LIFE IS SHORT AND GETTING SHORTER ALL THE TIME
an installation by Sam Ashley (part of The Oracle Project)
Opening: Sam Ashley in A PROPOSAL FOR THE ELIMINATION OF SCIENCE
a performance using those instruments to produce a "reading" of the occasion
LIFE IS SHORT AND GETTING SHORTER ALL THE TIME uses simple electro-mechanical oscillators as a source of complex noise. The idea is that this noise can be used as a catalyst in divination in the same way that tea leaves, bones, cards, sticks, coins and so forth are used. It is auditory fortune telling, because the interesting thing about the imaginary perceptions that one experiences when one hears complex noise is that those perceptions contain more than simply the things one would expect to perceive, just as dreams contain more than the things one expects, and whatever one perceives includes valuable information.
The installation looks, and in some ways behaves, a little bit like something organic. The instruments represent one approach to the idea of "artificial life". They don't reflect intelligence though, instead they approximate life by mimicking its vulnerability, which is after all life's most defining feature. Anything that lives can die, and all living things busy themselves trying to avoid this fate (in other words life manifests "ego"). Even though our perception of "reality" is distorted by the busy task of surviving, divination can remind us of the fact that when we take a break from obsessing we realize that there are more possibilities in our lives than we had expected.
Once started, the instruments tend to settle down after a short while into a static state and to stop generating sound. Curiously, they behave as if they somehow "learn" to achieve this static state, because each time they are restarted by just a slight touch they settle down more quickly. To begin a new life cycle they must be moved a bit (but not too much since they are still delicate). Then they might produce sound for several minutes.
The devices could have been built to generate something like pure tones, but instead quite a lot of effort went into building them so that they would produce noise that is almost impossible to control. There can be unexpectedly abrupt starts and stops, and sounds ranging from "white noise" to random scratchy clicks, and there might also be pitched melodies. And occasionally the sounds might have just enough variety, and be of a particular sort, that they momentarily evoke the sense of a conversation overheard. To be most useful in divination noise should not be too "pure".
How it works:
When a battery is connected to wires and those wires are touched to the contacts of a speaker, the speaker pops. If the wires are positioned so that when the speaker pops it moves the wires, then that creates another pop, which in turn moves the wires again... an electro-mechanical oscillator. It's an extremely simple electronic sound generator.
Unlike with most installation works, in this piece visitors are invited to gently touch the devices, to start them in a new cycle. If one tends to them in just the right way they'll produce sounds for several minutes.
prepared in collaboration with OKNO, Brussel
and with device support of Stanly Povoda, with help of participants of the workshop: Michal Kindernay, Guy van Belle, Kryštof Pešek, Gerard Lou, Martin Zeinway,
ELSEWHERE NOT ELSEWHERE is an experiment in spirit photography, but not the fake sort of "spirit photography" that was sometimes produced during the early days of spiritualism. In ELSEWHERE NOT ELSEWHERE Sam Ashley, a modern-day witch-doctor, locates spirits inhabiting ordinary locations in a city. He shows these locations to photographer Marina Thies, who independently photographs there. It's worth noting that Marina is not a mystic. Indeed, one underlying concept for the work is that the two collaborators want to explore how, and to what extent, spirits might manifest when they are the unseen subjects of photographs. The pictures are created without bias and without assumptions or expectations. There is no use of special effects, and there are no tricks or gimmicks.
The spirits featured are rarely even related to human life, so they are not necessarily "ghosts" in the stereotypical sense. They have characteristics, but those can be described as tendencies to produce or attract particular sorts of events, rather than as specific literal forms. They could perhaps be called "nature spirits", though in the modern world such spirits can be found in urban settings.
The exhibition offers the open minded visitor, ideally intuitively feeling more than looking analytically, a view of another world, metaphorically as well as literally. Or it showcases pictures of... nothing!!! You are invited to see for yourself.
About Sam Ashley
Sam has devoted his life to the development of an experimental, non-religious mysticism, one rooted in a "find out for yourself" attitude, an attitude he advocates in direct opposition to so many traditions. He has been an avant-garde shaman for more than 40 years.
For over 30 years Sam has used this mysticism in the creation of music and art. His pieces are usually about luck, hallucination and coincidence. They can range from symbolic representations of shamanic phenomena to direct presentations of magic events, devices or objects. One might say that Sam's sound works are about finding ways to amplify imaginary sounds. Much of Sam's performed work features the use of authentic spirit possession, a phenomenon Sam has been working with for three decades. Almost all of Sam's work relates to trance in some way.
Sam's work offers simple windows onto things that occur in-between the "real world" and something else.
About Marina Thies
Marina's life and work is about searching and researching. She is
searching for a life that is livable, searching through photography to
capture every now and then the magic of a perfect moment. In 1997 she
co-founded the Institute for Paradise Research (IPFO). IPFO seeks to
facilitate personal interpretations of the term "paradise" and to
re-introduce its original meaning as a perfect state of being.
For Marina ELSEWHERE NOT ELSEWHERE is photographic research because she
has to capture something she does not see, at a place she has not
chosen, and can only wait until the moment feels right to release the
Marina works as photographer and screen designer in Berlin.