What Is My Position

Sound installation with 3 acoustic signals, 10 x 10 m, 2004
In collaboration with Dariusz Kowalski
Item on loan: 3 acoustic signals (Siemens)

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© Exhibition view CAT OPEN – BASE, Flak tower Arenbergpark, Vienna, 2004
They are inconspicuous while also being mysterious: the tightly sealed boxes hanging on traffic lights that make knocking sounds to let blind pedestrians know the position of the traffic at any given moment. The sound seems curious to those who do not rely on it.The installation What Is My Position transfers three of these acoustic pedestrian signals to the flak tower in Arenbergpark in Vienna-Landstrasse (the work only existed for one day to mark the exhibition CAT OPEN – BASE: Krautgasser, Krzeczek, Pfaffenbichler, Schreiber, 2004). The building, completed under the Nazi regime, is a threatening and uninviting location; one can well imagine losing one’s orientation between the grey concrete walls, and losing one’s way. The sound installation redefines this space—acoustic orientation is added to the physical orientation. Vice-versa, the space redefines the sound: the knocking can usually only be heard in close proximity above the noise of the traffic but in the flak tower it sounds loud as the space is otherwise soundless.The devices are not so precisely constructed that the rhythm of the knocking sound is exactly the same for each: they deviate slightly. So the knocking sounds overlap one another, running together and then apart. An additional irritation is that the volume level rises and falls—depending on the level of ambient sound in the exhibition. How and when what changes and whether the random “composition” speeds-up or slows down and becomes louder or quieter is as difficult to ascertain as it is to predict.Before the backdrop of the daunting Nazi architecture the sound reminds one of a machine that runs slightly irregularly, but also of the sound of continual hammering. One could also be reminded of experimental new music—if What Is My Position isn’t already the latter.The installation permits another reading, too: the traffic signals provide an imperative just as the arrows on the walls do that mark the emergency exit—both indicate a direction to move in. Accordingly, two semantic systems overlap, each of which is intelligible by a different group, the blind and the seeing.In the context of the Nazi bunker, the otherwise so sober looking traffic light elements—their aesthetic is purely pragmatic and extremely reduced—suddenly generate a highly intense, charged atmosphere. The minimal use of materials in the installation is accordingly inversely proportional to the complexity of its content.
(Nina Schedlmayer)

embedded image Exhibition view CAT OPEN – BASE, Flak tower Arenbergpark, Vienna, 2004

Exhibitions: • CAT OPEN - BASE, Flakturm am Arenbergpark, Wien/Vienna, A 2004

No: 04-003