The work of Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller appeals to all the senses. Above all else, it probes and explores the sculptural plasticity of noise, sound, and music. The duo’s works are vehicles for individual excursions that combine a nostalgic fascination with the experiential worlds formerly afforded by cabinets of curiosity with the multimedia possibilities of the reality we inhabit today. Those who set out to fathom these works embark on a voyage of discovery, immersing themselves in the realm of dreams and poetry. The exhibition at Museum Tinguely offers a comprehensive overview of Cardiff & Miller’s work from their first interactive soundscapes to their sometimes dystopian, immersive, spatial installations of recent years.
The artist duo launched their now over thirty-year-long career with binaural, on-site, walkman cassette ‘audiowalks’ before turning to CD’s and since 2000 using various video devices creating a simple form of augmented reality. These perambulatory works have been described as a type of interactive physical cinema. Like our sense of smell, our acoustic memory is an accurate, high-capacity storage and retrieval system, which influences our perception and which in its openness, corporeality, and associative capacity might even be superior to our visual memory. The artists take full advantage of the auditory creating a wonderfully unbounded, open-ended walk that interacts with the physical surroundings heightening all the senses but at the same time seems very much like a meditative trance.
Cardiff and Miller have used various technical approaches to sound. Their first major musical installation, The Forty Part Motet (2001), pioneered the use of separate audio tracks, recording the voices of 40 individual singers which were played back in unison. This work developed out of a famous piece of sacred choral music, Thomas Tallis’s motet Spem in Alium (around 1570) scored for eight five-part choirs. The forty loudspeakers are arranged in an oval, each speaker an individual singer, simulating a virtual choir where the movement of the voices around the space creates an almost physical sculptural experience. Visitors can deconstruct the composition by moving around the room, tuning into individual voices, or experiencing the totality of the composition.