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Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane Australia, 2006.

INOUT, 2006 «back next»

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Blindside Artist Run Space, Melbourne, Australia

INOUT- A SEMIOTIC "ANALYSIS": SOUND & TEXT EXERCISES.

One of the triggers for the work INOUT was a “Four Corners” documentary on an exclusive Christian fundamentalist sect called the Brethren which was recently televised on the Australian ABC channel.

INOUT, 2006

INOUT, Installation detail, photographer Chris Howlett, 2006

This world-wide sect has come to recent media attention due to its hypocritical philosophy of shunning contact with the outside world. Yet, who also invest hundreds of thousands of dollars into right-wing political campaigns that seek to undermine political messages expressed by environmental organisations and that financially support governments of moral principal throughout the globe.

There was a scene in the documentary that caught my attention; it occurred when the reporter was filming the Brethren’s church from across the road. Two teenage boys from the congregation came over and started to verbally threaten him and his camera crew over recording their place of worship.

Rather than directing their threats against the reporter’s equipment by literally placing their hand over the eye of the camera, they instead directed their threats towards the reporter’s personal belief system. One of the boys kept repeating to the reporter:

“Do you believe in God Cunt, well do ya?”, “Do you believe in God Cunt, well do ya?”. After harassing him, they then both ran away like small children without the reporter ever answering their sexist, transcendental questions.

At the same time, I had also been researching outdated free word association tests of the 1950’s – 70’s which were of interest to me because they were looking at verbal codes of communication and were also examining how certain words and their associations gather high or low frequency in different cultures.

The harassing questions repeated by the young brethren boys stuck in my mind and became part of the reason for the direction the work took in the recent installation.

For the video work planted on the floor of the gallery I used both myself and my sister as the test subjects for the recorded audio track. All the audio was recorded with the aid of a mobile phone in a living room and then slightly distorted and deepened in Soundtrack. This final audio track was made up of the words asked and our responses given. The spinning mouth in the corner of the gallery started at high speed and then gradually slowed downed and then faded to white. After 5 seconds it then looped.

The words chosen for the free word association test were a deliberate attempt to look at our programmed responses to heavily charged words that have a very different valence to those words which carry a higher level of arbitrariness. The test had a number of steps;

Step 1. Record all responses using a hand held mobile phone. Step 2. Respond to the word with the first thing that comes into your mind. Step 3. Respond to your responses using the word "IN" to describe them tonally. Step 4. Respond to your responses using the word "OUT" to describe them tonally.

A small example of my sister's responses are as follows: Black = Blue | Death = Aphid | Kind = Pink | Ticking = Bomb

The final edit of of the audio tracks are both our final "IN", and "OUT" tonal responses cut together to form one single loop repeating the name of the exhibition "INOUT". This track unlike the audio from the spinning mouth had a tunnel filter effect applied, I wanted the vastness of the sound to mimmic the vast open space of Melboune from the windows of the gallery. This audio was then played loudly out of two speakers that had been placed at the entrance of the administration area of the gallery.

On Each wall of the gallery was placed a drawn letter spelling the word "INOUT". Each letter had been copied from the exact texting font on the mobile phone we used to record our answers. Each letter was then drawn in Illustrator with three grammatical lines mapped over the top of it's image. This was then projected and copied onto the wall using a graphite pencil.

Part of the reason for doing this was to give a physical presence to the repetitious verbal "IN’s" and "OUT’s" filling up the gallery space and to also phenomenologically experience the penetrating force of the SIGN. Semiotically, the sign is not only made up of a signifier and a signified but is also carried across space. Audio waves are made inside the body and then pass through the body into space. Sound as a form of unseen penetration, passing through the body was the core material used for the installation.

Overall, the exhibition "INOUT" tried to make work about non-conscious associations that effect our everyday behaviour and attitudes. The show located the work around a word that could be used and thought about in many different ways.

The word INOUT had to also literally describe both mental and bodily processes that are creatively combined to give us the capacity to use language. And since in the West, language is taught and operates on a binary level, it therefore had to also engage with this hirarchical semiotic structure.

The whole process sounds fairly absurd now but it was about looking at the physicality of the SIGN or how LANGUAGE penetrates the body and uses the body as a conduit for information IN and information OUT. When you are at a the front of the stage at a rock concert the force of the lyrics feel like they pass through your body. Sound has a wavelength and a form - so what are the forms of these words? Why do binary structures like good and evil, black and white etc exist at all? How does our own psychology affect the words we choose to use? The whole absurd process and the exhibiting of it in a given medium was trying to get to an abstract state where language, technology, sound and the body intersected within the space.

INOUT was not only about the questions being asked, what was said, or who responded to what word, but it was also about using variation and inflection in speech intonation to describe the "analysis" going on in the work.

The show wasn’t just about constructing a single hypothesis or analysing the individual participants answers in relation to negative stereotypes or value, but looking at the site of conversion between multiple processes, between image and text, concept and structure, communication and meaning, brother and sister, and where the sites for information in and information out are located on the body?