Neural #41 extra, Eavesdropping – The Indiscretions of The Ear, catalogue of the exhibition, (only for subscribers):
artists: Acid Police | Anne Wellmer | BMB con. Jeroen Uyttendaele | Lars Kynde | Michele Spanghero Wen Chin Fu
curated by Matteo Marangoni, Villakabila Violenweg 2, Den Haag
Attempting to contain sound inside buildings is like trying to hold water in clasped hands. In terms of acoustic isolation, propagating through materials of varying density, sound changes its morphology. Gradually becoming farther removed from its original source and less recognizable it eventually turns into background noise. Before fading into hum or silence, along its dissipative course it carries information across to places that
architectural barriers often fall short of their warrants. This is just more evident if we compare the indiscretion architecture allows the ear to the privacy it grants to the eye. Sound tends to spill out of charted borders, it ignores concepts of property, it is a perpetual trespasser. While were never intended to be reached, and is picked up by more or less attentive ears. The fear of being constantly watched, epitomized by George Orwell in 1984, has always been true in the acoustic domain. At any time, there might be someone listening behind a door, on the other side of a wall or across the hallway. Eavesdropper is a medieval English word referring to a person illicitly listening to a private conversation or activity that is not meant to be heard. This type of indiscretion, a “spying with the ears”, has been regulated for centuries by both moral and legal sanctions. But listening to others, whether allowed or not, is something we cannot avoid doing.
Reflecting on these ideas, a group of sound artists and composers has been invited to present a set of site-specific interventions in Villakabila, the former embassy of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in The Hague. The artists have been challenged with a particular task: to make a piece, in the form of an installation or a performance, that is to be heard only outside the room in which it takes place. Each room must be accessible to the audience, but when a visitor enters any given room, whatever activity is generating sound at that location must cease, as if the intruding visitor was interrupting a private affair. In this way approaching ears and eyes will be addressed separately. Failing to unite the two sensory modalities, visitors will be confronted with the ambiguity of their perceptions and forced to perform their own reconstruction of the unfolding events.