Wolfgang Staehle (Thing.org) interview, the webcam recording the Twin Towers’ end

Lucas Abela

A common issue in presenting experimental music and sound art is finding an effective way to share with the audience the fun of exploring unconventional uses of musical objects. Reinventing, hacking and sometimes destroying instruments, playback devices and other media can provide a good deal of fun, but perhaps due to the gritty, harsh and uncontrolled output these activities tend to generate, their playfulness can be underestimated. In his latest work Vinyl Rally) Lucas Abela pitches together two apparently opposed situations. A physical arcade game where visitors drive remote controlled cars around a large scale racing track is combined with techniques of noise making derived from experimental turntablism. Enlarging an idea already proposed in works such as Yuri Suzuki’s Sound Chaser or Staalplaat Soundsystem’s Yokomono, Abela uses modified model cars to play vinyl records. The cars are equipped with a radio transmitter connected to a stylus that is dragged over the record’s grooves. The racing track is an impressive construction made out of thousands of warped LPs, arranged to form a half pipe running around the whole room. Visitors cue up in front of an arcade game interface where, in addition to driving the vehicles, they can add guitar pedal effects to the signal picked up by the cars. Contrasting with the visual imagery, the sonic result is a prolonged and mostly unvaried noise oblivious of any music present on the LPs. Hijacking a universal desire to play, Abela channels unrealized childhood fantasies luring visitors into his noisy and otherwise uncompromising musical practice.

Matteo Marangoni

Wolfgang Staehle

by Alessandro Ludovico

Your installation in the Postmasters Gallery was an unintentional live witness of the WTC attack. After the shock days, do you see a philosophical or casual reason of this unique coincidence?
No, I don’t see any reason for this coincidence. And I am really not that happy that the work is now frequently discussed in the context of this calamity. The intent of the work is quitedifferent, quite the opposite of this sensational media frenzy. But I also realize that there’s no escaping this changed context…

Can you remember of any significant picture that wasn’t televised? Anyway could any picture be able to better express the sense of what happened?
The major piece in the show at Postmasters was a dual projection of lower Manhattan. I have this view archived for the whole day of September 11, 2001. From 0 hours to 0 hours. A picture every 5 seconds. And I am not giving it to the media.

Reading the international artists’ mailing lists the feeling suddenly was of an intimate disorientation, as if anybody were helpless for what happened. What’s the feedback you got from The Thing’s community?
There was a lot of discussion on [thingist] as everybody tried to come to grips with what has happened. I was surprised by the wide range of reactions. It certainly was a multi-cultural experience in the best sense of the word. But everybody seems to agree that the world has changed that day. It looks like the 21st century has finally arrived.

Did you recognize any ‘aftermath aesthetic’ in what was seen on tv and on the web?
I didn’t watch much TV or looked at web sites, but I couldn’t help noticing that in the galleries, the kind of artwork that’s leaning towards the ironic, the trivial, the narcissistic and glamorous, suddenly looked more irrelevant than ever.

What do you think of the memorial projects that started among the web artists’ community (as The Digital Video Quilt (http://www.tribute.to), Why Project (http://www.whyproject.org) or 911 (http://rhizome.org/911))?
Nothing… I’m not interested in that kind of work.

Does the imminent war gain a better legitimation from the daily expressed propaganda? Which are the most significant signs used to push on the war propaganda?
There is no legitimation for a war. This should be treated as a criminal and a political problem. These days you can see posters in NY that look like props from a Western movie: “Wanted: Bin Laden, Dead or Alive.” Most Americans prefer to live in a bubble reality.

The ‘live paradigm’ in broadcasting is a space-time shifter; you often deal with in your art works. Is it one of the most important keys to understand contemporary’s culture or is it a visual plague that affects our perception of reality?
Both. It’s a plague when you loose sight of history and future perspectives. It’s valuable when used to make people aware of that fact.

It seems that one of the most powerful emotive consequences of the early TV footage was of plain incredulity (I’ve read of many people standing on the 5th avenue looking south with portable tvs in their hands). What was the semantic role of the Twin Towers in the Manhattan skyline?
I think of the towers as remnants of the cold war, when America still had to prove the advantages of capitalism. Two big shiny phallus symbols. They must have been attractive targets for these fanatics. In a way, through this disaster, some Americans finally understand that there are a lot of angry people in this world. And a lot of those people are not interested to buy into the American lifestyle franchise – no matter how high the advertising budget. It’s a painful realization for many Americans.