specious dialogue

Specious Dialogue consists of a pair of movable, sculptural forms that house battery powered wireless recording and playback systems, and tiny cameras that monitor their positions. Mounted on pairs of swivel castors the forms are able to be pushed, rolled, kicked and shoved around the gallery.

They play a multitude of roles; intervening in other artworks, lurking in corners, spying on reception, shouting at visitors, rolling into walls. However they are encountered, they expect to be touched or moved in some way, at the very least they want to be listened or spoken to.


specious dialogue photo: Christian Moser, Casino Luxembourg

The white form is the ‘listener’. It constantly monitors the audio environment. If the sound it is listening to suddenly gets louder – if someone knocks it, whistles, speaks, or shouts at it – it will start recording and store the sound (this is active mode). Sometimes the recorded sound will be passed to the black form for playback after a few seconds, sometimes it will be stored for future use, inserting it into someone else’s dialogue.

The black form is the ‘speaker’. It constantly outputs it’s chatter. Which sounds is it speaking is determined by two factors – the distance between it and it’s partner (the white form) and whether or not the system is in active mode.

In active mode, the microphone in the listener allows contributions to be fed into the work, and the pre-recorded dialogue changes from personal to public. Pre-recorded sound clip harvested from all over the world are interwoven with recordings from the gallery and played back. Volume, distortion and tempo is altered capriciously, often changing the live and existing recordings into unfathomable cartoon speech or growling mumbles. These public dialogues include scientific lectures, biblical readings in Arabic, Tagalog and Mandarin, poetry podcasts, field recordings, parliamentary debate.

When the work is in passive mode it has an agenda and dialogue of its own – the distance between the forms dictates which conversational fragments are played. Up close, they laugh, they tell each other of their happiness, but also voice their contempt. When far apart they miss each other, but also they are angry and need their space. In the middle ground these multi-layered, twisted, specious conversations flip between mundanity, humour, drunkenness, apathy, passion and irritation.

The work plays on the simple premise of record and playback of real life, but with a devious twist, what you hear is not what was heard.

Specious Dialogue at Kinetica Specious Dialogue at Kinetica Specious Dialogue at Casino Luxembourg

Commissioned by Cybersonica, Specious Dialogue was shown as part of Cybersonica 07 – Soundwaves at the Kinetica Museum in Spitalfields, London, throughout June and July 2007.

A simplified version (without the tracking) was exhibited at Volume(s), Casino Luxembourg, 26th Jan – 6th April 2008.

Artist talk, 30th May 2007 at Kinetica alongside Michael Markert and Andy Huntington and chaired by Dr. Richard Barbrook.

Reviewed by we-make-money-not-art

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