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

Lucas Abela

Un problema che si incontra spesso nel presentare lavori di musica sperimentale o di sound art è quello di trovare un modo efficace per condividere con il pubblico il piacere che si ottiene esplorando usi non convenzionali di strumenti ed oggetti musicali. Reinventando, assemblando e talvolta distruggendo strumenti musicali, dispositivi di riproduzione sonora o altri media c’è molto da divertirsi, ma forse a causa della ruvidezza dell’output che queste attività tendono a generare si rischia spesso di sottovalutarne l’aspetto ludico. Nel suo ultimo lavoro intitolato Vinyl Rally)Lucas Abela fa confliggere due situazioni apparentemente opposte. Una ricostruzione fisica in grande scala di un videogioco di corse d’auto è combinato con tecniche rumoristiche derivate dal DJing sperimentale. Espandendo un’idea già proposta in lavori come Sound Chaser di Yuri Suzuki o Yokomono di Staalplaat Soundsystem, Abela usa modellini di auto per suonare dischi in vinile. Le macchine sono dotate di un trasmettitore radio collegato ad uno stilo che viene trascinato sui solchi dei vinili. La pista è una costruzione imponente fatta di migliaia di dischi deformati che abbraccia la stanza nella sua interezza. I visitatori si mettono in coda di fronte ad una console da sala giochi dove, oltre a pilotare il veicolo, possono aggiungere effetti per chitarra al segnale captato dalle auto. In contrasto con l’immaginario visivo, il risultato sonoro è un rumore prolungato e per lo più privo di variazioni, dimentico di qualsiasi musica iscritta sui dischi. Dirottando un’attrazione universale per il gioco, Abela canalizza fantasie infantili irrealizzate, cooptando i visitatori in una pratica musicale rumorosa e altrimenti priva di compromessi.

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.