Jamie Drouin & Trudi Lynn Smith
Conduit is an exploration of light and sound, one that places the building in which Open Space gallery (Victoria, Canada) is housed as central in the work. In one of his notes from The Box of 1914, Marcel Duchamp proposes a challenge, to “make a painting of frequency.” It is from this suggestion that the installation, Conduit, takes direction. As Craig Adcock (1992) points out in an essay about Duchamp, while frequency is something that we normally correlate with sound, it can actually be used to describe the entire electromagnetic spectrum. Frequency is a “matter of wavelength” and this matter can be manifest as sound or light.
While much of the history of art is premised upon difference — thereby separating sonic and visual artists — the genesis of light and sound is found in shared wavelengths, or frequencies. Indeed, soundwaves are essentially the same as light waves, and it is translation by the human body into sound or vision that separates the wave into different experiences. Our bodies act as conduits to these transmissions. Conduit draws upon the productive friction of these shared waves to generate a site specific work for Open Space Gallery.
Using the central skylight in the gallery as one starting point, the artists direct frequencies into the gallery space using a physical representation: light. A simple camera obscura design channels the everyday experience of the celestial sphere into the gallery space to produce a particular experiential encounter. The view from the skylight enters through a small aperture, and is thrown onto the gallery floor in the shape of a spotlight. Inside the spotlight, a group of mirrors reflects the light onto the wall inside the darkened gallery. Rather than attention being placed upon a particular external view, such as we are familiar with in landscape photography, this installation draws attention to the soft intensity of the beams of light. The light is in constant flux, changing in strength and hue with the time of day, weather, and movement outside, thereby linking the gallery to the ever changing nature of the environment just outside of the gallery skylight.
Tracking both the possible history and the out of range sounds of the everyday, the audio component is generated from a temporary wall structure that intersects the Open Space. A matrix of thin wires form an antenna on either side of the wall and are a factual processing of frequencies that are gathered by this membrane. Two frequencies are represented: One is a high frequency collection of sounds that are outside of our normal range of hearing but are ever-present electrically generated noise pollution in the gallery space. Brief surges in volume and harmonic shifts correspond to functional changes of electricity in building. The second mid/low-range frequency runs through a radio receiver set to 1485 kHz, referred to as the Jürgenson Frequency after the researcher Friedrich Jürgenson. Jürgenson is considered the first person to successfully record and define the Electronic Voice Phenomenon (EVP), the investigation into the interactive communication with the dead through a radio carrier transmission. The addition of this layer of audio points towards the history of the building and the possibilities of a residual, or latent auditory effect built up over its century of use.
Although these sounds can be perceived as unchanging ‘static’, their complexity is represented visually on an oscilloscope found behind the temporary wall and which illuminates the room through its wash of green light. The device reveals what our ears and perceptions may not be able to.
Produced from a relationship between visual and aural experience, the installation is an experiential and ongoing encounter with place to draw attention to the complex, contingent and fundamental impermanence of our world. Playing with the unseen, the overlooked and the everyday, the gallery is bathed in darkness and subtle manipulations, to stage the psycho-geography of Open Space into a temporary ‘performance’.