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I approached Supersymmetry via a car park lift illuminated in a narcotic violet glow. Cellotaped to the lift wall was a piece of A4 paper, upon which was printed ‘THIS LIFT DOES NOT SERVE THE 3rd FLOOR’. Interjected in felt tip between ‘The’ and ‘3rd’ was ‘2nd’. I got in anyway and was served with the 1st as promised, from here I took the stairs to the 3rd and final floor, where I entered the enclosed darkness of Ryoji Ikeda’s latest installation. It is ironically appropriate to enter the digital, dark matter of Ikeda’s Supersymmetry via an out of order lift and a dank walk up the concrete steps of a car park stairwell.

Sebastiane Hegarty: Ikeda experiment 0Sebastiane Hegarty: Ikeda experiment

Supersymmmetry presents: ‘ an interpretation of quantum mechanics and quantum information theory from an aesthetic viewpoint […] drawing on [Ikeda’s] exchanges with scientist and engineers […] at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), the worlds largest particle physics laboratory’.

The installation is divided into two separate parts: experiment and experience. Entering the first ‘experiment’ I am enveloped in a visceral bloom of base, intermittently pierced by sublime, frenetic pinpricks of sound. People gather like moths around three, elevated pools of squared and flickering light. Small round particles of matter roll across the surfaces of this illumination, generating patterns of shade, which shift, disperse and congregate. The motion is hypnotic, strangely reminiscent of those oily wave machines, so popular in the 1970’s. These wave machines were the domestic equivalent of the Executive Ball Clickers, whose cradle of steel spheres once provided an aspirational pre-glitch click to the ‘modern’ office soundscape.

Sebastiane Hegarty: Ikeda experience 1Sebastiane Hegarty: Ikeda experience 2
From the experiment I proceed through a curtained blackout, toward the noise of experience. Synchronized bursts of light and data travel at speed down a corridor of screens accompanied by an interrupted cacophony of bleeps and blips. The sound suggests organised forms of communication and analysis, as if we were listening to something being questioned, measured and sent. Physically engulfed in the sensual broken waves of digital noise, I am surprised to be suddenly awash in childhood memories of Star Trek;  beamed back to the deck of Starship Enterprise, where control panels flash and everything looks like it is doing something, when of course, it isn’t. As I look around I notice that most people are filming, immersed in Supersymmetry through the raised screen of their mobile phone, a gesture reminiscent of Spock, who would survey new worlds with his handheld Tricorder. A sense of pretense begins to intervene in my experience and I am suspicious that the ‘scientific and mathematical model’ that Ikeda presents is a facade, a beautiful, sensual but ultimately empty aesthetic experience.

Sebastiane Hegarty: ikeda's ceiling
In a sudden peak of brightness I look up and notice a series of wooden structures attached to the roof: they looked like upside down tables. Above these I can see damp stains of peeling paint. I realise that the structures have been designed to protect the technology of the installation from the holes in the car park roof. These uncomplicated structures offer an eloquent mathematical model for the solution to a real problem: how do we protect the fabrication of Supersymmetry from the reality of rainfall?

Carroll/Fletcher: a citySebastiane Hegarty: Harrison & Wood A film of a city
From the pavement outside Carroll/Fletcher I stare through a window at A film about a city (2015), part of the new Wood and Harrison exhibition An almost identical copy. The clinical austerity of Wood and Harrison‘s architectural model is touched with elements of futility as I notice hoards of miniature human forms sheltering under the canopy of a square, whilst others sit on a solitary bank of stadium seating, facing nowhere, waiting for nothing to happen. There is something desolate about this city, this idea of a city and I am reminded of the Talking Heads song The Big Country, in which David Byrne describes an aerial view of the perfect country:

I see the school and the houses where the kids are
Places to park by the factories and buildings
Restaurants and bars for later in the evening

Byrne concludes: I wouldn’t live there if you paid me to.

