Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller are both Canadian artists that have worked on several collaborative artworks and installations together.
Janet Cardiff is known for her Walk pieces but her solo work ‘The Forty Part Motet‘ has become a world wide installation, being placed in cathedrals, churches, art galleries and sometimes old warehouses or abandoned buildings. This installation features 40 speakers that all play individual voices of the choir. How the installation is arranged is really important as they are strategically placed so that the speakers are head height. This humanizes them, they become disembodied beings. The idea of human becoming machine in posthumanism really comes into play hear. You hear what you are supposed to hear as if a human is singing at you. If they were any higher than human height they would become intimidating. As each member of the choir hears their own mix of the choir, Cardiff wanted the audience to what experience what it is like from the performer point of view. This allows the viewer to connect with the voices. What I like about this installation is how she has used sound in a sculptural way and, I quote from her site, ‘how sound may physically construct a space in a sculptural way and how a viewer may choose a path through this physical yet virtual space’.
Forest (For a thousand years..) is a collaborative piece between Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller. It is an installation that is situated in a remote woods in Germany. 30 speakers are setup around the woods creating a surround sound effect. You can’t quite tell what is real and what is not real as the recordings incorporate real nature sounds as well as other ‘misleading’ sounds.
In the video a plane goes overhead but you cant tell if there is a plane or not, also come under fire. The sounds create a visual representative and you end up in this situation where you are beginning to create your own narrative.
Another of their collaborative works, Opera For A Small Room is also another of my favourites. Cardiff and Miller bought a large second hand record collection full of opera vinyls. The idea behind this piece of work is to tell the story of a man named R. Dennehy who was the owner of this large collection and to answer the questions ‘who was this person?’ and ‘why did he care and love this music so much?’ With this Cardiff and Miller created this fictional and imaginative story of Dennehy’s life. The room is filled with all the vinyls stacked and shelved all around the room with odd little bits that he may have kept, old speakers, funiture and lights. But you can only see what it happening through the cracks and holes of the walls and the windows as if to peer into his life. I like this about the installation, that it is not completely open, its his space and his life like an ordinary person has their own personal space. We are just peering into his world for a few moments. You hear sounds of him muttering to himself and changing records with the lights creating shadows around room as if he is walking around. The opera music isn’t the only type of music to be played though, there is quite a variety including pop music and rock music. The changes in genre help give the impression that this is a story of someones life, the music becomes a soundtrack that helps create this sense of time.