A CONVENTION OF TINY MOVEMENTS, 2015
Whisper cube, sound, 5,000 bags of potato chips, amalgamated objects
Armory Artist Commission
Convention of Tiny Movements 2015 is a work I made in the context of me being at the commissioned artist for the fair and tasked to develop an onsite project. The work took two main forms at the Armory Show, firstly an installation including a new narrative audio work titled “Shudder the Thought” which was accompanied by a strange scenography of amalgamated objects including mic stands and pop shields incorporated with tissue boxes, plants and the inner foil wrapper of a Lindt chocolate bar. The sound work and the installation intend to operate as a near future fiction for a coming world in which our relation to speech and objects is totally altered. The work takes three emerging listening technologies to there possible conclusion ; One is the laser microphone, which records the interior of rooms by using a laser to read the micro vibrations of window panes, the second is a telephonic trauma-o-meter which uses “voice stress analysis” software to listen to the micro-fluctuations of the human vocal chords in order to prioritize voices calling the emergency services in terms of their stress levels. And finally and most significantly it explores a series of experiments at MIT where in which a group of pioneering computer scientists have shown that, by using high-speed video of an object, they can extract those minute vibrations of speech and other sounds. This allows them the capacity to turn everyday objects—a glass of water, a potted plant, a box of tissues, and the most faithful of all a bag of chips—into a listening device or what they call visual microphones. With each example the work asks a distinct question, how we might become heard as objects. How we might become heard by objects, but also how can we hear like objects? as each of the MIT experiments these objects never give a crystal clear clarity of sound reproduction, there is always other noises that they produce in excess of the sound stored on their surface. This sound has come to be known by them as the objects’ sonic color or it’s individual voice.- be it a potted plant or a chocolate wrapper. The second aspect of the project was (scroll down for more project info..)
the production of 5000 potato chips/ crips packets that were distributed throughout the fair. The potato chip packets served the overall project in a series of ways. Firstly they existed as a wall text for the larger body of work and hence you could read, as well as the nutritional ingredients of the potato chips, about about these experiments where all objects can record your every word form the object itself ; from this most ubiquitous of snacks that in the future will become totally feared by the criminal underworld, as it’s wrapper is both flimsy and reflective, impressionable but not absorbent. This meant that the object itself, which could be found on almost every surface of the fair as well as specifically placed racks, circulated like a paranoid rumor. One of the reasons why i think this was successful in this context is that unlike an auction where the prices are spoken aloud and audible for everyone to hear the art fair has much more hushed and guarded conventions of speech and audibility and this meant that the potato chip packets themselves started worrying people who wrongly understood that it was spying on them and that they had let something slip out in the presence of a packet of potato chips that was not meant to be publicly heard. ( text continues keep scrolling...)
Others at the fair never even knew that it was a pseudo listening device / art work and for them the piece became simply a free source of carbohydrates to power them through the mammoth hangar full of art. This unwitting audience was also successful as it meant brought in this idea of the audience of the fair as consumers and also allowed the work to enter the digestive system of the Armory Show itself as empty wrappers piled up in rubbish bins and wherever you looked people could be seen eating chips, including the guards who were happy that at least one of the artworks they had to stare at all day long was comestible. Potato chips are also inherently noisy things to eat the packet makes a loud sound as it crinkles annoying your neighbors and the chips themselves cause a kind of temporary deafness on the ears of its eater as they crunch through them.
Text taken from Lawrence Abu Hamdan recounting the project to Robert Leckie in an interview for Afterall Magazine