Uokand (Tapelake), playing with a pool of tapes.

Dan Perrone

Audiotapes, the medium that offered to millions of users endless possibilities to personally recombine sounds and emotions and introduced the concept of self-produced compilation, look like a distant memory. The MP3 generation, used to process huge quantities of digital data with a few simple clicks, can only condescendingly smile at the limits of such a technology. Recently, Currys, one of the biggest electronic retail chains in England (with over 500 stores), has announced that it won’t sell audiotapes anymore after the current stock is exhausted. This can be viewed as a true epitaph, however – as it often happens – a commercially dead object can live a new life by becoming artistic material. Indeed, audiotapes, just as they’re going away from store shelves, are becoming the central piece of many installations and performances all over the world. Particularly interesting is the installation of the American DJ Dan Perrone, who built a sort of lunar landscape wrapped in the tape of many cassettes, and lets a radio-controlled model car with the reading head of a walkman attached to its bottom run across it. By controlling the model, strange sounds are reproduced which, associated to the visual aspect of the sculpture, give birth to an interactive perceptive environment the viewer is invited to dive in. Uokand (Tapelake), this is the name of the installation, is a way to get back an obsolete technology, that can testify how our world is mainly defined by our perception of it. The cassette tape is also at the center of Audio Bombing, an alternative form of graffiti invented at the Siebel Center of the University of Illinois: the starting point is a tape containing recordings of music, poems, and subversive literature. After the recording, the cassette is opened and the tape is cut to extract the audio segments, which are then used to tag objects and places and can be listened by the passers-by by means of a special spray paint can and the reading head of a walkman.

Vito Campanelli