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Condition: Shock of the Ear

Keith Gallasch

You are in an intimate theatre of displacement, a contemplative, stylishly fashioned space yielding to alarms, clocks that lie and multiply, a phone call, an ice-flooded mouse-pad, a chorus of voices recollecting losses of memory and tongue, an elderly voice reliving the shock of endangered hearing in 1944. You are the performer, Kafka mode, silently acting out a scenario of someone else’s inventing. But there are no visible human agents. You are being programmed…to be interrupted. The sound cuts out, mid-story, the light turns itself off, a sound erupts from the other side of the room, the phone rings. You answer it; is it listening, or indifferent? What time is it telling? But you have picked it up. You’re curious. You’re looking to pick up, weave, complete little stories, half-pleasures, beautiful voices. As you linger and the more you linger, the less automaton you are and discover that you can play the voices and slices of music, repeating and overlapping them with your magic mouse. Darkness. A crash beckons. Someone beats you there. A theatre of impatience, envy and competition rudely intrudes. Are you missing something significant? You would ‘mouse’ better than that. And then they’re bored and gone and you’re trying to pick up where you were, wanting back into the reverie, back into the little jolts that force connections, “red as blood/yellow as fat”, your mouse-pad a painting with its own moves, glass breaking beautifully over you, and too real…but it’s only sound. The light draws you to sit at an elegant wedge of a desk, between designer lamps and speakers. You contemplate a tale of torture, irritated by pathos overscored by a set of strings, but you sit like and you are lit like someone being interrogated. A voice crackles and it’s 1944 again, a landstorm south of Darwin, lightning, eardrums. You could keep subjecting yourself to this dark pleasure, never sure if you’ve heard the whole story, played every delicious, anxious word, because you know very well with the many permutations offered by interactivity, someone will say, did you see, hear, generate that bit? It’s nice to experience an interactive work with sound at it’s shifting centre, with inventive mousing, with physical requirements for the performer-user beyond the mouse, and a fine sense of theatre and of collaboration: Richard Vella (music), Maria Miranda (painting and screen design), Greg White (programming), David Bartolo (interface design), Neil Simpson (the room), the eerily present voices of Evdokia Katahanis, Gosia Dombrolska and others, and the guiding hand and ear of artistic director Norrie Neumark. Artspace, April 17–May 3.

RealTime issue #19 June-July 1997 pg. 23

© Keith Gallasch; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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