Florian Hecker is an artist who has recently performed with Aphex Twin and collaborated with Cerith Wyn Evans. Hecker’s latest exhibition, commissioned by two nonprofit spaces––Birmingham’s Ikon Gallery and the Chisenhale Gallery in London––opens at the latter on February 12.
THE SOUND PIECES in this show will entail distinct requirements for their installation. But what is constant is the dialogue between the micro, meso, and macro sonic levels. Housed in a renovated veneer factory from the 1930s, the Chisenhale Gallery plainly shows its industrial past. Five large T-bars cross the ceiling and divide the otherwise open space. This architectural structure appeared to me an intuitive fivefold division of the gallery, and superimposing a conventional exhibition design felt somehow out of place. It became clear that a temporal layout of the four works would be my approach, and this sequence, from one piece to another, mirrors the internal spatial logic of each piece.
The first up in the show, Magnitude Estimation, features spoken-word sections that had to be recorded in an anechoic chamber. John Cage often mentioned the anechoic chamber as an important influence on his interest in silence, which lead to his composition 4' 33". Due to its highly absorbing acoustic properties, such a space offers a magic, intense experience of sonic dislocation. All the day-to-day environmental noises that we take for granted as the cues for our spatial orientation seem to disappear, and a whole other auditory world arises. (You can hear the sounds of your nervous system, blood circulation, and bodily fluids, for instance.) It was exactly this perceived otherness and its very effect on the performers’ vocal inflection and accentuation that interested me.
Magnitude Estimation will be followed by 2 x 3 Channel. This work consists of two separate three-channel pieces that rotate simultaneously around three speakers. One rotates clockwise, the other counterclockwise. Depending on the viewers’ auditory focus, one part is heard in the foreground, the other in the background. In the second section of this work, the conflict of the directional auditory perception of both pieces is complicated and intensified anew. A seemingly constant ascending sonic structure alternates with a sequence of tones in the style of Diana Deutsch’s Tritone Paradox. Here, an additional dimension can be heard besides the circular movements in the work. Auditory Scene, the final piece in this temporal order, presents a sequence of five short tones that may be arranged depending on the viewers’ position in the gallery.
This multitude of perspectives and the perceptual organization the show creates––which change according to the very position of visitors and the direction of their attention––emphasize the impossibility of a unified description or consensus as to what has been heard, from where, at what time, and by whom. In each of the pieces, one can witness a certain decoupling of the perceived sound and its visible source.