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b 30
La Chambre Blanche
Bulletin n°30 - 2006
b 30
La Chambre Blanche
Bulletin n°30 - 2006

For this 30th issue of the Bulletins, LA CHAMBRE BLANCHE initiates a major shift in the dissemination and archiving of its activities. In order to be opened to the multiple possibilities of digital, this issue and the following are now available on a web platform, fed by dozens of authors hailing from a wide horizon of practices, areas of thought and creation. LA CHAMBRE BLANCHE wishes to expand its readership and facilitate access to its contents through mobile terminals and virtual channels. This recent innovation is also an invitation to experiment and reflect on the wide spectrum of labourers who work in the culture of exchange.1 At the heart of the digital texts, there are now links to videos and sound art works available for listening: kinds of sensitive landmarks and places of sharing that allow us to better feel the density of objects and artworks that occupied the exhibition space of the centre, or that were conceived in it. With this new digital turning point, the Bulletins objectify this inner necessity to depict the world in the form of a sensitive inventory, to circumscribe it in every minute detail of the objects and familiar places that we cross, as if to steady our footing.

It is, moreover, this idea of the materiality of media that is referred to in Maxime McKinley’s text William Engalen : Verstrijken. Introduced by a sound work taken from a Verstrijken concert with Caroline Béchard, Annie Morrier and Suzanne Villeneuve, presented at LA CHAMBRE BLANCHE on Friday, November 11, 2005, his text highlights the multiple crossovers between visual arts, music and architecture in the Dutch artist’s approach. The rich network of heterogeneous references linked by the author reflects the artist’s conceptual and methodological nomadism. We also find this hybrid and nomadic form in Arzapalo’s project, presented from October 18 to December 18, 2005. In this regard, Jean-François Côté brings us to reflect on the network of architectural and political metaphors fed by the City’s and LA CHAMBRE BLANCHE spaces, in Arzapalo’s photographic work. Closely following this, a text by Marie-Lucie Crépeau describes a corresponding dialogue between the artist and the City, that lies at the heart of Brazilian Frederico Câmara, in residency in January and February 2006. Driven by the winter environment of Quebec, francophone city, Câmara took the opportunity of his stay to feed his reflections on the way which he himself as well as people make up and perceive their natural, cultural and social environment. In Zone audio temporaire, Hélène Matte highlights for her part the intangible nature of Daniel Joliffe and Kristen Roos’s audio installation. The author talks about these works composed of sounds gleaned in the City’s heart, in parks and close by bars, through interviews of the St-Roch’s dwellers, a neighbourhood roamed by artists. In LA CHAMBRE BLANCHE’s gallery, the sound installation allows us to think and live differently the experience of listening to the city.

It introduces us to new intangible territoriality which crosses through these locations that we frequent on a daily basis.

With their power of suggestion, the artefacts that make them up and their various ways of occupying the space, the projects discussed in this 30th Bulletin offer an unambiguous lack of sense. They revive this larger level of consciousness where spaces are experienced as indissoluble multiplicities expanses.

  1. Cauquelin, Anne. 2006, Fréquenter les Incorporels: contribution à une théorie de l’art contemporain. Paris : PUF, Coll. Lignes d’art. p. 90.
Cynthia Fecteau
1. William Engelen Verstrijken from October 11 to November 20, 2005
2. Alfonso Arzapalo The Image and the Wanderer from October 18 to December 18, 2005
3. Frederico Câmara Quebec: Observations on the Familiar and the Exotic from January 16 to February 16, 2006
4. Daniel Joliffe, Kristen Roos Temporary Audio Zone from May 2 to June 15, 2006
1. William Engelen. Verstrijken. from October 11 to November 20, 2005


par Maxime McKinley
William Engelen from October 11 to November 20, 2005

From Duchamp to Korzybski, from Magritte to Heidegger, many 20th Century artists and thinkers have sought to demonstrate that the act of attributing fixed definitions to things is reductive. When a pipe is painted on a canvas, it becomes a painting. When a urinal is titled, signed and then exhibited in a museum, it takes on the status of a work of art. Each thing has multiple possible definitions, according to the context in which it is placed. And so the work of the Dutch artist William Engelen, at the intersection of visual art, architecture and music, involves displacing the semantic charge of diverse structures by “recontextualizing” them. Thanks to models, architecture becomes installation; by means of a key, calligraphy becomes musical notation. The structures that Engelen uses often come from the substrate of his own daily life: calligraphy from a book in his library, an electro-retinogram of his right eye, a diary from his time in a foreign city, etc. As well as being integral parts of his work, these forms of substrate constitute the basis of his extrapolations and of the core ideas at the heart of his multidisciplinary practice. For example, certain verses written in Arab in the Book of Suleika, as well as graphics representing the electrical responses of the artist’s eye to stimulation by light (an electroretinogram) constitute visual structures within a symbolic system that transmutes them into musical notation. In 2003, this neumatic1 musical notation resulted in the works Suleika and Augenblick. One might say that these works are a form of sound journey shaped by visual structures.

