April 29th – May 28th, 2011.
Take any part of this book and go to the end of it. You will find yourself thinking of the next step to be taken in that direction. Perhaps you will need new materials, new technologies. You have them. You are in the world of X.
I take cloth and hold it over my mouth and speak. If the cloth muffles my voice at all, I pass. The other test is to hold it up to your eyes and see if you can see through it.
Annie Martin’s Untitled (horizon) 2011
This audio installation by Lethbridge-based artist Annie Martin is a window in place. It is constructed with simple materials, basically bare speakers and wires on the walls, and the arrangement is minimal, like a line drawing of a distance, of a horizon that resides below the typical line of vision. In the artist’s words, it represents a “ground zero of drawing, working with the image of horizon, which is haptic as much as visual.” As such it engages the imagination in an active and tactile way.
A topic in Annie Martin’s work is one of translucency and erasure, like stained glass and changing light, and of suggestion and association. In Untitled (horizon), the sound is like light, a waterfall of lightness. It flows from somewhere through here. It has a familiar and pleasant present-tense sound, a “folkways” effect associated with field recordings and playback. And like the horizon interpolated from a drawn suggestion, sounds that unto themselves are indefinite, take concrete form with imagination. Both our ears and our eyes can read things in this space, but we each read a different text, or we each read ourselves. The moment of perception and our proceeding from there in a deeply personal way is the material with which Untitled (horizon) is built. Here is a space that creates ideas more than contains or controls them. John Cage referred to something like this when he described making mesostics (a kind of visual poetry). The finished mass of intersecting words on a page, while coming from ideas, is not about them but produces them. The work exists in the present moment of experience inside the work by self-reflexive individuals who experience it.
The position in the present moment that Untitled (horizon) evokes is related to improvisation, because discovery and exploration in real-time are motivating forces for the creation of the total work. Annie Martin has created an opportunity for ideas, and has not privileged any one interpretation over another. If the listener is the improviser in this play of associations and recognitions, then they are jamming, so to speak. As Annie Martin explains, her “works place focus on the moment of embodied perception, extending that moment into an opportunity for deeper reflection.” In addition to this, the acoustic of the work suggests musique concrete, which is associated with composed intention and prescribed linear unfolding or playback. However, in Untitled (horizon) the way through is not prescribed, so the installation physically and conceptually is the concrete content as well as the medium for its experience. There is a play between this composition and our improvisation. There is poetry and a little humour.
Untitled (horizon) is less ornate and referential than some of Annie Martin’s previous installations with similar materials. In the past, wires and speakers on walls might have suggested constellations or outlines, maybe a number of big things up close. Other times, they might have seemed like room-sized graphic improvisations, lines drawn with curiosity and exploration. The acoustic was, in the artists own words, “a subtle spatial disorientation” or “a wash of sound open to visitor’s associations” or “a sustained sensory exploration of the lived environment.” At AxeNéo7 in Gatineau, QC, in 2009, speakers and wires arranged in a circle on the floor expressed a horizon of a kind, which was perceived from above when standing, and from outside and inside at the same time. This holds a relation to Untitled (horizon). Here, in Annie Martin’s work, there is both a distant view and a close-up on materials, and there is a play with scale and position in space and time with the viewer/perceiver at the center.
Jeff Morton, April, 2011.