Carroll/Fletcher: 100 FallsCarroll/Fletcher: Semi Automatic Painting Machine
Unlike the ‘scientific and mathematical models’ of Ikeda, these models, reminiscent of train sets and Airfix kits, are intimate human spaces, they share a physical ratio with reality.
In the video installation 100 falls (2013), Harrison climbs a ladder ascending out of frame. A pause. And then a human dummy dressed as Harrison, drops to the floor. An obvious video edit and the lifeless dummy reanimates as Harrison. He stands up and proceeds to climb the ladder again. So it continues, one hundred times and then, one hundred more. As I talk to one of the Gallery administrators I am aware that behind his back, whilst we chat, Harrison continues with his pathetic ascent and fall, caught in a tragic, inevitable loop of self-harm. The sense of inevitability continues in Semi Automatic Painting Machine (2013) in which we observe various objects as they are mechanically conveyed through a process of being spray-painted. Amongst the bunting, plants and flip charts, we find John Wood, who was born with a face that looks like it has always been expecting this to happen. He is transported and sprayed white, turned, conveyed and sprayed high visibility yellow. Just as Harrison accepts the inevitability of his continual fall, so Wood is resigned to his place in the chromatic production line of the painting machine.

Carroll/Fletcher: Wood and HarrisonSebastiane Hegarty: Wood & Harrison tennisCarroll/Fletcher: car park
The downstairs gallery seems abandoned, models of tennis courts and industrial estates are deserted; the funfair has moved on. In the out of town car park of the video installation DIYVBIED (Do-It-Yourself, Vehicle Bourne Improvised Explosive Device), model cars randomly explode, not in a CGI altered reality sort of way, but in an indoor firework, Captain Scarlet sort of way. The cars look out of date, unexciting variations of the Hillman Avenger or Morris Marina (once the most popular car in the UK). As one car explodes and then another, I am reminded of those television images of motionless cityscapes, evacuated in response to telephone warnings and suspicious devices, scenes which are then suddenly reanimated by a controlled and remote explosion. As another door flies off another Avenger, every car becomes suspect and the anachronistic image becomes a contemporary premonition of landscapes to come.

Carroll/Fletcher: a ruler Carroll/Fletcher: rulers Carroll/Fletcher: tape ball
As with all of Wood and Harrison’s work there is an obsessive attention to detail. In the gallery upstairs their almost compulsive obsession to order, results in a series of small, pointless and joyous interventions. In what appears to be the office work of bored and idle hands, drawing pins are organised, pencils sharpened, rulers bent and string measured, In the senseless world of Wood and Harrison, everyday objects are faintly rearranged and organised into poetic models, which question our perception of the tangible and concrete, perhaps much more than the aesthetic particle physics and sensuous digital immersion of Ikeda’s Supersymmetry.

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Sheltered: sebastiane hegarty

I took a day-trip to London to see Wood and Harrison’s Things That Happen at the Carroll / Fletcher Gallery and hear Graham Dunning’s talk at SoundFjord.
It rained and my navigation skills proved themselves to be suspect once more. But I was justly rewarded for my endurance.
Having had the immense pleasure of teaching with Mr. Harrison at Wolverhampton University, I have some knowledge of the video works that Wood and Harrison have created over the years. Things That Happen brings together, new pieces (I have never seen), alongside earlier works, which I have only seen on old, defunct televisions in various badly lit seminar rooms. The show is an eloquently curated retrospective, presented within an appropriately minimalist space: Carroll / Fletcher is a beautiful gallery with a very satisfying gray concrete staircase.

mic-amp-apologies-to-mr.-reich: wood and harrisonBlind/spot: wood and harrison

At the back of the gallery a familiar black dot provided me with a mnemonic focal point. I have watched the video Blind/Spot on DVD many times. In my mind I had imagined it to be exhibited full size at the end of a gray minimalist corridor.  I find it however, unassumingly projected onto a free-standing projection screen, similar to those once set up in schools and homes throughout the 1970’s, enabling us to watch educational films on childbirth, and Super 8 films of holidays in Rhyl or unprofessional family pets. Of course, this is the perfect situation for the work: a screen upon a screen: a projected space upon a space for projection. The video holds a black dot in the middle of a white rectangle, before abruptly snapping up to reveal another black dot on the white rectangle of another screen, which snaps up again to reveal another dot on another screen further down a corridor of other screens. The dot remains the same size, although in fact it is increasing in size as it recedes down the corridor: the circle filling a larger area of the rectangle in order to remain unchanged to the eye. This simple experiment seems to rent a hole in my perception of the space I am seeing: a visual diagram undermining my frail understanding of the laws of physics. The tear is accompanied by the audible snap of the screen rolling up, however, the sound is not dramatically amplified, but carefully left to descend from the tinny speaker of the projector above our heads.

