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24 September 2009

The Artefact Installation - Hannan, Soddell & Tarab

Perth // WA // 17.-20.09.2009

The Artefact Installation Image: The Artefact Installation  
© Sam Gillies

The Artefact Installation is the product of this year's Totally Huge New Music Festival artists in residence program. The musical output of Camilla Hannan, Thembi Soddell and Tarab shares the common component of utilising found sounds and abstracting field recordings in a musical fashion. The Artefact Installation is constructed of arranged and abstracted field recordings collected from their travels across Australia - from Melbourne to Alice Springs, Adelaide and Darwin, and finally Perth.

Each artist has contributed three recordings, a total of nine pieces of varying lengths, all playing from speakers spread around the performance space. The different lengths of the recordings, as well as the inclusion of silence, means that an audience will never hear the same combination of sound twice for the duration of the installation.

With each artist's individual approach to their art it was always going to be interesting to see what sort of installation was going to be created by putting these three artists in the one room. Entering the installation, the visitor first has to adjust to the unique sound space that has been created. This is not an installation designed for passive listening but for the audience to move around within and to get actively involved in the music.

Some speakers are hidden, and some sounds are clearly audible only by placing one's body at awkward angles. One speaker in particular emits mostly low frequency pulses and has been set up in what was once a pantry-sized safe. This essentially functions as an incredible echo chamber: the pulsing low frequencies physically shake the body and disrupt the individual's ability to talk.

At first, it can be difficult to keep the recorded sounds separate from what could possibly be happening outside on William Street. Once the listeners let their ears adjust, it becomes clear that none of the sounds are coming from outside. The Artefact Installation effectively uproots and displaces characteristic sounds from around Australia and relocates them in an ex-backpackers lodge in the middle of Northbridge. As dense as the textures can at times be, each artist's voice is effectively displayed, fluctuating between Camilla Hannan's augmented, yet recognisable sounds of the Australian bush, Thembi Soddell's dense, abstract textures, and Tarab's convoluted, yet almost near-ambient soundscapes. And yet there is a definite crossover between the styles that aids in the cohesion of the installation, a cohesion that makes the endless sounds instantly engaging and perpetually confusing.

Littered around the installation are artefacts and photos collected by the artists on their travels. It is a happy coincidence, then, that the last remains of the backpackers lodge that used to occupy the space (a mock Outback shed) were not completely torn down. What remains is an intriguing framing device to the visual aspect of the installation.

The artefacts of the installation range from nails, wire and corrugated iron to the iconic Australian red dust. These objects function as a physical representation of the various locations visited, providing some clues as to the source of some of the sounds that have been sampled. The photos are as much a documentation of the artists as they are of the project. They range from the direct, the documentary, to the abstract, the reflective - linked to the project in the same way as the music itself. By bringing all these artefacts into one space simultaneously, the artists manage to confuse all notions of time and place.

The Artefact Installation is more than a mere scrapbooking of a physical journey; it corrupts our interpretation of the space by questioning what kinds of sounds we inherently link to individual Australian locations. The installation is a unique space that stops the audience from being an inactive observer of the landscape and enables them to actively engage with what is essentially a little room of Australia.

Further links

The 9th Totally Huge New Music Festival (http://tura.com.au/events/totallyhuge/2009/)
Totally Huge New Music Festival - artists in residence
Camilla Hannan (www.camillahannan.com/)
Thembi Soddell (http://cajid.com/thembi/)
Tarab (www.myspace.com/tarab3058)
Soundtravellers - the Artefact tour by Hannan, Soddell and Tarab

Sam Gillies is a musician and sound artist, currently studying a Bachelor of Music Technology at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts. He has previously completed a Bachelor of Arts at UWA and Certificate IV in Composition at WAAPA.


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