In March 2019, Venezuela went dark. The electrical blackout began at 4:56 p.m. local time. This first outage (one of many in March) lasted a week. Politicians attributed it to sabotage. Others say a brain drain—the largest retreat of people who know how things work—was the cause of the long, shadowy night.
In darkness, imagine the crackling silence as people huddle around a fire blasting out of a tin barrel. Fathom not romance and candlelight, but the shock of ordinary life disappearing.
Let this conjured soundscape play in the background. It’s a vivid reminder when considering artistic explorations of the vanished, of interference and evanescence. Listen to 12 short works featured in Earlid’s fifth annual Liminal Sounds and its motif of retreat and disappearance: what arrives is the proximity of ghosted towns and birds; imagined dissipation of entities lurking in and out of real life; the canceling signals crossed and masked; anticipation of vaporized languages, words stuck inside mouths.
Extremes of harsh reality, as in Venezuela, might make us want to disappear, and soon. Essayist Akiko Busch asks whether it’s time to question the false equivalency between not being seen and hiding. She wants us to reevaluate the merits of the inconspicuous life and asks whether invisibility might be regarded not simply as refuge, but as a condition with its own meaning and power.
Invisibility is not loneliness, solitude, secrecy, silence, she expounds. It seems, rather, it can be a kind of autonomy, a voicing, your identity solidified.
Those of us with agency can get as lost as we please; others are less able to simply recede into the background. We enter and we exit. The world swirls around us no matter if we’re ensconced in the dark.
Tunnels + Radio
Quite a few of the featured artists land on the idea of interference at the signal and transmission level. At the threshold to this exhibit sits a brief email—a kind of sonic correspondence, rather than an audio mix.
For last year’s Liminal Sounds, radio artist Dorota Blaszczak dispatched her sonic artistry and she was hoping, this year, to find some specific sounds among her recordings she took in a car traveling through Austria and Germany.
But these sounds are hidden somewhere. So she sent this ‘postcard’ instead.
Hello Earlid … When you are going through a “regular” mountain tunnel (without additional transmitter lines) while listening to a radio station, the signal is fading out when entering the tunnel and fading in back in the end of the tunnel. There are no radio waves in the middle, no external sound transmission when the mountain is “protecting” us … All the best, Dorota Blaszczak …
There’s a joy in static memory, trundling through the inky tunnel and out into the light.
Artists featured in Retreat, Disappearance
—Joan Schuman, Earlid, spring 2019