crédit photo: Ivan Binet

crédit photo: Ivan Binet

In the early days of his residency at LA CHAMBRE BLANCHE, Engelen hung two versions of Augenblick on opposing walls in the space. The first version was reproduced in clay, and the second printed on paper. For this work, Engelen had used the 61 graphics resulting from the eye examination mentioned above (the electroretinogram). Each graphic became a neume, intended to convey the character of a melody to a trombonist. The vertical axis of the graphic represented the sound register of the instrument (high/low=high-pitch/low-pitch) and the horizontal axis, the time signature (and so the rhythm). The artist had adjusted the thickness of the lines of the graphics in certain sections, in such a way as to indicate variations in volume to the trombonist. The artist had also written terms relating to ways of seeing the world on each of the graphics, for example “happy”, “crazy” and “desireful”. These ways of seeing the world indicated to the trombonist the spirit in which to play each of the graphics. Once he had defined his system, Engelen recorded a version of the 61 sections of trombone sounds, which he edited together in a studio. Whilst the first version of the visual component of the work, in clay, emphasized the 61 graphics, the second, printed on paper, depicted this sound collage in the form of a table. A nearby sound system enabled any visitors to LA CHAMBRE BLANCHE who so desired, to listen to the acoustic component of the work. Augenblick is typical of Engelen’s practice in that it proceeds from a single element, which he uses as the basis of a matrix, from which he “telescopes” possible outcomes. And so, a semantic layer is added to the graphics representing the electrical responses of his retina to stimulation by light: these optical symbols also become musical symbols. Moreover, the theme of the eye becomes a metaphoric field, given that each graphic is linked to a means of seeing the world. In turn, these ways of seeing the world become forms of musical notation. The viewer has to find their way around a form of network, using a grid that consists of visual elements, sounds, anecdotes and art.

However, the real war-horses of this residency were the two Verstrijken. Verstrijken is a word that, in Dutch, means the passing of time or a play that is badly acted. For this work Engelen wrote two pieces of music whose structure was based on the contents of his diary. And so this work consisted of an autobiographical substrate. Undoubtedly, autobiography, self-fiction and even confession play a central role in the era in which we live. However, the autobiographical aspect of Engelen’s work functioned on the level of anecdote and play, further to its central role in the structure of the project.

crédit photo: Ivan Binet

crédit photo: Ivan Binet

In his Verstrijken Pour Solo Violin Engelen kept a diary from the time of his arrival in Québec, on the 10th October at 19.00, to the time of making the work, on the 11th Novermber at 20.00. He then elaborated a graphic score from the diary, on the walls of the space. At the beginning of the score, he wrote: “I arrived in Quebec City on the 10th of October 2005, from that point Verstrijken starts”. And at the end: “Start of the concert at LA CHAMBRE BLANCHE on 11th of November 2005.” The score consisted of boxes marking sections of time, in a range of colours. According to the key that visitors could consult on the wall, these colours represented four categories of activity: blue for sleeping, red for eating, yellow for working, and green for free time. A number of recurrent sounds corresponded to each colour: the blue predominantly consisted of sustained sounds, the red of pizzicati (pinched chords), the yellow of bowing and melodic sounds, and the green of sounds of bow-strokes, and forms of pastiche. The day and the hour corresponding to each box was marked beneath it, and the duration of each was written above it. Engelen’s diary, which spanned a month, had been scaled down into four seconds of music for each hour of the day. Thus, the work lasted 51mins and 20 secs. Visitors could see that on the 14th day following his arrival, at 02.30, or 19mins and 42secs in to the work, Engelen had had “no problem to sleep after all those beers.” This example illustrates well the anecdotal and playful tone of the autobiographical aspect of the work (the tone of which was much less “engaged” than, for example, the romantic I…) Each of the boxes allocated to a section of time contained a range of notation addressed to violinists. Some of this notation was neumatic ( a pizzicato followed by a vibrato was indicated with a full-stop followed by a zigzag), and other parts were textual (“play fading tones”, “different pressure on bow”). There were also terms relating to the tradition of classical music in the West, for example “un poco agitato”, whilst names of composers could be interpreted as an indication to imitate their style (“Ligeti”). At certain points, viewers could read extracts from his diary (a green box read “walking on Mount Royal”, whilst a yellow box read “pasting letters on the wall”). On the evening of the concert, the violinist Clemens Merkel, who was to interpret the work, had a condensed version of the score, whilst behind him the public could view the larger score on the wall. Given that Engelen’s system of notation included no precise indications about volume or rhythm, but constituted instead a form of global mapping of a morphological journey, it is important to underline the importance of Merkel’s role in the Verstrijken for solo violin.

