for me the noise of Time is not sad
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Presented by Dazibao
Technical assistance by PRIM.
November 10, 2011 - January 22, 2012
La Maison de la Culture Notre-Dame-de-Grâce

Video, projection, sound

For me, the Photographer’s organ is not his eye (which terrifies me), but his finger: what is linked to the trigger of the lens, to the metallic shifting of the plates… I love these mechanical sounds in an almost voluptuous way, as if, in the Photograph, they were the very thing- and the only thing -to which my desire clings, their abrupt click breaking through the mortiferous layer of the Pose. For me the noise of Time is not sad: I love bells, clocks, watches - and I recall that at first photographic implements were related to techniques of cabinetmaking and the machinery of precision: cameras, in short, were clocks for seeing and perhaps in me someone very old still hears in the photographic mechanism the living sound of the wood.
- Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida

For me the noise of Time is not sad is an audio-visual installation incorporating multiple video projections and multi-channel sound. It takes Roland Barthes’ love of the mechanical sounds of the camera’s shutter mechanism and other time-keeping devices, as an extension, a link, to the moment and subject of the photograph, and a family story of a road trip taken by my father to retrieve my ailing grandfather, suffering from Alzheimer’s in St. Petersburg, Florida, when I was a child. The work considers time, duration, the sonic and the visual in temporal and spatial terms through a story fraught with loss and memory and its dissolution through aging, revealed through flashes, points in time, experienced non-sequentially through sound and light. For me the noise of Time is not sad inverts, to some degree, the temporal scale of photography and sound. Each channel of sound/video will be composed of hi-resolution audio recordings of camera shutters stretched over time, while the projected image flashes for the duration of the real-time shutter exposure. The images are of a familial travelogue style - one that may or may not be of my own family. The audience may not have time to catch each image as it projects. This space is somewhat contradictory as the sound invites a still, deep listening, while the visual punctum demands an active seeking out. In some ways this represents the complementary difference between the two senses; sight being an outward expansion of the body, with listening as the internal collector. here the gallery is considered a mostly sonic space, darkened, with occasional flashes of light from the momentary photograph projection. When an image is projected, the accompanying ‘soundtrack’ goes silent. Various exposure times will be incorporated varying the lengths of light and sound.

Canadian Art
Steve Bates: On Memory’s Machines
By Pablo Rodriguez

The exhibition “For me the noise of time is not sad” presented two new sound- and video-based works by Steve Bates produced during a special residency co-hosted by Productions et Réalisations Indépendantes de Montréal and Dazibao. Though perceptually and structurally different, these pieces jointly stressed the theme of memory. They also continued Bates’ exploration of social forms—especially forms of communication—and how they shape our sensuous and conscious transactions with the landscape.

Bates’ hub-like projection and sound piece (also titled For me the noise of time is not sad) may be described as a digital and expanded slideshow. Three video projectors and two speakers placed low to the ground in the middle of the gallery carried the action. Sometimes there was only silence and the empty dark outlines cast by the idling projectors; but then, a speaker would emit a slowed-down recording of a camera shutter: Tr-clung! … Trr. Richly textured and highly detailed, these sounds were not “clicks” but abrupt, mechanical, spring-loaded rattlings. When quickly followed by a projection, they seemed to trigger the appearance of the image. The pictures were colourful snapshots of manicured natural scenes, mountain peaks and horizons; there were no portraits. These scenes flashed up so briefly (sometimes for a mere fraction of a second) and so randomly (they might appear on any of the three walls allotted) that they frustrated narrative expectations. They consistently caught you looking at the wrong spot—live training in listening’s pleasures and the frailties of sight.

Nearby, the poetic single-channel video Roadmovie documented Bates’ foray into the conventions of narrative cinema. Juxtaposing the artist’s thoughts on radio and territory with the story of a son’s drive across the continent to visit a grandfather suffering from Alzheimer’s, it encouraged free passage between the domains of memory and history. Fixed shots taken through the windshield of a car as it travelled down a night road evoked, in a minor key, the tremendous historical tax levied by single-point perspective on cultural imaginaries of the nation and the landscape. At the same time, intermittent cuts to a patchwork of greys and to curves on a road, experienced along with the surrounding darkness and the warm, crackling sound of radio frequencies, appealed to the limits of such visions. But like the nearby samplings of camera shutters, and like the stray field monitor discreetly screening an image of a satellite behind the viewer, these wayward signals appeared neither sad nor empty. Rather, they testified to something like the thought of alternative possibilities.

Canadian Art
Steve Bates: On the Sound of Time
By Bryne McLaughlin

Amid the many distractions of an information-saturated, ultra-plugged-in modern world, where even the most routine tasks can border on sensory overload, a quiet moment of reflection may seem rare, and even slightly disorienting. Montreal artist Steve Bates taps into this awkward balance between the speed of everyday life and our ability to absorb its often-chaotic signals in “For me the noise of time is not sad,” currently on view at Maison de la culture Notre-Dame-de-Grâce. Produced in conjunction with artist-run centres Dazibao and PRIM (Productions et Réalisations Indépendentes de Montréal), the exhibition features a pair of sound-and-video works designed to isolate the fundamentals of listening, looking and remembering.

For the show’s title work, a set of three projections fills the darkened gallery with a sequence of random snapshots taken from a cross-continental journey by car to the home of a grandfather suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Timed to flash intermittently at 1/8 to 1/16 of a second (roughly the time taken to record them) these images offer no more than a narrative glimpse. That fleeting visual impact is countered by the accompanying click of an analog camera shutter that has been slowed down and distorted—a measure of what Bates, in a related text, calls the “sound of time.” As the photographic instant and its afterimage fade in tandem with the echoing shutter sound, the rapid-fire mechanics of memory are revealed, leaving viewers to quietly contemplate the lasting connections between what they’ve seen and what they’ve heard. That questioning of how memory is formed and fashioned continues in the exhibition’s second work, Roadmovie, which weaves an elaborate narrative grounded by eerily ambiguous footage of an empty country road at night.

Thank you to the Claudine and Stephen Bronfman Fellowship in Contemporary Art for support, Daziabo and PRIM.