Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Audio Obscura

Last night I went to St Pancras station to experience Artangel's Audio Obscura. This sound work occurs between Marks and Spencer and Le Pain Quotidien in the station's concourse, but audience members/participants are free to wander the extent of the station whilst listening to the piece on headphones.

Billed as "an aural equivalent to the camera obscura", the piece is by poet and novelist Lavinia Greenlaw, and is comprised of a number of internal monologues interspersed with everyday environmental sounds of St Pancras itself; announcements, heels clicking on the floor, and perhaps the most interesting aspect of the sound piece, the amplified sound of the listener's footsteps.

A friend and I agreed that there was a possible lack of balance in the piece due to the negative emotional quality of many of the monologues; there was a lot of frustrated swearing in them, and a lot of tears! We also decided that the piece at times made us feel invasive and voyeuristic, as we began to match the monologues with random passersby in the station. In fact, despite feeling voyeuristic, we felt the best way to experience the piece was to sit and observe passersby whilst listening to what could be their "inner thoughts".

Audio Obscura reminded me of Beckett, in particular his one-act play Not I, due to both pieces consisting of very intense, stream-of-consciousness monologues meditating on death and punishment.

I found the experience of the sound work disorientating due to its emotional intensity. In subject matter it was very different to my own sound collaborations with Joe, but the use of atmospheric background noises is something which I will consider.

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