In 2014, I spent three months in Vienna as Artist-in-Residence, hosted by KulturKontakt Austria and the Bundeskanzleramt Österreich. Besides working on several musical projects as a composer and improviser, I had the chance to present a work at the end-of-residency exhibition. The space available for this at the Federal Government’s Exhibition Hall in Concordiaplatz had a rather conventional setup for visual arts exhibitions.
In this context, the question arose: what could I, a musician, present in a visual-arts-style exhibition. I found this to be the perfect occasion to experiment with a sound installation. However, the exhibition room wasn’t too big, and I didn’t want to impose my sounds on a space that hosted unrelated works of my fellow co-residents. The gallery’s toilets were the only space that was effectively separated from the open plan, and there I decided to place my work.
I responded to this challenge by placing speakers hidden in the toilets’ ceiling, playing a loud, saturated, noisy texture, continuously through the gallery’s opening hours. This rather unpleasant sound continuum gets broken by silence now and then, at unpredictable time intervals, so that the noise doesn’t provide anonymity as a continuous sound curtain, but exposes the visitor at random moments. On the toilets’ inner walls I placed signs that read: “For your security and safety we may be recording”.
This work was a response to the –at the time– concerning revelations about citizens’ privacy breaches, and allegations of spying by some ‘developed countries’ intelligence agencies. Only a few years later, such concerns seem largely forgotten, or at least postponed, in view of ever more pressing developments in world politics.
Here’s an excerpt of the 8-hour-long track:
© Pedro Alvarez, 2018