Article categories: ANAT ReportsIssue 59
January 26th, 2010

Impressions, postcards and polaroids. The garage was a garage. Not a three week festival of minimal Detroit techno. Relief.

Speicher 9, 2004. Image by Jinka

As with a garage, there are few spectators. In the garage, which is a normal car repository for eleven months of the year, there is just the key personnel: the organisers and a loyal team of people making it happen, some locals teching and making the whole thing work and the artists with the occasional girl/boyfriend. Perhaps the odd blow-in Spectator. But even he participates. Fronted by a 300 year old cobblestone street along a canal, opposite a sandstone skyline replete with gothic churches and framed by a pier: in a 700 year old town on the north coast of Germany with a population of just 70,000 people, the setting was not very garage.

Enter the garage. A jackhammer mounted on the wall transforms hits on the garage website (from the four computer boxes inside the garage or the e-world outside) into hits on the wall. Technology mediates entropy. The experimental tradition of the tools in the shed out the back enjoys an immersive continuity in the garage and it’s adjoining speicher (old grain storage warehouse). Traditional white painted walls (a la gallery style) in antique buildings create a hub, a field for the play, for the three weeks of the ‘festival’. A radio in the garage’s bathroom plays a compilation of field recordings that comprise the Soundscape FM project (micro-transmitted from out the back), rendering a trip to the toilet a round-the-world experience (the sample of the woman on the swings screeches through hourly, a prominent feature in the ‘live’ mix in a walk-through of the realtime garage ‘site’).


Back round past the open garage, right then up the stairs and on your way look over the tables where the artists meet and eat each morning and evening. (Frühstück – breakfast, literally ‘morning piece’, but I prefer ‘peace’ – at 11am, is the day’s slow start and, as the precursor to the night’s activities, everyone comes together at the trestles again for dinner – a space for us all to spend time together in this shifting community, as artists come and go with the changing phases of the festival program.) Now, enter the rear speicher. Right and downstairs (now behind the garage), then lift the curtain and enter the dark rumble of ‘Turing Tables’, one of my favourites. A long, darkened room displays the projected white text of a computer readout – collated from livestreamed tectonic data of the 100 most recent earthquakes – spewed like a manic supermarket receipt across the opposing end walls. A battery of speakers and subs means you can listen to the sonified weather of the planet, as it kicks and breathes. Half an hour in here sets going a reverberation that starts up from deep within the psyche, suggesting the rolling of a beast in its gravitational sleep.

The language of sensation

With luck another level will open to you. Like the old arcade games where you wander halls looking for clues to hidden doors, another black curtain in the dark room may become apparent at the far end, next to one of the subsonified texts. Quiet. Two curtained ‘change rooms’. A sound suit, sixteen speakers that attach to the body by bandages: heads, shoulders, knees and toes (no eyes but internal ears speak to your resonant body). Clicks and whirrs enter through the skin as the mediating interface.

If You Don’t Know There’s A Question How Can You Get The Answer?

Next to the next room, (it took me a week to find it), behind the PongMechanik is the white room with the white couch, a DVD, TV and 21 black boxes on the floor. Unpack the boxes and create your own adopted lounge room festival. Or, if you find it in one of the boxes, read ‘A Brief History of Time’ to settle you down a bit.

Soundscape and landscape - You don’t necessarily leave the rooms the same way you came in.

The technologically mediated form of sound art

Countless laptops and their owners performed over four nights a week during the three weeks. Some clicked, some cut, some droned or screeched. Some cleared the room, shook the dust from the ceiling, welcomed you in, or left you out. On occasions the boxes made some ‘i-can’t-believe-it’s-not-dance-music’, took you into a rendering of another world or just an adjacent reality, unmediated by the stark realities of language, accent and melody. A highlight was the night titled ‘silence but louder’.

The space between ears, minds and bodies

Spatial resonances, sonification, feedback, close listening and the artefacts of the digital realm – a technical rendering of the hisses, hums and clicks of the soundspace without origin(al) – became the leitmotife of these variations on the theme of interface.

Such a long stay allowed time for many good connections to develop. Everything from the sudden materialisation of a gig outside the festival to more long term projects and collaborations. Despite arriving as a spectator i ended up participating directly in the festival including: a semi-spontaneous set with Umatic/Soundscape FM’s Derek Holzer on a otherwise unoccupied night; a solo and a collaborative ‘quiet’ multiple-CD DJ set during the 72 hour HeadPhone Festival (you Know who your Audience is when they’re plugged in on the floor and they stay for the whole set, even if some of them have been up for several days) and an unofficial invitation to sit in on the second day of a small two day radio art meeting (Re-Ínventing Radio I, auspiced by Kunstradio, see link for more details), an often vigorous discussion about a medium that has done much to encourage and promote sound art worldwide.

Many thanks to ANAT for making all this possible – the ‘no strings attached’ aspect took a few confirmations to believe – and for their understanding the value of talking to people face to face (especially curators, label people and like-minded artists). Special thanks to Charity Bramwell, Alison Leach, and Patrick Tam at the ANAT Adelaide HQ for all their help and to Chariperson Caroline Farmer of 24Hr Art, Darwin who told me last year (and again when she sprung me in Adelaide) I should go overseas and through her encouragement planted the seed. Danke.

Robert Curgenven

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