’ and systems, they also create a form of spatiality which evades the triaxial Euclidian conception. Space here is a nonlinear phenomenon that often seems purely contingent; it is made up of accretions and layers. The material and the immaterial (sculptural and spatial-acoustics) are not opposites in either Sides’s or Mirza’s work, instead both of these two ontological phenomena seem to have an essential part to play in the aesthetic performance that creates audiovisual image spatiality. This constitutes itself in the form of an open topological space – whereby space here is experienced as a relational structure without fixed orientation points, as a system of aesthetic events.
Text: David Komary
Translation: Deborah Holmes