Engelen used an almost identical system for his Verstrijken for a trio of strings. However, in this case, a diary was kept, for a week, by the three interpreters of the piece (Caroline Béchard, Anne Morier and Suzanne Villeneuve, from the Quatuor Cartier). Naturally, their diary contained references to numerous hours of rehearsal, dedicated to the works of composers such as Handel, Puccini and Gougeon. Consquently, this Verstrijken contained several musical extracts, selected by the musicians, which they had listed and memorized (the musical extracts were identified only by means of the title, or the name of a composer, for example Madame Butterfly or Gougeon). Once again, it is important to stress the significant contribution made by the musicians interpreting the work. For this piece, which was much shorter at 8mins 24secs, no score was on view to the public, although an extract was displayed on the wall at the entrance to the space.

crédit photo: Ivan Binet

crédit photo: Ivan Binet

The notion of using a succession of boxes marking time, with sounds that convey fairly distinct categories, is reminiscent of the work Momente (1962-1969) by Karlheinz Stockhausen. In this piece – with a score that includes boxes filled with drawings that represent sound – Stockhausen explored his theory of Momentform, or forms that sculpt time based on certain distinct features of sound, that alternate according to a diverse range of juxtapositions and timespans (the conductor can choose the formal schema, based on certain rules). However, above all, Engelen’s work evokes John Cage’s compositions, for example Roaratorio: an Irish Circus on Finnegans Wake (1979). For this work Cage read aloud James Joyce’s novel Finnegan’s Wake, whilst musicians interpreted Irish folk music, and loud-speakers broadcast, at random, 2293 noises and names of places mentioned in the book (these 2293 samples were pre-recorded by Cage and entered randomly into a computer program.) Cage employed, as Engelen employs, a substrate (in Cage’s case, Joyce’s novel), as the basis for extracting a range of possible sounds. The approach towards composition in the work is essentially conceptual, removed from traditional composition and craft (for example musical theory, orchestration, and harmony). The works by Stockhausen and Cage include an element of chance in terms of the order in which the sounds occur, which is not the case with Engelen’s Verstrijken. That said, the notation system used by Engelen is based more on suggestion than definition (particularly in terms of pitch), indicating a “decentralized” approach to composition that increases the creative role played by the interpreter of the music. (Engelen requires musicians of a very high calibre). Furthermore, his notation system can lead to significant differences in the piece from one version to another. It is therefore appropriate to refer to the Verstrijken as open works, despite the fact that this statement does not apply to all the parameters of the works.

William Engelen’s Verstrijken project is shaped by a range of disciplines (writing, visual art, music) and numerous problematics in art (conceptual art, multidisciplinary art, site-specific work, open works, inter-textuality, self-fiction). To these is added the structural role played in this project by several aspects of daily life (leisure, mealtimes, work, sleep). As in the majority of Engelen’s works, the two Verstrijken create the impression in the viewer of intersections within a network of clearly defined categories. These intersections propel the spectator into a comparative form of reflection, which may bring about a reconsideration of the grids and definitions involved. Is such a reflection itself an electro-retinogram?

  1. Neumatic notation, neumes: neumes are graphic symbols that inform the musical interpreter of the character of a melody. In the West, neumatic notation is mainly connected with early manuscripts of liturgical chants from a number of Christian monasteries, from the 9th Century onwards. Neumes give no precise indications of pitch or rhythm. Originally there were used as a memory-aid for musicians who learned to play by means of the oral tradition at the time. In the course of the 20th Century, a number of composers took an interest in neumatic notation, and devised a range of sign systems to give indications relating to melody or, more often, ornaments and sound variations, to complement the traditional musical score.
Maxime McKinley
2. Alfonso Arzapalo. The Image and the Wanderer. from October 18 to December 18, 2005

The Image and the Wanderer

par Jean-François Côté
Alfonso Arzapalo from October 18 to December 18, 2005

“By architecture, I don’t just mean the city’s visible image and the whole of its architectures. It is rather about the architecture as a construction; I want to speak of the city’s construction throughout time.”1

crédit photo : Alfonso Arzapalo

crédit photo : Alfonso Arzapalo

Alfonso Arzapalo’s work Déjà fait proposes, through a synchronic image (an image made up of simultaneous events), to experience an artwork already in place but in constant transformation. In this work, the photographed location and the photography of this location are presented at the same time on the different planes of the shooting site. The artist has put together a course throughout the city punctuated by photographic fragments. Thus photographs act simultaneously in specific areas of the city. Arzàpalo pays special attention to the architecture in his work, which highlights the relationship between the individual memory of our experience and the collective memory of the monuments left by history.

