snow paper scissors rain

I’m increasingly interested in polyphony (literally many voices). a multi-voiced ‘play’ that might involve text, volume, texture and tone.

This ‘play’ is not rigid, it’s not hierarchical like a normal event in the theatre, where all the parts serve and support the text. Here all elements are equal and free flowing. They are open, able to be interfaced - responding rapidly to other dialogues.

What I like about the recent pieces that I’ve made online are that they can be read in any order and still have meaning. It suggests a process that I want to encourage in my work - a free floating quality, an openness in the system.

Recently I went down to Penzance, Cornwall to look at some potential sites for an installation. I took a lot of digital photos of the coastal landscape - stones, detergent bottles washed up by the tide, seaweed, rope. I took some other photos of cloud formations and patterns in the sand. They looked quite beautiful. However, when I tried to intervene in the landscape, for example, to write some words with stones, the results looked clumsy and artificial. Somehow the random motion of the tide throwing up a bright blue Daz carton on the shore, perfectly positioned, was more interesting to me than the direction of the artist’s hand.

So in the future I’m looking for a way of not interfering too much in my own work. I’m interested in setting up a simple system of randomly changing events and seeing the complex results unfold. I want to come to my own work as if for the first time and be surprised, find something in it that I don’t recognise, be afraid, be full of wonder.

I don’t want to make decisions all the time. I want the system to decide and then position the discrete elements in a way that might be interesting or powerful, strange or moving. Or just lightweight. Like in a waterfall, or shadows formed by birds flying overhead. In these ways I provide a bit of DNA that drives the system, let's it happen. The rest is up to chance. Switch it on and twelve hours, twenty-four hours or twelve years later the piece is still going. That’s what I’d like.

Exhibition notes for snow paper scissors rain - Michael Atavar 1999.

Credits - data - Michael Atavar, samples - David Knight, voices - Gabrielle, Iain, Joe, Jonathan, Laura, Neil, Mathew, Paul, Sadie, Ursula.

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