Critics’ Picks

View of “Data Recovery,” 2015.

View of “Data Recovery,” 2015.

Los Angeles

Keaton Macon

Laurel Doody
637 South Cloverdale Ave Unit 7
July 19–September 12, 2015

Keaton Macon’s Data Recovery, 2013–15, comprises 366 field recordings on cassette tapes, one for every day of the year, two hours each, for a total of 732 hours. Playing them back to back, it would take about a month of continuous listening to hear them all. Digital media might have offered the means to logically extend Macon’s exercise to a seamless document of every second of one year of his life, yet the present sample is what it is: Deliberately, overwhelmingly incomplete—indeed, just “complete” enough to indicate an impossible totality—an aural corollary to Sontag’s proposed “image world”—the (finite but unattainable) set of every possible field recording. A marked nostalgia remains the sad partner of the tapes’ inevitable end.

The cassettes line three custom benches, and set into the top of one is a tape deck. The collection is navigable in at least two ways: by the dates on the cases’ spines or by a flip-book of duplicate J-cards—which note, for example, that December 31 contains “Déja vu”; August 11: “Screwed up”; or December 24, Christmas Eve, simply: “TV.” November 4, “it be I / metaphysical man,” features the tinny beat of a Ghostface Killah track. Yet the recordings are mostly ambient, peaceful; not uneventful exactly, but with the threshold of an “event” attenuated to something like (on July 4) a few popping fireworks. It’s not exactly what’s on the tapes that matters so much as their monumentality—their imposing temporal scale. A crow caws on the tape (March 6), and outside the window at Laurel Doody a crow caws in response, and this live crow is now weighted with all this time.