Roaming the trace

In the course proposed by Arzapalo, I first went to the Champs-de-Bataille Park near the Quebec Citadel.

When I arrived I notice an object standing in the landscape; a rectangle on a metal rod. I approach it and notice on one of its planes, houses on Saint-Denis street, located behind the object. Strange impression of similarity and difference between the plans. Slight nuances between the luminosities. I move around the photo. Following the series of dwellings, the view opens on the scope of the St. Lawrence River and the South Shore, and then on the Citadel and later on a bird’s-eye view of the city, and finally, back to the homes and the picture placed in front of me. I look at it again, a man and a woman walk by, then I make my way to the next stop.

This place offers a strategic point of view on the river and the surrounding area, thus the presence of the Citadel built two centuries ago on the heights of the Cap-aux Diamants to defend the city. In that location, Arzapalo photographed a series of neoclassical houses located on Saint-Denis street. The photography planted in the turf creates a direct relationship with the subject. Thus, the photographic fragment opens on its environment in parallelism between the temporalities. The present coexists with the past, the fragment with the whole, and the instant with the duration of the course experienced in the urban fabric.

The artist confronts us with a conceptual photography which oscillates between the picture of the site, the site itself and the route that connects the various points. He offers an experience that takes place between the photographic, the “performative” and the architectural, while using photography as a time-based location to focus on fragments of architecture in a course within the city. The artwork already exists. Arzapalo marks locations and proposes stopovers. His course becomes our own. Each photographic fragment faces the whole of what was photographed and refers to the displacing that contains them.

Its increased attention to the urban space is transferred to us and leads to imagine the location we inhabit. The specificity of the site and the spatial arrangement of each photography influence our relationship with it as an object. The photography located the Champs-de-Bataille park creates a circular relationship and the steel rod acts as a pivot in the landscape while the photography placed in Square d’Youville installs a front-end rapport by an accumulation of successive layers. In Alfonso Arzàpalo’s work, the image is built up in the relationship between the photography, the photographed location and the course, to bring us to a different experience of photography. Thus his photographs of concepts and ideas as well as his increased attention to the urban fabric bring on an intensification of the daily routine. Through the journey, he inserts in the photographic moment a time in which the image is transformed. He works with the idea of landscape while a swaying occurs from one place to another in the proposed course. The souvenir of the visited locations lingers on to the next one. The landscape is fixed in the photography but is forever being transformed in the reality and in our memory. In this way, the mark that is the landscape acts as an eraser of the medium and provides a change of scenery. Time, movement, duration… To see the residents’ urban intervention as a component of the artwork. To think and document the ephemeral action because what remains is in the document and in the memory as an intention to break the boundaries between the art world and the living environment so that they cohabit.

I keep on walking. At the bend of a main roan, I again come across a photograph perched on a steel rod. Planted in a green lawn, it borders a wall of grey stones that carve up a blue sky. I’m thinking. My memory plays a trick on me. Temporalities get mixed up. Now I remember, the green lawn inhabits the photography, while the actual ground is covered with snow. That day, the pale grey sky, the dark grey wall and the white ground rather suggest a black and white photo. Thus, when I pass by, this colour photograph is etched in a black and white environment but recalls the warm and sunny day when it was shot. Fragment of the wall projects the materiality of the age of this stone, part of a wall of fortification which was built as early as 1608.

Thus, Arzapalo sets up a device that reveals a temporality of wandering in the sedimentation of layers of time. This accumulation finds itself concretely in the presentation of the photography on the site of its shooting and virtually in the path where we build the image. The wandering in the city etches the photography in a duration that lends to the image the possibility to build itself in time. This intimate rapport with the locations in the heart of the city and with the pieces of architecture reveals a story. The collective past meets the individual present of the experience. The image is shaped from a frame of personal and collective memories. The roaming in the city becomes the location of the event that exposes the architecture of the image and allows the visitor to inhabit it and to meet its time. In that place, there is access to the metaphorical structure of the image.

