Monday, 25 June 2012

Kaffe Mattews – you might come out of the water every time singing

Sitting on the edge of a pontoon my feet dangling off the edge into a dim abyss. Though in my equally dim mind I know that the solid floor is inches away from my feet. I am staring at my feet and I am surrounding, enveloped by shifting patterns of sound. These sounds generated by the data accrued from the behaviour of Hammerhead sharks that inhabit the waters of an island I shall never visit.

The varying sound tumbling around me in pitch and speed, gives me a duality where I'm both part of this environment and its centre. Attempting to avoid the clich̩ for listening to sound art I keep my eyes open. The next time you experience a sound piece look for people doing the 'sound art pose' Рeyes closed, head cocked to one side. My reason for this is that like all installations, a sound installation should alter my perception or experience of the space in which it is installed.

I'm laying on the platform now, looking up at the four green lights and a trench that forms part of ceiling the gallery space. The sound passes from speaker to speaker indicating that invisible, partly physical thing are circling the space.

Then the rumbling kicks in.

The platform begins to vibrate; it begins to vibrate my vision. It's not an entirely unpleasant experience but it is akin to being drunk, on you bed waiting for room to stop spinning. Something which is at one thrilling but you want the sensation to leave you so you can return to a sense of normality. A mixture of laying on my back and the rolling thumping sound has disoriented me.

Having already though about writing about my experience words begin to rush in. Really hard-core pretentious stuff like: 'What fire could recall the firmament' and 'How can you code the seas'. Then I realise there are meant to be sharks here swimming in the either, but there isn't. What I am experiencing here is movement transformed in data then transformed into sound. An attempt to comprehend nature as right, as abstract, as a diagram in a book.

Then I begin to consider is the enveloping sound really that abstract. It feels as much as an amplification of the world around you. The movement of others, the lives of others, if you can spend a few moments stand at the top of the stairwell. Looking at the people walking around the space below and see how it tally's with the sound.

Somewhere within the swirl of sound I began to think about how in our species attempts to catalogue the world still points to something unknowable. Something elusive in the actions of the creatures which inhabit this planet from: apes to bacteria. Maybe it is this experience of the unattainable that makes us delve deeper into the unknown. To listen out for the song that is referred to in the title of this piece.

Kaffe Matthews installation is currently part of the Galapagos exhibition at The Bluecoat until the 1st July

Thursday, 7 June 2012


Well it's been a week since Prometheus landed Ridley Scott's return not only to the Alien franchise but to science fiction. The film not unlike George Lucas's return to the Star Wars universe has seen some frenzied fanboy action who've been waiting 30ish years for Ridley to get back to the future.

Thirty years that's plenty of time for people's ideas and beliefs about a film, and what a film should be to become quite ingrained. Even Scott who was responsible for so much of what we would expect from any film connected to the Alien franchise would have a mountain of expectation to climb. Despite Scott being the drive behind Prometheus, as he appeared haunted by the hollow eyes of the 'space jockey' and its role in the creation of the xenomorph.

As Scott is drive behind Prometheus it's only natural that his influences and sensibilities' will show through. What do I know about his influences? Well I believe that one of those influences to be the work of Moebius and comics like Metal Hurlant. From the opening 'sacrifice' scene where a unidentified alien destroys himself leaving bits of its DNA all a familiar looking landscape, before skipping millennia to a group of futuristic archaeologists. Somewhere around this point I wondered if I was watching a live action version of a Moebius strip. It seemed that Prometheus would be a grandiose, sometimes queasy, mixture of ancient mythologies and futurism often found in comics of the 70's.

Like these comics, Prometheus is a bit of a fantastic mess. It has plot holes that you could fly the Nostromo through. It also has several competing plot strands; this element invoked a comparison with David Lynch's Mulholland Drive. Mulholland Drive being an unmade TV series mushed into a film leaving a few stories untold. Of course Scott's films aren't always celebrated for their plots. The film seems to breeze through characters, or does it? Comparisons between the crew of the Prometheus and Nostromo can be drawn, though the crew of the Prometheus are meeting for the first time and therefore don't have the shared experiences and the petty grievances of the Nostromo crew.

The exception would be Fassbender's David who is pretty much the focus of the film and thanks to the behaviour of pervious androids (expect Bishop) we know that androids are sneaky and not on your side. Preferring to tow the company line and admiring the alien. Having an android at the centre of the film does invite comparisons with Blade Runner, though the androids in Blade Runner are much nobler then the ones in Scott's Alien universe. In both films androids have disappointing encounters with their creators.

All that aside what has Prometheus brought to the Alien franchise. For me it has brought of back a sense of Freudian unease to the alien. When characters become infected by the alien there is an undercurrent of a sexual act being forced upon them. The character of Shaw herself is infected through 'normal' sex in the ultimate corruption of human reproduction. This corruption of reproduction and therefor a corruption of humanity lies at the core of what makes the alien scary. Killing you out right isn't enough, especially if it can infect you and force you into becoming the genesis of some other vile creature. You can see my point when you are confronted with the possibility of giving birth to a squid baby, a squid baby that has eyes that shoot tentacles.

Prometheus is uneven, but it is ambitious and tries to deal with everything from the parent/child bond to the ultimate question of why are we here. Maybe not successfully but after a week I'm still thinking about it where with some blockbusters I've forgotten them on the walk home.

PS. I saw it in 2D.