Noise is full of words, performance
VOID is a Brussels-based visual art collective founded in 2013 by Arnaud Eeckhout and Mauro Vitturini. VOID’s research focuses on the use of sound as a visual medium to question human perception and interaction. We talked with Arnaud and Mauro.
CON.TEXT Your artist name is VOID. What does void mean to you?
VOID When we started this project, the name VOID felt relevant to the main research topic of our practice – sound, an immaterial and invisible energy that only exists if there’s matter to spread through. Something that you cannot see, but it’s very much there, filling the space around us. Like the VOID…
C What relationship is there between visual and sound elements in your practice?
V Most of our research is focused on merging these two elements, which are strictly connected: our challenge is to try and turn an invisible element like sound into a visual/visible one. We believe that sound, an untouchable, invisible phenomenon, interacts with and influences our perception of the world and can be used in the same way a painter uses paint.
C Paul Klee believed that artists see the invisible in a way and in their art make the invisible visible. At the border of sound (2013) explores the idea of making visible and hearable the invisible and inaudible. Can you talk a bit about that?
V During our research, we realised that sound can be not only invisible, but also inaudible. Even though we can not hear any frequencies below 20Hz and above 20000Hz, it doesn’t mean they are somehow not interacting with our perception of space.
In At the border of sound we used vibrations generated by inaudible infra-sounds below 20Hz in order to create a hearable sound. The low frequencies spread and activate some polystyrene chips, which in turn interact with other materials, such as flakes and coal, producing a delicate sound that enhances the sound properties of the stimulated matter.
With At the border of sound, as much as with other artworks, we turn silence into sound, highlighting the difference between being present and being represented.
At the border of sound (installation view), 2013
C What influences your work?
V …Life! We are inspired by John Cage’s writings and interviews, and Marshall McLuhan’s theory about the role of the medium. Also, Walter Benjamin, Jonathan Sterne, and his incredible book “The Audible Past”, Ferdinand de Saussure, Roland Barthes, Richard Feynman, Juilette Volcler are some of our reference points. Certainly the most interesting moment within our creative process is when we face each other, when we share and challenge each other’s ideas. We work in a “dialectical mode” and it’s very inspiring.
C What role has context within your work?
V Context is not only very important to us, but often part of the work itself. Some artworks are strictly connected to their context, for example Au clair de la lune, cast in the sand on the beach, or Bruit blanc, with vinyl-like moulds of urban landscape.
Sound is always connected to the space it spreads through. For example, the way the sound of human voice behaves in a church is different from the way it behaves in a cosy living room, because of the properties of the context, of the space it inhabits/fills.
We try to apply the same logic to our artworks. We rebuild them, resize them or even totally change their shape depending on the context. Our piece Noise is full of words is a good example since it has already been a performance, a book, a video projection, a sculpture, and an installation.
Au clair de la lune, 2017
C What is your relationship to technology and in particular to the internet, possibly the world’s largest void after the universal void itself?
V We try to be very rational and honest with our artworks: any move, every piece, anything we do, we always ask ourselves “why?”. We use technology when it makes sense, and for us often it doesn’t. Even if our works seem technological, they are mainly based on technologies from the last century. Internet is of course very important. Most of our research is done on the web, it saves us a lot of time, and allows us to advance more quickly. Social media also helped us reach a larger audience, since sharing our ideas and our research is very important to us.
C What are you working on at the moment? Any future projects you are particularly excited about?
V We are currently working on a machine that will allow us to record and actually draw sound waves on smoke-blackened paper, and have large scale drawings of unhearable but very much visible recordings. It’s inspired by the device, build by Leon Scott de Martinville in 1860, that produced the first ever made sound recording. The recording is an amazing piece of human history: you can hear his voice singing the song “Au clair de lune” for 12 seconds, recorded on a small piece of smoke-blackened paper! It was heard for the first time only in 2008, you can find the recording online.
We are also building a special SONAR camera in order to take picture using sound instead of light. We’ll be in Madrid between the 21st and the 25th of February for ARCOmadrid represented by LMNO gallery, come to visit us and have a chat!
Sound waves on smoke-blackened paper as part of an upcoming project