"You may not want to be here."
My mate Del
was in Jakarta last night and dropped into Jakartass Towers. He's now in Bali, lucky sod, but that's another matter.
In the seven years since he left here and returned to Blighty, we have kept in touch through the swapping of sounds and visuals related to our respective lives. He's content that his artistic endeavours on and offline are paying off. Something that he is particularly enthused about is ambient sounds; to that end, he has set up Soundgrabs.com
for overheard conversations, buskers, dogs gnawing bones and similar found sounds
No doubt, if he gets back in time, he'll try to get to Bruce Nauman's sound installation, Raw Materials
, which opens today at Tate Modern's Turbine Hall in London. Emma Dexter, the curator of the exhibition, said
that the exhibit's power was in the use of repetition. "It is a combination of meaninglessness and something that says something profound about the human condition,
" she said. "All human life is here: eating, sleeping, dying ... Nauman has created his own primeval hum.
Adrian Searle, the Guardian Art Critic, went to a preview and has managed to write as pretentiously
as Emma: The experience is a little like treading water beyond the surf, riding the troughs and swells of sound, each work another wave. Swept along by an unseen current, you are towed into deeper water, until you find yourself amid a flotsam of old routines and riffs, half-remembered snatches of things, the wreckage of words
It makes you ... totally aware of the volume of the space and where you are in it. I became intensely conscious of my own body and its orientation - whether I was standing a little to the left or right, closer to or further from one speaker or another, tracking the advance and retreat of different voices as I walked. I found myself looking down much of the time, and walking slowly, like a man who has dropped a coin or lost a beloved.
The notion that sight and sound are related is not modern, as much as MTV might protest.
You wish to see, listen; hearing is a step toward vision.
Saint Bernard of Clairvaux
Which is why, at the bewitching hour of jam magrib
(evening prayer time) I asked Del to sit with me on my front porch. As the sun sets, a quick process here in the tropics, Indonesians clear the streets, possibly fearful of the spirit world. Me, I take pleasure in the anticipated silence. There may be a golden, pinkish glow due to the pollution hanging over the city, but the absence of the noise from hell's cherubs speeding by on their souped up 90cc Hondas, meals-on-wheels vendors hawking satay
or nasi goreng
, pedestrians and, until 7pm, the neighbourhood mosques means that, for as much as twenty minutes, there is a very pleasurable period for contemplation and creative thinking.
Last night, we managed just one minute without the answering of cell phones, the rummaging for mislaid keys and car engines not being switched off. Derek wanted to hear and record a tokay
(gecko). No chance; the pollution has wiped them out in urban Jakarta.
Ho, primeval hum.