Re: [-empyre-] AFFECT

Thanks for your comments and questions re. the PED work, James. I'll try to incorporate those along with Renate's queries.

I gravitated to utilizng elements like sound and scent because of their inherent power to activate memory - specifically corporeal and spatial memory, that can trigger mighty powerful reactions, emotions, in the the telling and re-telling of our experiences. I'm fascinated by the relegation to the 'minor' senses of these underestimated paths to perception and understanding. I think that because of their potentially subversive capacity, they become interesting tools to undermine the dominancy of spectatorship, and of the prioritizing of visual intelligence.

My collaborators and I have had a range of viewer/participant reactions that run the gamut from suspicion, fear, anger, trust, tranquility, euphoria, trance.

I'll mention a few instances.

In the audio installation "call," the space is stripped bare of everything except for a translucent saffron hued curtain at one end and the sound of a strong female voice singing in Arabic. As the visitor approaches the source of the voice, seemingly behind the curtain, the volume gradually diminishes until, at the point of reaching the curtain, the voice is barely audible. The intentional frustrating of the goal, that of attaining sonic (and, absurdly, linguistic) clarity through physical proximity, is meant to disorient the visitor, creating a simultaneously embracing and cautionary state. The interaction for this piece is always interesting to observe - visitors wait very patiently and quietly in line (only one body can go through at a time because of the interactive set-up) for their turn; occasionally, a visitor will drop out of the interactive area to try to trick the sensor and to listen more intensely to the voice.

In the performative installation "The Seven Scents," which was stationed near bodies of water in public places, Evelyn Von Michalofski and I created pairs of 'custom' perfumes and soundtracks to transport visitors, who we solicitously installed in comfortable deck lounge chairs, to other places. Instead of the romanticized scents and sounds of exotic destinations, our tour consisted of smells and noises from those spaces of limbo that tired travellers find themselves in for a great duration of their trip: airport and bus terminals, parking garages, highways, elevators, etc. Yet the mere suggestion of escape allowed participants to suspend disbelief and even the slight tinges of olfactorial and sonic unpleasantness; they found meditative tranquility and possibility and reverie in participating.

"Extreme Centre" is a recent installation made in collaboration with Warren Quigley for the Centre culturel canadien in Paris. A sonic maze was built inside the gallery, dimly lit and filled with a hushed cacophony of whispering. Visitors negotiated the narrow, twisting passages, pushed along by the different voices and startling words. The words are based on quotes extracted from a range of authors from vastly varied geographies and eras, all potentially and controversially definable as 'extreme' in some way. We heard that one visitor came out of the maze feeling debilitated - not our intention, but we accept it.

We haven't had any upset participants with the PED audio to date, though the Rio and Chongqing rides had cultural affect that we couldn't predict, being outsiders. The relationship of the Brazilians and the Chinese to certain elements sparked (positive) emotional responses from them, in particular nationalistic responses!, that we originally predicted would be received tongue-in-cheek (there's the culture gap for you).

I agree with you, James, that head-space audio (i.e. use of headphones) does seem to pose an ironic situation of being in a certain space but definitely not in the immediate physical space of the moment. I've used headphones once (in 7 Scents) but we justified it by having participants remain stationary and by the underlying notion of the piece - escape. With PED, we were adamant about staying away from headphones not only for the way it would cut riders off from being fully in the environment but of course also because of safety issues.


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