Vast expanse often leads to bouts of topographical uncertainty: where and how does a sense of coherence, or even incoherence, form in a characteristic Western experience that is typically and all that much more sharply divided between the metropolis and our othered sense of nature? Predominantly products of urban environments, Canadian artists are perhaps particularily attenuated to the historical, progammatic violence that constructs the nation-state. It is only by denying First Nations people entitlement and by deploying a fixed notion of property that Canada enforces its territory and established its governance. These memories of topography are coursed with violence, and are to be found echoing, as traces and tactics, through sound recordings, manipulations and sonic rearticulations that consider a vast region of topics but always retain the grit and dust, the violence, that forms the struggles of power over the topos.
Anna Friz and Annabelle Chvostek
The Tower (excerpt from “The Automated Prayer Machine”)
The radio serves as a harbinger of bad news, i.e. political upheaval, corporate collapse or take-over, wars abroad, wars at home, hateful official speeches; not to mention the overly sensationalized accounts of people dying in crashes, bombings and fires, wives murdered by spouses, dogs run over, etc. Violent death and violent speech spill incessantly out of the receiver. We in the West can experience the worst of world events remotely, and the listener response to this aural bombardment is not one of action so much as depression, fear, and political apathy.
The Tower is an excerpt from The Automated Prayer Machine, a live multi-media performance that incorporates video and low-watt FM broadcast with soundscapes and music created live using electronic and traditional instruments. The Tower reflects on the violence of daily news that encourages long-term memory loss and righteous ignorance with regard to political and social realities.
Violence can be perceived as a certain measure of the difference within a juxtaposition, interruption, or pressing together‚ of contrasting elements. For example, the phrase rude awakening‚ describes a violent coming-to-terms with the contrast of one vein of thought being interrupted by another way of seeing. The violence inherent in the gap between the activities of the mind and the constant bombardment of the senses by the everyday is always in a state of flux, as foci of thought are constantly interrupted and informed by physicality. These measures of difference are realms of interest that often form our memories of events, and when considered as part of the unique experience of each person‚s life trajectory, these memories make a strong contribution to an unfixed notion of identity and the internal constructs of individual realities. August 2004.
Carrie Gates wishes to thank Jon Vaughn, Abraxus, and tobias c. van Veen for their support on this project.
1. The perverse possibility of living in the memory of someone dead (I)
2. The perverse possibility of living in the memory of someone dead (II)
The Perverse Possibility of Living in the Memory of Someone Dead parts I and II address themes of memory, identity and violence by using some stuff including the radio and the piano. We are so caught up in the memories we wish our predecessors had. I am thinking of the tragedy that has befallen colonial-settler states like Canada. So many folks build such elaborate fantasies, perverse jungle-gyms in the image of anachronistic memories: grim offerings to ghosts of ostensibly simpler times. The land and its inhabitants and their lives are violently flattened to make way for a plane of commercialized sensations of a depressurized past. These two pieces are inspired, perhaps, by living in Halifax where a text is being fabricated to please American tourists, armies of whom are deployed from gargantuan cruise ships throughout the summer months. Their desires expressed through their dollars, shape a civic memory and identity erased from which is the violence on which this city is founded and which it still contains – an act of erasure which is itself a violence. But this is an easy target. These visitors’ profound lust for lost authenticity betrays some pretty disturbing stuff.
tobias c. van Veen
Drifting across water and what disturbs is the incommensurable distance between your body and the seafloor. Your ears are walking through the experience but to finish its moments you are stuck at the point of calling departure. How to hear, wonder, to turn your ear. Is what I am hearing now composed for me? quadrant.cross composed July-August 2002 in British Columbia. Manipulation of field recordings in burial memory.
Smile of Sardonicus [parts 1+2+3]
“Smile of Sardonicus [parts 1+2+3]” is inspired by William Castle’s 1961 film “Mr. Sardonicus” which is based on Ray Russell’s short story “Sardonicus” written in the same year. It is the story of a man who to driven to dig the grave of his dead father in search of a winning lottery ticket. When the man gazes upon his father’s corpse, the overwhelming shock of seeing the flesh of the face rot and peel back revealing a hideous toothy skeletal grin freezes his own face into a mirror image including the sketched out smile‚ as it were rendering his visual appearance terrifying, perhaps almost as terrifying as that of his father’s corpse. He renames himself Mr. Sardonicus after the Latin term “risus sardonicus” which literally means “sardonic grin” and is the term used to describe a condition of distorted grinning expression caused by involuntary prolonged contraction of the facial muscles, especially as a result of tetanus. Mr. Sardonicus cashes in on the winning ticket, creates a mask somewhat ideally representing his former appearance and buys a big ass castle to mope around in & torture his fellow room-mates; his wife, who married him purely for financial gain – and his cyclops hunchback assistant, Krull, who seems eternally indebted to the Sard.
Throughout the film Mr. Sardonicus tries exhausting methods of therapy and treatment to bring zero results. My composition goes through various modes all with diverse rhythms and tempos, that search continuously for a resolution, a continuity, a smooth space or a fields of parallelisms but fail and instead exist only to engage in their processes and that instead of resolving or closing or coming together, bleed into the next process of therapy, treatment
Mr. Sardonicus’ condition appears to be psychosomatic as the story unfolds, but the Sard’s denial of this only offers him a bountiful reservoir of pain and madness. He is a diligent soldier at war against his self, the self that is aware of its own tiresome and difficult droning existence as well as its own inevitable fate that haunts it. He embodies the ghoul, the graverobber, who gazes into the face of death and is cursed to wear the mark that exhibits the memory and is the writing on the flesh that details his own inflictions of violence towards the self and its mortal fate.