At the end of the pilgrimage proposed by the artist, I find myself in a white room, in an empty space where anything can happen. Somehow, the area becomes a metaphor of my experience facing the work and my interiority. Few elements make up the space: volumes of white walls and plywood floors, a beam and a wooden column. There is nothing and everything is there. I become aware of myself in this place, of my verticality compared to the axes of the transformation of the spatiality in relationship with my roaming the course. Then, I see a photograph hanging on a wall of the exhibition space. It redoubles the location and increases the awareness of my position in this space. The room is empty in the picture but fills up with presence as I stand facing my absence. Now, I inhabit this place that offers me a sensation of time and I become the difference.

The work of Alfonso Arzàpalo makes us face our life span.

Time surrounds us on all sides.

  1. Rossi, Aldo. 1984, The Architecture of the City. Cambridge: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, p. 7.
Jean-François Côté
3. Frederico Câmara. Quebec: Observations on the Familiar and the Exotic. from January 16 to February 16, 2006

Quebec: Observations on the Familiar and the Exotic

par Marie-Lucie Crépeau
Frederico Câmara from January 16 to February 16, 2006

Each artist residency is an appointment. For this Brazilian artist, this appointment was taking place in January and February 2006 in Quebec, a French-speaking city, not multi-ethnic, a favourable ground to feed its reflexions on the way he and people in general compose and perceive their natural, cultural and social environment.

crédit photo: Ivan Binet

crédit photo: Ivan Binet

The life of wonder he chose to carry out as an artist who lives in so many various cities made him sensitive to the impact of urbanization on landscapes. Threatened more and more by interests centered on the economy and universalization, the character and charm of the cities are being lost to the profit of a standardization.

Thus, what attracts him in all these cities where he stays is their singularity, their authenticity. The attentive glance that he gives on the objects and the human beings that he crosses results in an installation which gives us a chance to see exoticism in what seems familiar to us. That is so true that at the time of the installation’s presentation, many people questioned the source of the images: however, all of them came from his observations of Quebec and were not digitally reworked.

Having quickly understood that the whims of the winter are one of inherent realities in Quebec, a lot of Câmara’s pictures, captured outside, refer to it and show the good will of our walker to impregnate himself to this reality. Workers detaching the ice flows hung in the edge of roofs, architectural details of houses which have as a function to compose with snow, the sign indicating “Danger: fall of ice”, winter’s buoys on the river, mobile equipment of snow clearance, low walls and shelters of cars set up for a few months, trees tangled and sculptures of ices in front of commerce. But also, some large plans of faces with the cheeks reddened by the cold and the wind, of the wool mittens encrusted in the snow, of the traces of foot step after a storm, the bridge whose silhouette is guessed under the fog. There is also a whole selection of pictures reporting to various moments of Québec’s Winter Carnaval’s festivities. Visual and sound captations made of the processions, dances and traditional autochtone’s songs or resulting from the Quebecer’s folklore coming to insist as much on differences, than on the affinities of this carnival with Rio de Janeiro’s, one closer to its Brazilian roots.

crédit photo: Ivan Binet

crédit photo: Ivan Binet

Whether it is with photography or video, Frederico Câmara has an acute sense of the image and of sounds. During his artist residence of six weeks, he regularly improves the presentation of his installation by new images but always by maintaining the feeling of a purified where the sound presence also plays a part of importance. Plunged in a French-speaking environment in which he does not speak or understand the language, Frederico Câmara showed attention with the musical quality of the words instead of their meaning. This concern is present in the installation: in addition to the songs evoked previously, the snatches of conversation, the songs of birds and the urban noises form a dynamic sound screen. This superposition of various sounds and many images presented in the showroom transforms our way of perceiving and interiorizing them : because if certain sounds have a coherent bond with the image, others create more uncommon associations. In this chapter, the setting in of images referring to typical winter environments and other sounds of his visit in the luxiriants gardens of the indo-Australian greenhouse of the zoo comes to amplify the contrasting effects. The visual and sound device set up by Frederico Câmara is based on changes of rhythm, marking pauses of silence here for better setting out again there, while making it possible for the spectator to test continuous feelings, but without being sharp with it. Because its approach is more contemplative: it is a praise of slowness. Instead of causing the things, he leaves them time to appear. He photographs with understanding and generally films in fixed plan.

