Unreal Nature

December 19, 2015

The Discomfort of the Silence

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:43 am

… there was a moment in real life, in the clock room when the explosion occurred …

This is from William Kentridge: Nose (2010):

… A mask makes us focus on everything that is not the mask. The immobility of a mask makes us concentrate on the movement of the body (this is the same in puppetry). A simple hand gesture performed by someone in a mask is enlarged. We see every nuance of it with a surprising clarity, which has been provoked by the very immobility of the mask.

The following is from ‘Gathering Sounds and Making the Object Breaths / Philip Miller & Willam Kentridge‘ found in William Kentridge: The Refusal of Time(2012):

[ … ]

WK: In the project Breath Dissolve Return, [opera singer] Kimmy Skota sang into a cell phone in one city, you played the piano in another city. The music went from the speakerphone and the live piano to your recorder.

PM: Taking our contemporary technology of the digital cell phone and then re-recording that sound as something that had both the quality of the old record player with a big horn, but also another strange sound to it. Cell phone interference, the buzzing of the cell phone. That grammar is intriguing because it has two histories. It has the Edwardian connotation, but it also has a grammar that we know today as a cell phone sound.

WK: Let’s talk about Edwardian sound. One of the key dates for The Refusal of Time is 1905, the year of Einstein’s theory of relativity. Some of the films we made were set around that time, and that comes through in some of the music you write.

PM: The hurdy-gurdy sound has a strange drone of air in a cyclical way, a breathing rhythm but also a drone. It has a mechanical sound to it, because as you turn the handle of the hurdy-gurdy you hear both that mechanical turning sound and the vibration of the reeds in the belly of the hurdy-gurdy. Why did they bring sound into film? It was to cover up the silence of film, the discomfort of the silence of film. If a film were being shown without sound, you would hear the noise of the projector and that mechanical clickety-clickety-clack. The hurdy-gurdy brings that back. But because it has something else to it, that strange drone and something quite mysterious, it changes.

Next, in the same book this is from ‘Blowing Up the Meridian / Peter Galison & Willaim Kentridge‘:

[ … ]

PG: In the struggle between imposed time and anarchy, these two infinitely opposing forces, there was a moment in real life, in the clock room when the explosion occurred, when one of the astronomers turned to the other and said, “Mr Hollis, spot the time!”

WK: “That’s dynamite!”

PG: “That’s dynamite!” There is an anarchist, out to blow them up and destroy the observatory, and here come the astronomers, ordering that a careful note be taken of the time — even during their own assassination.

WK: And the anarchist’s slogan was “propaganda in deed”?

PG: “Propaganda in deed. ”

WK: And what was Conrad’s comment on it — “gratuitous blasphemy”?

PG: When Conrad wanted to evoke what it meant to attack this cathedral of learning represented by the observatory, he said that this was an act of “gratuitous blasphemy”: a blasphemy against science and the order of reason.

-Julie

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