A sound removed from the visible source of its generation can activate the imagination of association to complete a picture otherwise mysterious or mundane. To delve deep into matter and eavesdrop, much like a doctor listening to a beating heart with a stethoscope, is to turn the inside outward for the listener.

Artist Statement

A sound removed from the visible source of its generation can activate the imagination of association to complete a picture otherwise mysterious or mundane. To delve deep into matter and eavesdrop, much like a doctor listening to a beating heart with a stethoscope, is to turn the inside outward for the listener. Perceptually confounding, that which may appear obvious to the portals of the eye and ear operating in concert, a recording removed from its context/s, and indeed from light (to see) and air (to hear), conjures the uncanny.

Here we present a stereo sound recording of a large burning timber log, captured using two contact microphones attached to both sides of a section that was jutting out of the bonfire. Contact microphones reveal the vibration of sound as it moves through matter in contrast to conventional microphones which capture the vibration of air. 

We were taken by the profundity of how a recording of burning timber calls forth its very antithesis – a watery sound – soothing – is it the timbre of a small waterfall pelting rocks, or morphing into a moving stream, light rain percussing a tin roof? Here, the potential danger of actually being so close to a fire to extract an otherwise unheard soundscape of ferociously devoured wood is contrasted with the sense-illusion of a calming watery sound, creating a conceptual dissonance. 

This auto-conjuring of a prospective representation of one highly visual element by means of another in sound and as sound, may underscore the essential and questionable nature of our unified senses in perceiving and determining the true quality of our shared realities, lived or imagined. An uncanny blind spot, “Fire Water” performs the mutability of perception and phenomena. A hidden secret sound, sounding out transformation.

In the sonic stream, we arrive inside matter, blindly – timber, made of cellulose and lignans – aged, fallen, a step removed from life, emptied of that most essential element – water. Much more of the world’s forests are vulnerable to raging fires now than ever before, increasingly, devastatingly, catastrophically. Either through climate-change induced wild fires, or slash-and-burn agricultural practices, primary forests are decimated at an unprecedented and alarming rate. 

Hence, to be inside burning timber as it were, to witness the listening act of imagining and imaging rain falling and water flowing, interrupted by the counter-sounds of bursts of wood atomically splintering and exploding in midstream, we may be reminded that our forests are key to maintaining the cycle of precipitation, the capture of carbon, the creation of oxygen. Or a burning world. 

* The joint term “firewater” commonly refers to used water after fighting fires which is contaminated, thus requiring disposal.

DETAILS

YEAR
2021
EXHIBITION
OF WATERS (Solo show)
DIMENSIONS
Variable
MATERIALS
11 mins 53 secs stereo sound recording of 1.5m x 15cm burning log, outdoor bonfire, stero contact micriphones, speakers in resonant chamber (STPI right annexe).
VENUE
STPI
GENRE
Sonic Masquerade
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
Marc Gloede (Curator), Martin Kirkwood ("Firewater" Artist Collaborator), Emi Eu (Director, STPI), Rita Targui (Director, Gallery STPI), Clement Delepine (Curator, Galleries-Curate RHE, Panel Moderator), Martin Guinard (Curator Panelist), Penny Siopsis (Artist Panelist), Ho See Wah, Yi-Ling Kong, Gordon Koh & STPI Workshop

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