The result, in showroom, in addition this concept of slowness which encourages us to concentrate especially as the semi-darkness which reign intimist supports to the work. One will certainly remember this sequence where we see jellyfishes moving (the suns of the sea, so nicely called in Acadie) while hearing in filigree the surge of merry and crystalline voices of it children. The video of these languorous watery displacements enjoy a remarkable ambiguity: fuzzy and monochromic appearances they are however color and it is the darkness and the depth of water, frays to the evanescence of these marine animals which cause these intriguing effects. Exploiting several registers of scales and textures of the images (projection full wall or delimited by the format of the monitor TV or even sometimes directly of the numerical camera set on a tripod), the artist shares with us the subjects of predilection which he develops in this project: urban scenes and others coming from the park aquarium and the zoological garden. He is interested in the things available that these three topics procure to him and a whole series of questions in their connection is posed.

Although at the time of his visit in Quebec a strong controversy surrounding closing of the Zoological garden of Quebec largely occupied the media place, it is not what encouraged him to integrate it into the center of his reflexion. Some of his former artistic projects show that these places were conceived to safeguard the animal, vegetable and marine species, with all the load of exoticism which emerges from the zoo’s collections, aquariums, botanical gardens and other museums, are for him a source of inspiration. Denatured of their medium of origin, these various species are preserved in captivity under conditions where an artificial environment is recreated, a fragile ecosystem being able constantly to rock, following the example cities.

One of the filmic sequences dominating is the one of the bird in the indo-Australian greenhouse of the zoological garden which is filmed during a score of minutes in fixed plan. Lonely on its perch, it makes singing exercises, stopping only seldom its trilles to lean the head nervously, to question glance, to change position into hopping and shaking its wings. This sequence is retransmitted on a TV monitor, such a new luminous cage locking up this bird which one does not know if its song expresses the complaint or the joy, concern or the light call and enjolor. This go in private appointement with the bird (a stool is placed just opposite the monitor) is perhaps to confront the spectator with his own existential condition where it is able itself to feel more captive than free, only with people, exposed to the glances, trustful or hesitant, sad or happy.

crédit photo: Ivan Binet

crédit photo: Ivan Binet

It would not be the first time that Frederico approaches this set of themes as shows other artistic installation-performance entitled “Habitat” which was held in 2003. Taking as an inspiration the account of people who are praticing climbing and are seen often constrained to spend the night on the mountainside, the trunk of an oak, such a perch, was installed with five meters high off the ground in his workshop. During ten consecutive nights consecutive, under the glance of the visitors having access to the place at that time, he gave himself the challenge to sleep on this bed of fortune, under which a mountain of hay was set up, out of which everyday day a quantity was taken until there is no more, thus accentuating the extreme vulnerability of the artist in the event of fall.

His work generally underlines the precariousness of the condition of artist in particular, since nearly ten years lives as in various countries. Because if it needs already a good amount of courage to be an artist, it is necessary even more to be an artist living elsewhere than in his own country.

By carrying out artistic residences throughout the world it is each time a new training of the manhole which is essential on him by the discovery of new places, public and deprived, and of the people who move there. This life of wonder is the honey which nourishes his work elsewhere which, in their turn, takes us along far.

But the art of Frederico Câmara is not necessarily autobiographical, nor claiming, and even less moralizer. If one were to seek the greatest form of engagement of this work, it would be in that of a fight, subtle, but tough, with the wear of the sensory experiments, that of the crumbling of the glance which leads us surreptitiously, a day, more not to see or notice this and those which surround us.

I preserve in me the happy memories of my visits of the exposure of this artist, each time discovering a new version, thorough concerns holding to him with heart. That encourages me to put this quotation of Maria Rilke in conclusion.

“I learn to see. I do not know to what that holds to, but all penetrates more deeply in me and does not stay at the place where, usually, that always came to be completed. I have an inside of which I did not know anything. Everything is going there (…) I ,for example, had never become aware of the great number of faces which exist. There is a crowd of people, but way more faces still, because every individual has several of them.>”1

  1. Rilke, Rainer Maria. 1995,″ Les carnets de Malte Laurids Brigge ″. New translation of Claude Porcell, Flammarion editions, Paris, p. 25.
Marie-Lucie Crépeau
4. Daniel Joliffe, Kristen Roos. Temporary Audio Zone. from May 2 to June 15, 2006

Temporary Audio Zone

par Hélène Matte
Daniel Joliffe, Kristen Roos from May 2 to June 15, 2006

LA CHAMBRE BLANCHE felt empty. With the lights turned out, at first sight it seemed that there was no-one there. But only at first sight, because as soon as our eyes ceased searching, our ears picked up the noise of several people in the space: the drumming of the footsteps of a child, above our heads; the soft voice of a mother; a man walking down a flight of stairs. LA CHAMBRE BLANCHE was not empty, the space was occupied by artists who, rather than filling the gallery with images, or with themselves, had been working in the streets, engaging with the people, places and sounds that surrounded them. And so, in the context of an exchange with British Colombia’s Open Space, the artists Kristen Roos and Daniel Jolifee came to Québec as artists in residence, with the goal of developing projects on the theme of The Transmission of Knowledge.

