2008 / HD / b&w / sound / 1S / 32' 32

Something roars. Is it the MGM Lion or St Jerome’s I see, translating the sound automatically, almost unthinkingly into image? For I feel a need to see the sound, frame it in some way. The sound is in hiding, half-concealed, a beast in the jungle and this makes me nervous. Sound anticipates a danger or desire, it announces something to see, and yet at the same time exceeds what is eventually revealed to the eye. Voices lost in space, what have they seen. Or rather what have I heard in the voices, trapped in the asthmatic hiss of radio waves? Somewhere over the rainbow. Which is to say, beyond the visible spectrum. The song overleaps what it can envisage. There’s a land that I dreamed of once in a lullaby. We are returned to sound as the materiality of loss, but one that cannot be localized. In space no one can hear you scream. In time no one will know the scream was yours. Blow out. Listening to LUX PA¥LLETT€$ I imagine eRikm like a negative of Jack Terry in De Palma’s film, looking not for the ‘right’ sound, but to interrogate sound’s uneasy place in a battle of rights. What follows is a schizoid balade, a deftly orchestrated, sometimes hysterical melodrama of sounds on the run in search of an unfettered spatio-temporal continuum in the sun and a privileged view of the nothing new. Eternity, or just sea and sky and a skipping CD?

The adenoidal anomie of Godard’s Pierrot le fou is never far away, Belmondo’s untimely interventions signalled by the stealthy approaches of Antoine Duhamel’s Hermannesque score (which equally exposes Hermann as consummate, though disillusioned pickup artist). Yet it isn’t simply a matter of trying to recovering the sound’s innocence, which would just be to put it another Cage. Nothing harder than letting sounds be ‘themselves’ when you know some of the places they’ve been. eRikm is one of a few sound manipulators for whom taking a sample is almost a medical affair, a question of diagnosis, demonstrating that an orchestra stab deployed to comfort the audience’s presumed need for shock at the right moment of a horror or suspense film can equally be a calculated stab in the back for any greater ambition the film (or viewer) might entertain, or suggestively plunging the brightly reassuring cadences of a TV news anchor into noirish depths of obfuscation and double cross. With ₤ux Pa¥ll€tte$, the artist draws on the way ideological and emotional sound cues are inscribed in the listener’s media saturated consciousness (you wonder how many hours this man must spend, sampler at the ready, zapping between satellite TV and movie channels) while performing a détournement of the machines of perception in which these are imbricated.

The piece in fact continues a recent interest in manipulating fluxes of found media, evidenced in such works as simulacres serie, a multichannel video installation in which various HD movie and TV images, stretched and squashed into impossibly narrow bands are stacked on top of one another, forming seascapes of anamorphic digital image whose internal agitation is contrasted by an overall impression of dead calm flatness, while the combined soundtracks are churned up in a roiling cacophonic surf of voices. As in the pristine, clinical dataworks of Ryoji Ikeda, at stake in simulacres are the infinite dimensions of the media sublime, though eRikm opens up a more critical space than Ikeda’s 1 0 formalist nirvanas, one that shows how our absorption in the unending flicker of the global mediascape is determined by the experiential thinness of each wave and particle of content.

Here too the rewiring process constitutes a kind of subliminal pedagogy that listeners are left to tease out for themselves. Recontextualizing and recombining such partial sound objects is a way of loosening them from overcoded inscription in totalizing media space. What is preserved in these partials (which as the title suggest are more like sequins than sequences) is often the flash or texture of memory as opposed to the memory itself, the affect rendered impersonal and abstract yet somehow no less intimate. Whispered conversations, intimations of fear or danger, the mute threat of violence in an empty street, the territorial stamp of a ghetto blaster, the heart’s inaudible harmonics revealed in a certain rhythm of breathing, sounds that brush one’s attention in passing and that lay bare the ‘feeling tone’ of cinematic listening.

If there’s still a chance in the dispiriting inventories of forced choice heaped upon us by (dis)content providers, it is that of the chance angle of encounter between the brain’s desolate central region and the peripheries of attention and focus it picks up in the autistic ballet of its celibate machine. Happening upon an otherwise anodyne TV movie in the living dead of night, catching a phrase, movement or gesture out of the context of plot or character, can be a way to restitute a pre-signifying core of experience, a revitalising estrangement that opens up the possibility of another enchaining of sense and sensation, seizing on aberrant traits of image and soundtrack. Such moments return us to the boredom proper to reverie when consciousness becomes unmoored, untethered from the leash of learned desire. For as Slavoj Zizek says, movies (at least the standadized productions that jam up the home entertainment schedules) don’t so much accord with our desires as teach us ‘how’ to desire, something of which eRikm seems acutely aware. Morphing across various terrains of cliché through processes that veer from brusque cut and paste to more subtle granulation techniques, LUX PA¥LLETT€$ is a jolting reminder that the ‘surround sound’ aesthetic of the contemporary entertainment complex is more than just the fruit of a sophisticated technology, (one whose roots, incidentally, lie in the compositional strategies of musique concrète developed during the post-war period in the austere labs of INA/GRM and other electronic music studios across Europe). It’s also a key component of the policing and militarization of affect that would abolish silence, suspension or rest except as the ‘interval of fear’ between bombardments. One way or another, whichever way we run, the sound cops seem to have us surrounded. What ₤ux Pa¥ll€tte$ offers is a toolkit to evade capture through a kind of delirious mimicry - as when a pumped up barrage of explosions are pulverised down to a fine digital dust - reappropriating the apparatus as an object of play rather than desire. Which is an idea we might want to entertain for ourselves.

Graeme Thomson


distribution format Digital file on server (SD)
screen 16/9 (single screen)
speed 25 fps
sound sound
rental fee 118,00 €