When, in the evening, I feel like recounting what has happened that day, I do not recount a novel, rather I recall an intimate gesture someone made or a little drama which might hold great meaning.
Philosopher-novelist-essayist-playwright, Hélène Cixous, considers how one imagines (and perhaps listens) to the narrative of the text rather than its over-arching story. This year’s Liminal Sounds listens to similar intimate gestures that audibly ponder what comes between, the interstitial.
Once annually, artists are invited to consider a theme. It’s a kind of wishful listening feeding inquiries such that a loop of curator-listener-practitioner evolves. In this collection of 10 works based on the motif, the “intermediary,” there is a listening and speaking entity that whispers forth, like a specter. The breadth of artistry coheres and expands. A swirl of textures of sound. A mediation among bodies and machines. The noise and silence of dreams and breath. Voices and prayers of people in exile. Radio mediations and messages from wider galaxies entwine.
If this flat space you’re about to enter were a doorway …
Step into a darkened room. Imagine hearing sounds emanating entirely from VLF (Very Low Frequency). In the time it takes you to read here, set this 5-minute track to play. Imagine its composition framing an opening for The Intermediary like a string of sonic lights twinkling, full of static messages. An audible perforation.
Its source sound eerily beckons from infinitesimal signals from NASA on the night the Mayan Calendar “ended,” explain its composers, Maile Colbert and Rui Costa. Imagine this track accompanied by the earliest known astrophotograph from a daguerreotype of the moon by John William Draper. Images would play across a darkened space as you step into this very Liminal Sounds exhibit ante-room.
Little poems of sound
Cixous defines a poem as the little things that hold the greatest meaning rather than the spectacle. These short works deliberate a whispered, ghostly emissary that could pen such a poem. Some works feel as if maker and listener have awakened from noisy, exhausting dream visitations of sonic distortions sent over many waters. Reveries have been brought about by the visually salient but silent harbinger of something ungraspable—a being that flew by the visual periphery, but, audibly, is unmistakable. Potential hearings; questionable sightings.
How can one communicate what is, by definition, outside the field of vision, of naming, of representation? How can one convey this darkness, transmit the untransmissible, the as-yet unknown, or what is likely to go unseen?
These questions of Cixous haunt and guide The Intermediary quite by accident—or by coincidence.
Artists featured in The Intermediary:
—Joan Schuman, Earlid, winter 2016