Kristen Roos is a sound artist: he crafts sound sculpture, he sculpts sound, and he is a practitioner of radio art. Between the space of his hands and the spiral form of his ear, objects that are used to transmit particular information witness their function and their form altered. By means of temporary structures, he seeks to transform the way that we perceive the things that surround us.

During his time at LA CHAMBRE BLANCHE, he took an interest in the heart of the city. He gleaned sounds and testimonies there, inviting us, in his own way, to rediscover them through radio broadcasts. He recorded the pulse of the city: a car starting-up, a lorry reversing, a passing train, a show at a local bar, kids in the parks. Inspired by the ringing of the bells in the numerous churches of the Saint-Roch area, he interviewed the parish priest Réal Grenier, who recounted its ancestry, and the historian Réjean Lemoine, who traced the evolution of the area.

And so, on the evening of the 2nd June, at the launch of The Transmission of Knowledge, we had the opportunity to witness a performance by Roos, during which he played an extract from the sound collage resulting from his experiments. The artist advanced, carrying a small radio, from which came an abyss-like echo, that slowly but surely took on its original form: the intermittent signal of a vehicle reversing. At the other end of the gallery, Roos’s partner Lorraine Plouffe tuned-in a radio-station on which Réjean Lemoine was discussing the Saint-Roch district: its industrial era, commercial heyday, economic decline, the presence of artists, and its revitalisation. These episodes were punctuated by sound interventions. We could make out the sound of a locomotive whistling, which transmuted into a call similar to that of a whale, as electronic alchemy transformed the railroad tumult into an aquatic languor. In contrast to the futurist backfirings of the last century, Roos brought us the groans of machines, and an impression of lyricism and nostalgia.

Whilst the performance was too brief, it was a good introduction to the work of the artist’s residency. The inventory of the material used for the public event was evocative: a small console, a speaker and four pieces of outdated radio equipment, obviously found in a second-hand shop, one of which still bore a hand-written price ticket, and the other of which had had its guts taken out, evidently a victim of a “gadgetting” operation. The broadcasting of a low-power radio frequency demonstrated a desire to use a minimum of equipment, a low-tech approach even. Despite the antiquated tools, the issues remain contemporary, touching on problematics such as the multiplication and the transfer of forms of sound in space. Roos’s project involved working with a team. His partner, who has a degree in social geography, actively engaged in the work, notably by conducting interviews. Thus, the artist erased himself, letting the voices of others be heard: those of experts, as well as those of men and women on the street.

The first morning after the performance, and each evening the following week, different audio montages were broadcast on the airwaves of 97.5 FM, a radio frequency that is not normally in use. During the introduction of the “Micro-radio” programme, a little girl fled the microphone, Roos and Plouffe made final adjustments to the evening’s sound collage, and then we were led through a hagiography of Saint-Roch, the patron saint of dogs and lepers. Astonishingly, no mention was made of the names of the speakers, either the names of the artists, or the historian or the parish priest involved. The anonymity in the work was jarring, accustomed as we are to titles, signatures and the names of sponsors.

The “Micro-radio” project is distinct in terms of its constant movement, which is determined by the context in which it is developed (in this case, Saint-Roch). For the broadcast, Roos had brought a laptop, a console, a low-power radio transmitter and an antenna that he had positioned on the roof of the building, forming a temporary structure. The creative process took precedence over the end result, and this is also a characteristic of the work of Daniel Jolliffe.

As in the work of Roos, movement and sound played central roles in Jolliffe’s project. In addition, he placed an emphasis on listening to others, enabling the audience to become participants in the art work. However, the methods that he used differed. In “One Free Minute”, Jolliffe made an open invitation to leave a message on his voice-mail. The instructions were simple: the one-minute messages had to be unrestricted, improvised and anonymous. He neither modified nor censored any of the recordings, with the exception of incitements to hatred, which are illegal in Canada.

The artistic experiences that Jolliffe subsequently offered the public are a testament to his interest in interactivity. He created mechanisms of participation that demonstrate how technology can affect our perception of space and our means of communicating. As for the project One Free Minute, it offered an “on-line” interactive environment by means of the telephone and internet. Each evening from the 9th to the 15th of June, he engaged with the public space of the exterior agora at the Gabrielle-Roy library. As soon as the building closed its doors, the artist parked his bicycle, which was equipped with a broadcasting system, consisting of: a large sound amplifier fixed to a conical casing, of a yellow similar to that of the background colour of warning signs on roads. The shape of the fibre-glass sound amplifier resembled the ear trumpets on early gramophones. The entire structure was connected to a mobile phone and a small MP3 player. And so, in the centre of the square, as well as neighbouring roads, we heard the messages recorded on his voice-mail.

