Witnesses, spiritual circuit bending

Zach Poff

These chant-boxes are electronic devices sometimes provided to help believers pray in Buddhist temples in China. The gadgets, similar to pocket radios and sometimes packaged with images of Buddha, broadcast loops of prayer, helping the believers to follow the rhythms of the litany. In the sound installation “Witnesses” the artist Zach Poff has made use of these devices, but has changed their functioning. Ten chant-boxes are connected to a screen through sensors that react to variations in luminous intensity. The rhythms produced by a device alters, corresponding to the changes in intensity of the part of the screen it is focused on. When the video changes (in the installation three different ones follow each other) there is an instant when the sounds produced by the devices converge into synchronicity, before immediately breaking into variety of different rhythms. With this operation of circuit bending the chant boxes perhaps become “witnesses” of a single spirituality that allows them to join together while retaining their own identity. Each device follows its own rhythm, as if it somehow wants to underline its personal modality of reaction and its particular view of the world. But when the singularities turn immediately to stand at attention and synchronize with the other units, they seem to reveal an awareness of the strategic importance of the community, in a sound output that, although with perceptible peaks and digressions whose source is hard to intercept, retains a shared and constant choral aura.
Chiara Ciociola