sound installation
(Paivascapes #1, Paiva river at Espiunca, Arouca, Portugal)

“Ever-newer waters flow on those who step into the same rivers” [Heraclitus]

I proposed to produce a number of recordings of three to five selected volunteers who live in [a] section of the Paiva […]. These should be people who live near the river or whose activities would have a connection with the river, not necessarily professionals. I proposed to ask them to perform their daily activities, but unconventionally repeat some of their gestures in order to arrive at sound loops that were neither the same, nor entirely different from each other. But not only was it difficult to have people do anything without them talking. Even more so, the original concept was so much outside their scope that it was wiser to resign from trying to interfere with their activity or to impose a choreography onto what was dictated by necessity and often very much limited in time, too. It was necessary to find a different method to compose the material afterwards in order to arrive at the desired outcome. The selected volunteers were locals who harvest and make wine, cut corn, work as shepherds, in a local bakery (padaria), a butchershop (talho), a slate quarry (pedreira) and a tourist oriented sports club (Clube do Paiva).
During work it turned out that it was necessary to expand the field of recording interest in order to acknowledge the roles of animals and spirits which are partners and counterbalance for the people who live in the region […].
The installation Recurrent features a few vessel-like shapes, anchored in the river, but floating in the current, each containing a loudspeaker. As ensemble they play back a multichannel composition of recorded sound [sounds of people working, animal and supernatural sounds]. The shapes are formally related to the slate that is found in the area. But this is not all that there is to say about these shapes, as things are not necessarily to be seen in one way only.
In some non-European cultures, so-called spirit canoes are used, one example is the wuramon, the spirit canoe of the Asmat people of New Guinea. It can be described as a supernatural vessel and it is used during a ceremony to bid farewell to the spirits of recently deceased. As it does not travel physically on water, a wuramon does not have a bottom, and the spirit figures actually look downwards through the opening [e.g.].
In the installation, the moving shapes in the Paiva river are placeholders for identification with the sounds of human and animal activity, way beyond technical or musical aspects. The sounds, auditive results of people’s lifes and activities, are given back, handed over to the Paiva’s water, it being the biggest natural force in the region. The river is seen as the principal stream of energy, making life in the area possible in the first place. Hence it is also perceived as a source for identification. Even if the river’s presence is sometimes neglected, there is a conservative awareness of it as an entity, a toponymic signifier of homeland. There might be mixed feelings about an artistic intervention that somehow takes material from here (although ephemeral) and connects it with an extracommunal, even exotic reference. But the effect remains that the river itself catalysed the construction of such a connection, as there also remains a chance that the river’s health will be even more precious for generations to come. [excerpts from catalogue text]

Materials: polystyrene foam, silicone, acrylic paint, stainless steel, four waterproof speakers, a DVD-Player, electronics
Dimensions: site specific (covering an area of ca. 8 x 6 meters)

Acknowledgements: Ana Carvalho, Isabel Carvalho, Luis Costa, Ana Fernandes, Carina Martins, Ignaz Schick. Special thanks to Duncan Whitley for eight hours of his life.

DOWNLOAD Recurrent, digital album


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