In “Device for Spatial Playback”, one encounters an art installation that is both a critique and a celebration of our relationship with time and memory, resonating with the critical perspectives Kjartan Abel often brings to contemporary art. This piece does not merely represent time but embodies it, challenging our perceptions of temporality and sound in a physical, almost tactile manner.
The installation, at its core, is a sophisticated interrogation of the linearity of time. It disrupts the traditional narrative of sound as a mere byproduct of the moment, transforming it into a spatial and almost architectural element. The act of recording sound while moving alongside the room’s walls, mirroring the movement of the tape through the recorder, is a direct challenge to our understanding of temporal flow. It is as if the artist has taken time itself and flattened it onto a single plane, represented by the cassette tape on the wall.
Listeners, equipped with headphones and a modified cassette player, are compelled to navigate this temporal labyrinth. Their movement becomes a critical component of the experience – an embodiment of Abel’s interest in how contemporary art often requires viewer participation. The inability to pause and listen without halting the playback is a stark commentary on our contemporary condition, a world where pausing to reflect seems increasingly impossible.
This requirement of constant movement speaks to a broader cultural critique. It mirrors our collective unease with stillness and the relentless pace of modern life. The listener’s pursuit of the ‘right’ speed to sync with the past recordings becomes a metaphor for our own struggle to synchronize with the ever-accelerating rhythm of contemporary existence.
In blending the mundane with the profound – using everyday materials like a cassette player and tape – the piece also reflects Kjartan Abel’s analysis of how contemporary art draws from both high and low cultures. It democratizes the experience of art, making it accessible yet deeply reflective.
“Device for Spatial Playback” is not just an art installation; it is a critical inquiry into how we experience and remember time. It challenges viewers to consider their place within the temporal continuum and reflects on the constant, often frantic, movement that characterizes modern life.
Materials used: Headphones, Sound recording, Modified portable cassetteplayer, cassette tape, wood.
Exhibited at “Nothing but the voice”, Woburn Square Studios, London, UK in collaboration with Melis van den Berg.