This action was not dissimilar to Martin Dufrasne’s performance at the “Émergence” event at the Ilot Fleurie in 2002. In this performance Dufrasne gathered the complaints of passersby and then broadcast them in the city centre using a megaphone. However, Jolliffe’s work did not focus on the recriminations of the population, and he avoided the populist bent that the work could have taken, and which is common in the media. Instead we heard a diverse group of messages and sounds, ranging from publicity for the next Reclaim The Streets event, to a wood crafter’s saw, by way of sung messages, language courses, philosophy quotes, and a classic – but touching – minute’s silence. Given that it is not customary to hear strangers express themselves publicly, and without restrictions, the effect of the messages, as a whole, was, “at the end of the line”, extraordinary. Naturally, such a hubbub left no-one indifferent, with many approaching in curiosity. Adolescents reacted to the singing coming from the device. As the messages were spread by the sculpture on wheels, the artist handed out business cards inviting people to dial his number or visit his site. Some found the whole thing hilarious, others were disturbed: a policeman did not appreciate an anonymous person sending him packing in a recorded message; a regular visit to the area would have preferred to have taken his dose in peace, without all the uproar. An apostle of “good old common sense” rattled his brains trying to understand the relevance of the soundtrack: “Why reappropriate a public space, which by definition already belongs to us? Why give a platform to people indiscriminately? Shouldn’t this be offered to a select group rather than to the rabble of the downtown area?” And this rabble responded: “Why do the authorities tolerate this thing howling, but force me to turn down the volume on my sound system?” Aesthetic problems aside, the work caused much discussion and brought up questions of a legal and ethical nature.

Technology changes the way that we communicate, and by virtue of this it transforms the way that we learn. Nowadays, essays can be accessed on the Internet, amongst them, one by Hakim Bey, on the concept of the Temporary Autonomous Zone (TAZ), which sheds light on the works of Kristen Roos and Daniel Jolliffe. Bey considers that all forms of revolution are also traps, because they rapidly become simulations of themselves. However, in order to counter the numbing of consciousness in an “era in which the speed and fetishism of merchandise has created a false and tyrannical sense of unity, that tends to obscure all forms of individuality and cultural diversity”1 he suggests that there exist Temporary Autonomous Zones, or zones of nomad activity whose mobility and temporality enable people to avoid normalisation and reification. These anti-conformist somersaults are presented as a form of tactical uprising, aimed at thwarting the “the mega-entrepreneurial information State, the empire of spectacle of of simulation.”2

In terms of their unconventional and event-based character, the works of Roos and Jolliffe echo Hakim Bey’s TAZ. Bey remarks that: “We have noted that the TAZ, because it is temporary, must necessarily lack some of the advantages of a freedom which experiences duration and a more-or-less fixed locale. But the Web can provide a kind of substitute for some of this duration and locale–it can inform the TAZ, from its inception, with vast amounts of compacted time and space.”3 is precisely the role played by Roos’s and Jolliffe’s Internet sites. According to Bey, the greatest strength of TAZ lies in its invisibility, and that is why “as soon as the TAZ is named (represented, mediated), it must vanish, it will vanish.”4 As to whether TAZs can take an artistic form, it seems that it is certainly the case with the “Micro-radio” and “One Free Minute” projects. Bey writes: “Here I wish to suggest that the TAZ is in some sense a tactic of disappearance. The disappearance of the artist IS the suppression and realization of art, in Situationist terms.”5

By giving a platform to the people of Québec, by proposing mobile forms and discourses in motion, and by disseminating these anonymously, and at the limits of the law, the artists Kristen Roos and Daniel Jolliffe truly turned the Saint-Roch area into a temporary autonomous audio zone. In terms of the theme of ‘The Transmission of Knowledge’, let’s leave the last word to Bey: “The key is not the brand or level of tech involved, but the openness and horizontality of the structure.”6

  1. Bey, Hakim. 2011, T.A.Z: temporary autonomous zone. Translated from English by Christine Tréguier, Paris: De l’Eclat editions. p. 24.
  2. Ibid., p. 13.
  3. Ibid., p. 28-29.
  4. Ibid., p. 14.
  5. Ibid., p. 62 et p.67.
  6. Ibid., p. 29.
    1. Hélène Matte