Janet Cardiff & George Bures Miller: Recent Works
07 June - 24 August 2003
The experience of hearing voices, of having one's consciousness invaded by someone else's memories and reflections, is at once strangely marvellous and frightening. This is the twilight zone of aural hallucination scripted, recorded and engineered by the Canadian artists Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller. Their sound works reference musical, literary and cinematic genres that encompass medieval plainsong, pulp fiction, stream of consciousness novels, historical archives and film noir to transform a walk down the road into an existential thriller.
Renowned for their audio walking guides, the artists also use sound and image to create sculpture and installation. In the Whitechapel's Lower Gallery Forty Part Motet (2001) transforms the 16th century music of Thomas Tallis into a virtual architecture of pure sound. Spem in Alium, a choral work written for forty voices, has a soaring composition structured in overlapping layers. The spatialisation of this complex musical structure transports the listener into a transcendent realm. At the same time it is possible to experience the voice of each performer. Unlike the concert hall,audiences may wander among groups of singers who are evoked as an absent presence, a ghost choir.
The Berlin Files (2003) features film sequences that echo the disjointed space and time of dreams - a photo of a woman, a frozen landscape or a run-down night club. The voiceover hints at narratives of search, danger and loss echoed in the soundtrack. Images are used to trigger emotions while three-dimensional sound seeps beyond the film to merge celluloid reality with our own.
The final work in the exhibition involves a journey outside the Whitechapel. The Missing Voice (Case Study B) (1999) is one of a series of audio walks scripted by Cardiff in response to a particular location. These site-specific sound works take the listener on a physical and psychological journey. They combine unexpected new perspectives on everyday surroundings with disturbing flashbacks in a process which mirrors consciousness itself. Leave the Gallery and enter the peeling splendour of the Whitechapel Library. The story ends forty minutes later at Liverpool Street Station having immersed the walker in the 18th century streets and histories of London's East End, and in the memories and paranoias of a complete stranger.
This exhibition was made possible with the generous support of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and the Canadian High Commission, London, and with thanks to Bowers and Wilkins and Tascam.
Forty Part Motet was produced by Field Art Projects with the Arts Council of England, Canada House, the Salisbury Festival and Salisbury Cathedral Choir, BALTIC Gateshead, The New Art Gallery Walsall and the NOW Festival Nottingham. The Missing Voice was produced by Artangel with the support of Bloomberg.