Phantoms in Topophilia: A Mini-Sound Series in Three Episodes
University Gallery of the Angewandte at Heiligenkreuzerhof, Sala Terrena
Schönlaterngasse 5, Stiege 7, 1010 Wien

Episode 1. At the Bottom of the Well
Premiere: Wednesday, May 25, 2022, 7 pm
Duration: May 27 to May 28, 2022, 2 – 6 pm

Episode 2. The Basilisk, a Portrait
Premiere: Thursday, June 2, 2022, 7 pm
Duration: June 3 to June 4, 2022, 2 – 6 pm

Episode 3. Singularity
Premiere: Thursday, June 9, 2022, 7 pm
Duration: June 10 to June 11, 2022, 2 – 6 pm

Participating Artists: Xavi Sosa, Vanessa Schmidt , Marcia Schmidt, Hans Schmidt, Grace Oberholzer, Chattip Metchanun, Boglárka Lutz, Yaël Fidesser, Paul Ebhart, Frank Daubenfeld, Sarah Buhmann

Organized by Sergei Tcherepnin and Marei Buhmann

This exhibition takes as its starting point Maryanne Amacher’s (1938-2009) notion of the “Mini Sound Series,” a format for Sound Art which the artist developed in the 1980s alongside her “Sound Joined Rooms” series. In this work, Amacher appropriated the mini-television series as a way to address the in-between-ness of Sound Art – a discipline between the live event and the exhibition.

The artists in this exhibition participated in my seminar “Sonic Theater: Sound Joined Rooms” which examined and expanded upon specific aspects of Amacher’s practice. Throughout the semester, the students developed a “Suitcase” of materials – a folder containing “Sound Characters” and “Sound Atmospheres”.

The idea of the suitcase is derived from Amacher’s working method. When Amacher was invited for performances and installations, she carried with her a suitcase containing CDs and DAT tapes with her sound archive. She would spend weeks and sometimes months listening to different sound combinations on site, discovering which music came alive in the architectural space, developing her installations out of this listening process.

As part of the Mini-Sound Series format, Amacher developed the notion of “Sound Characters.” Amacher composed these Sound Characters by working with physical and psycho-physical properties of sound - such as “beating tones”, “ear tones”, “structure borne sound”, and “after sound.” In naming these characters she drew from a combination of sources including recent biological and astrophysical discoveries, science fiction novels, and her own imagination. She fused her colorful titles with real physiological sound experiences.

It can be confusing to talk about Sound Characters in the context of a Mini Sound Series because of the inclination to assume that a story will be told. Rather than telling a story, however, we are stretching the formal possibilities of sound; a sound character is not static and it is not representational. It is alive.

Our own Sound Characters were specifically inspired by the exhibition space. The local myth of the Basilisk became an opening into a chimeric sonic form. In mythic and genetic terms, the chimera is a hybrid creature.

Our sound system contains twelve hybrid speaker-objects which are reconfigured over the course of the three episodes. The DIY speakers are built from cardboard, metal and wooden props. By attaching devices called surface transducers to these sculptural objects, we transform them into vibrating bodies, transmitting our pre-composed sound characters and atmospheres through their structures.

Chimera is also a synonym for illusion. What is a Sound Character? It is a phantom in motion. Sound Characters are not metaphors, not symbols, they are real beings whose definition is something fleeting. How can we compose a sound that insists on its presence as a living, breathing form of energy, not an imitation of something else deemed real?

Shepard’s Tones rise and fall. Phantom ear tones emanate from within your own ears. The winds gossip. The loneliness of the Basilisk pulses through the couch and into your body. Slippery melodies follow your head.

Sound can pulsate. Sound can follow you. Sound can instill fear. Sound can disappear as fast as it appears. Sound can create an atmosphere, and out of this atmosphere sound characters may emerge.

– Sergei Tcherepnin