Next to Blind/Spot, in the corner of the gallery, a TV monitor sits abandoned on the floor. In front of this hang a pair of headphones, quietly awaiting the unification of sound and image. On the TV screen a microphone swings from side to side in front of a small amp. I am of course reminded of Reich’s Pendulum Music, to whom Wood and Harrison offer their ‘Apologies’, but here there are no performers and the repetitive un-touched initiation and cessation of movement, adds futility to the dull tock of the looped swing. The visually mute chronometric pendulum of MIC/Amp remains silent until I put on the headphones. At this moment an intermittent feedback, swings through my ears, slowly approaching an exquisite full stop, in the form of a constant standing tone humming intimately, right between my eyes. Wood and Harrison’s use of sound is adroit and understated, the work Shelf   (2007) ( (not in this show) is in many ways as much a sound piece as it is a video installation.

In 10 x 10 (2011) a cyclical almost autonomic gush of breath, reminiscent of a David Lynch soundtrack, seems to repeatedly drag down image after image projected onto a large wall.  The regular rhythm of this noise implies continuity, a mechanical descent, which distances us from the space we are observing.  The closed-circuit of these images provides a voyeuristic glimpse into the windowless rooms of a bizarre office block, inhabited occasionally by a bored man (Harrison) whose behavior seems simultaneously mundane and bizarre: throwing paper planes into a bin; blowing up balloons, which never increase in size; dropping office furniture onto randomly arranged strip lights. The monotonous descent of images proceeds like a visual paternoster, allowing us to join or leave the threads of narrative that a full ride reveals.   Sometimes Harrison appears adorned in a line-up of fancy dress costumes, which reminds me of Village People: a police officer, a cowboy, a Red Indian (sadly no macho man). Harrison seems to be waiting for an office party that no one else could be bothered to attend. The dull dejection of such overdue moments pervades many of the works that make up Things That happen. The actions performed seem to result from a lack of purpose, time suspended in that idle never ending empty moment when things that happen, don’t.

found tape: sebastiane hegarty

Soliloquy #3: sebastiane hegarty (2008)

Later that afternoon I clumsily orienteered through increasingly unfamiliar regions of Tottenham, in search of SoundFjord, where Graham Dunning was giving a fascinating talk as part of his exhibition For Posterity. The talk concerned his attempt to reunite a found reel-to-reel tape with the owners of the voices left upon it.

At a car boot sale, Graham had bought a flat-bed tape recorder together with a spool of audio tape. Upon this he found waiting the voices of a family who had recorded themselves ‘for posterity’: for the listening attention of unknown ears. Diligently Graham had located the survivors of these voices and corresponded to discuss a safe return. But the narrative had continued whilst voice remained still: one of the children heard singing had died in a motorbike accident and his father had also died some years after the tape had been recorded. The surviving relative of the voices could not bear to hear them speak: to have them happen again.  She did not want them returned, but preferred them left where they were: unspoken and unheard.

Found tapes have featured in my own sound work and I have boxes full of discarded voices that others have left to disintegrate on forgotten audiocassettes, reel to reels and answerphone tapes. There is something fatal in the act of recording voice.  Edison of course, considered the phonograph a portal for conversations with the deceased, whilst, in Ulysses, James Joyce imagined a gramophone would one day be placed in the headstones of all our dearly departed.
Having made numerous covert recordings of people talking on trains or in the delayed spaces of transport waiting rooms, I am aware of the fatality that occurs when we attempt to keep that which is fleeting. When listening back to these voices whilst still in the present company of their author, I was struck by a dull but absolute sense of loss. The layering of the past upon the present generated a distinct lack in time, a lack that made ghosts of those whose voice I had confiscated.

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