All of the work of Canadian artist Janet Cardiff is of interest to us, but The Forty Part Motet is particular useful at this point:
Forty separately recorded voices are played back through forty speakers strategically placed throughout the space.
Comments by the artist:
“While listening to a concert you are normally seated in front of the choir, in traditional audience position. With this piece I want the audience to be able to experience a piece of music from the viewpoint of the singers. Every performer hears a unique mix of the piece of music. Enabling the audience to move throughout the space allows them to be intimately connected with the voices. It also reveals the piece of music as a changing construct. As well I am interested in 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.
I placed the speakers around the room in an oval so that the listener would be able to really feel the sculptural construction of the piece by Tallis. You can hear the sound move from one choir to another, jumping back and forth, echoing each other and then experience the overwhelming feeling as the sound waves hit you when all of the singers are singing.”
Excerpt from an Ascent Magazine interview with Judith Cardiff:
…Cardiff’s art also calls attention to how the senses can sometimes be deceptive when we have a certain expectation about what reality is. “During the Renaissance when they first invented perspective, there was a whole rhetoric around reality and how the drawings seemed real, and then when photographs were first invented people were freaked out because they thought the photographs were real. When you follow the rhetoric about reality right up to the present, the dialogue hasn’t really changed that much – and now we have reality TV. What has happened over the generations is that people’s consciousness has changed and so has our ability to understand reality in different levels. But where is it going to lead? We are all trying to push each other to a new understanding of reality – a much more spiritual level, maybe…”
… Since speaking with Janet Cardiff and reflecting on my own experiences in her installations, I have begun to evaluate myself as a participant, not in her world but rather in my own. I ask myself: Am I actively contributing or passively meandering through life? Do I see the opportunities? What kind of space do I create for myself? Janet Cardiff may not provide answers, but she creates an intermediate space from which to evaluate fiction and reality, where they converge and diverge – and she reminds me of the role of the mind, internal dialogue and the senses in shaping my world.