Tom Heaven spoke to Andy Graydon, whose sound installation, Faltungen (Im Westen nichts Neues), is one of the sixteen new works that make up the Kranich Museum collection.
Tom Heaven: What does the visitor hear when they listen to your work?
Andy Graydon: The piece is essentially a narrative. It’s told as one woman’s story in an interview format. It’s essentially a fictionalised interview with a woman who is folding a thousand paper cranes. Her story unfolds over the course of the months that it takes to fold these thousand cranes and as that process goes on you learn more about the last time she was folding a thousand cranes as a wish to save the life of her mother who was sick with cancer. That bleeds into an additional story where she began reading this German novel “Im Westen nichts Neues” in a Japanese translation. It led to an ongoing, lifelong interest in German culture and German language. Partly because the translation was very strange and rendered the world of German language and German culture back to her with a very shifting, strange, almost grotesque perspective, she thought that it was fascinating. That led to her visiting Germany repeatedly, learning German, moving here and then becoming a translator between Japanese and German herself. So that process of migration is also something that the piece is interested in.
TH: It seems in the piece that there are various translations that happen from bird to origami and then from origami to sound and story. Do you think that’s a good description of the piece or how would you describe those themes?
AG: It is a good description of the piece because I’m looking at translation as not so much a rendering of one thing directly into the other, but rather the process of migration and how it loses things and gains things along that process. The way that something is not so much translated as projected out into a new context and into a new set of meanings. Looking at language as a mirror of the process of taking the image of something like a crane and the folded paper of the crane and trying to project it into the wish for something else and using that linguistic process of taking one set of meanings and projecting it into a whole other linguistic cultural context. I’m using that as a parallel or metaphorical relationship to the idea of the wish of trying to impress one kind of desire or one set of meanings into a completely different context.
TH: Your work is a sound installation, can you explain how it works?
AG: It’s a sound installation on two channels that are non-traditional stereo channels. (I’m trying to think of a succinct way of putting this!) It’s on a pair of uni-directional speakers that project very tight columns of sound, rather than loud speakers that project big waves of sound, big arcs of sound. The sound carries across the room in a kind of pattern or lattice as opposed to filling up the whole space, as it normally would on two loud speakers. As a result of the way these two speakers work, the sound is kind of tucked into the room. It collects in the corners. It shoots across the room. You walk in and out of it in a way that makes you almost think you’re hearing voices or hearing ghosts, and that is intended to be a reference to the theme of the piece, of using the image of the crane to look at the way that metaphorical and symbolic meanings are folded into or projected onto objects.
TH: Is the science of sound and development of technology important in your pieces?
AG: In this piece specifically it really is quite important. Just in the phenomenal way you experience the piece; in the way that you encounter it at all because it’s not an ordinary experience of sound. It’s quite ghostly, it’s actually folded into these axes around the room. It doesn’t exist in all places equally in the volume of space and that’s completely a technical feature of these particular speakers. They emit ultrasound and they agitate the column of air along the projection of this ultrasound, so that the sound is kind of happening around your ears all along this column. The sound as your hear it always sound quite intimate, even if you’re hearing the sound bounced off a wall. It feels very vectored and it feels very close. The distance between you and that subject gets complicated. You’re constantly being quite intimate with this story, fazing in and out, so if you stay put, suddenly it’s all around you. But then if you take a step away you’re hearing it in a way that is quite distanced or distancing, so the technology definitely plays a very strong part in the way that the piece is able to function properly.
TH: Are all of your works sound installations and where else can we see your works?
AG: A lot of my work is sound, sound in an installation context. But I was trained as a filmmaker, so I make films as well a video or media installations and sound works. I was just in a festival in Bulgaria, The DA Fest, where I showed a video installation with a very strong sound component. Two shows just opened in the US with video installations of mine: “Data/Fields” at Artisphere in Arlington, Virginia; and “Quasi Cinema”, the exhibition component of Video_Dumbo, part of the Dumbo Arts Festival in New York City. The next thing coming up is in Vienna, the group exhibition “You Are Free” at Kunsthalle Exnergasse, and that will be two sound works. And then at the beginning of November I’ll be in a show at Tape in Berlin called “Navigating Darkness” where I will show a video installation.