Another dip into my archive. In 2007 Mathieu Briand ‘s installation The Spiral was installed in the turbine hall at the Tate Modern. The installation had five turntables, a DJ mixer and a vinyl cutting lathe in the centre, with a spiral of seating for the audience. Performances from the turntables could be cut to vinyl and then played back in the space, creating an evolving composition. Briand himself had a 12″ of locked grooves which he used to create an improvised techno piece, similar to the locked groove records of Techno DJ Jeff Mills. I worked with composer Duncan Chapman for the Sonic Arts Network, performing a DJ improvisation on Briand’s installation. Gallery visitors could come up and select records to play and I showed them different ways that they could manipulate the records, by changing the speed and direction of the platter and scratching the records. During the performance I also spent some time mixing the sounds from each turntable and cutting the performance to vinyl.
One of the things I remember vividly from the performance was the incredible reverb in the hall. The Tate had installed a good sound system and the sounds were reflecting off the concrete and high ceiling. Sonic Arts Network had brought along a crate of charity shop vinyl which was mostly 80’s pop music. Gallery visitors were able to mangle and manipulate the records on the five turntables. The resulting music could have easily been a realisation of John Cage’s Imaginary Landscapes No. 5 which calls for 42 records to be mixed in performance.
Over the weekend there were also performances from Charlie Dark, The Bug and Spaceape, Radio Active Man and Sarah Washington. Reflecting on the experience, I think our performance was in keeping with Briand’s intentions for the installation. Discussing the performances at the Tate, in an article with The Wire (2007), he stated “The only instruction that I offered is to choose people who offer very different textures of music and performance… The Spiral is a liberating thing, you come and go, in and out. There are no obligations. You can sit and watch. I am more interested to propose a free space.”
The turbine hall is an incredible venue and I also felt the sense of a free space as we created this collective experimental composition.
Photos courtesy of Sonic Arts Network, now known as Sound and Music.