Remote Voices

A week of interventions in Minute/Year by Gabriela Gordillo, April 2020

Setup for Remote Voices in bb15, Linz (accompanied by lockdown-compliant transportation)

What does it mean to be present in a space, in a time where our access to spaces has been radically restricted? Or: how can the idea of being present in a space be re-imagined?

We are Kata Kovács and Tom O’Doherty, and we work together as an artist duo. Our work is often durational and time-based, and engages directly with the built environment. One of our works, Minute/Year, is an ongoing sound-based installation. In this work, sound is played, recorded, and layered, in a resonant space, for one minute each day. The result that is created each day is then automatically published online. This process occurs daily, but the location of the space in which it occurs alters annually. Over time, this has meant that the work has existed in a variety of public, private, and semi-public spaces. It is currently situated in the art space bb15, in Linz, Austria, for the whole of 2020.

The daily process that the work undertakes involves automatically recording sounds occurring in the particular space where the work is installed. Minute/Year turns the acoustic traces of activities in these spaces into material for an accumulating archive, in a sort of surrealist process of self-surveillance. And, in a semi-public space like bb15, we would normally expect that the space will be in use, and that much of what would end up being recorded by the work would happen because people would be present, doing things.

Our original plan with this piece, in 2020, was that we would collaborate with Gabriella Gordillo, an artist and curator based in Linz, on a series of events related to Minute/Year, providing a frame to experiment, reflect, hack, and play with the piece, on both conceptual and practical levels.

However, on 16. March 2020, Austria went into coronavirus lock-down. As a result, no events have been able to occur. There have been no people present, doing things. 

But at the same time, Gabriela reimagined the possibilities of what could occur within the frame of the piece, in Remote Voices — a lockdown-compliant remote intervention series in the daily recordings made by Minute/Year. The intervention used a computer and speakers set up in the main exhibition space of bb15, playing remotely-triggered text-to-speech audio (via Pure Data and NaturalReader). And this is the result of this week-long experiment.

Before the week of Remote Voices began, nothing had been happening in the main exhibition space of bb15 for two weeks. One result of this strange situation was that the daily recordings and images made by Minute/Year in the last two weeks of March steadily became hushed and lulled, creating a series of slowly-waning resonant-frequency drones, with corresponding sparse spectrogram images.

Minute/Year (2020, Day 82–90) — slow drones in a quiet room

The Remote Voices series began on 1. April, with Yoko Ono’s 1962 score/poem, PAINTING TO BE CONSTRUCTED IN YOUR HEAD:

Go on transforming a square canvas

in your head until it becomes a

circle. Pick out any shape in the

process and pin up or place on the

canvas an object, a smell, a sound

or a colour that came to your mind

in association with the shape.

— Yoko Ono, PAINTING TO BE CONSTRUCTED IN YOUR HEAD (1962), first published in Grapefruit, 1964.

The resulting archival record is a stark slice into the drones:

Minute/Year (2020, Day 92) / Remote Voices (Day 1)

The following day, 2. April, a fragment from Malevich’s Suprematist Manifesto (first published in 1924) was layered on top.

The so-called “materialization” of a feeling in the conscious mind really means a materialization of the reflection of that feeling through the medium of some realistic conception. Such a realistic conception is without value in suprematist art. And not only in suprematist art but in art generally, because the enduring, true value of a work of art (to whatever school it may belong) resides solely in the feeling expressed.

— Kazimir Malevich, Suprematist Manifesto (fragment), 1924

The result:

Minute/Year (2020, Day 93) / Remote Voices (Day 2)

Days three and four were both based on Tristan Tzara’s 1920 score To Make a Dadaist Poem:

Take a newspaper.

Take some scissors.

Choose from this paper an article the length you want to make your poem.

Cut out the article.

Next carefully cut out each of the words that make up this article and put them all in a bag.

Shake gently.

Next take out each cutting one after the other.

Copy conscientiously in the order in which they left the bag.

The poem will resemble you.

And there you are — an infinitely original author of charming sensibility, even though unappreciated by the vulgar herd.

— Tristan Tzara, To Make a Dadaist Poem, 1920

On day three, Tzara’s score was read aloud by the computer. And on day four, Gabriela’s implementation of the score — a new poem entitled Streiten statt Googeln (derived from the KUPF Zeitung article of the same headline by Anna Goldenberg) — was in turn added to the daily recording.

Minute/Year (2020, Day 94) / Remote Voices (Day 3)
Preparing the dadaist poem
Dadaist poem: step 1
Dadaist poem: step 2
Dadaist poem: step 3
A glimpse at the final outcome
Preparing the poem in Pure Data to be read aloud

The result, in the recorded minute:

Minute/Year (2020, Day 95) / Remote Voices (Day 4)

On day five, Carl Andre’s typed-page work ddddddddddddddddfffffffffffffffffffffffff, from 1958, was read out into the space.

Carl Andre, ddddddddddddddddfffffffffffffffffffffffff (1958)

The recorded outcome was just as stark and rigorous as the original:

The last day of the process returned to the same Carl Andre work, but unlocked the key — the typewritten lines of the work form an acrostic.

dead / fish / orange / tankers / boys / killing / horseshoe / crabs / older / than / their / fathers

Minute/Year (2020, Day 99) / Remote Voices (Day 6)

And that was how this week-long, lockdown-inspired intervention unfolded. We’re very grateful to Gabriela for organising and overseeing this entire process.

The week-long Remote Voices intervention has already faded into the quarantine-imposed quietness of the space. However, the series has already had a follow-up, with remote sounds being played into the piece from participants in Brazil and Mexico. If you’d like to be kept up-to-date on these and other news, make sure to check on Instagram and Mastodon to get the latest.

For more on Gabriela Gordillo’s work and thoughts, take a look at her website here.

Below is a grid of the spectrograms created throughout the time of Remote Voices. And finally, for more about Minute/Year generally, take a look at the page about the work on the Kovács/O’Doherty website here.