forth year: 2001/2002 series of lectures: lectures / conversations with lecturers / lecturers

course for curators of contemporary art: course participants / study excursions / program collaborators / exhibition / course participant's texts


Clémentine Deliss
Metronome: curatorial practice and research beyond exhibitions

I guess I would like to begin by speaking about how I work, as one of the people who call themselves 'curators'. Immediately I do that, I grow horns at the back of my head. I am very aware that when you say you are a 'curator', you enter a contentious area. One of the problems that we are facing today in art practice is a terminological problem. It is very simple - if you want to count how many roles there are within art practice, you can perform this on the fingers of two hands. At the top, the thumb so to speak, you will always have the artist, and then you can carry on: you will have a curator, a critic, an art school director, a museum director, a collector, a gallery owner, maybe a publisher, etc. But there are very few roles within this context of art production which as we know takes on a much more lateral notion of representation. And for some reason of which I am not quite sure, there is also a great resistance on the part of people who work as curators, to define their practice in a much more subjective sense, to disclose what is it that animates them to do the kind of work they do with artists. So when I am asked 'what is a curator?', or 'what do you do?', I say quite simply that I work with artists. If I try to be a little more precise, then I speak about trying to produce situations in which artists can actually research and produce new work and further, in a rather idiosyncratic way, I am concerned with investigating in greater detail to whom this work is being directed.

I started off with an art background, and then because of the nature of work in the late 1970s (e.g. Susan Hiller, Joseph Kosuth, Lothar Baumgarten, Michael Buthe), I ended up studying anthropology. Nowadays anthropology is totally passé. Today you would study cultural studies or you would do media studies, but you would not necessarily study anthropology anymore. For a very good reason it has gone back into the closet. In the eighties, when it was still a productive and reflexive discipline for someone to study who was connected to art or the art world, antropology provided a basis in the methodological procedures related to interpretation. It was very much to do with interpretation and the limits of interpretation. That is, I suppose, one of the only areas that is still of interest to me today and that I have carried over into our practice. But when I studied anthropology, I was utterly disinterested (and I still am) in having a terrain, a field, like being a Southeast-Asia expert, or being an Africa expert, or somebody who analyses the way hospital attendants operate in an urban area. However, I recognise anthropology as an important discipline in terms of a form of philosophy that is ready to investigate and deconstruct its own parameters again and again and again.

For me curating is a research phenomenon and I believe quite fundamentally that as a curator I can operate through any platform and in any media, depending on the kind of research I am interested in and depending on what I want to vehicle. So for five years I have stopped doing exhibitions. I stopped doing them because I fell into a context, which included transmitting and working with artists and intellectuals who operate in different cities and different parts of a continent called Africa. I was coming across several problems with exhibitions. First of all I was not interested, and I say this in a rather crude way, in doing charity work. I had not gone and investigated the art of Africa because I felt I ought to. I felt it was necessary, because during my research and travels I had met artists who formed a part of a specific intelligentsia who were engineers of models and concepts and I wanted them to get into contact with colleagues in the European art world whom I knew and whom I felt were working in a parallel system.

The problem with the exhibition was that every time I showed work connected to this intelligentsia, it would appear, because of its basic materiality to be economically on a lower strata. I think everybody today recognises how fast technological innovation operates. But 5 years ago, if I was showing work from a particular group, let's say from Dakar, with work that might be connected to infrastructural issues, political issues, social issues, as well as aesthetic issues, it was the actual materiality of the work that could prove a turn-off. People would see a video by a European or American artist on one side and a pile of junk on the other side and that would signal poverty. Poverty would linger metaphorically within the materiality of this piece. So that was the first problem I faced. The second problem was one of context. In other words, although there might be a certain level of interest among the wider audience, there are facts that you might not know about traditional art from Africa, and then you might also not know about the national geographical constellations, all the different ethnic groupings, the religions, the mythologies, etc., and it would just go on and on highlighting the blind spots in an inter-scenic dialogue. I will always remember a situation, which was a real marker for me, when I did a show in London at the Whitechapel Art Gallery, a show on modernist artist movements within Africa. There was a stage set up by a group called the Laboratoire Agit-Art and a British artist, a well-known, London-based artist, was wheeling his small kids around. He came up onto the stage and he sort of went 'Hmmm, looks kind of interesting...', and then he walked off again. And then I knew I had to do one thing, that I had to hit the artists, that I could not be a curator for a wide public, because it would not affect the level of professional curiosity that I wanted to activate among other artists.
I decided that as a curator I could limit my field and say that I would be an 'artist to artist' curator and not an 'artist to public' curator on a broader scale. I had to find a medium in order to initiate professional curiosity, so I came back to an old-fashioned vector, one that has always appeared at certain moments in the transmission of art, and that is the organ. We have had the surrealist organs, the futurist organs, and often these organs have been connected to political manifestos. But in this case, it was based on a model of promiscuity, a libertine forestalling of the end of production. It meant that if I was asking an artist or a writer to do something for what I then called Metronome, I was asking them to have an affair with their own orthodoxy, with their own practice. Because no matter how much one tries to shift perspectives or include as much as possible around one, one still has a way of working that develops and continues and that one follows internally. I think that we have our own research motors and they can become our personal orthodoxy. So the idea of setting up this organ was to see if I could help to produce 'promiscuous work' (or 'affairs') alongside those things that people do and show, or write about, or publish in their usual stream of activities. Maybe Metronome, in providing a kind of a test space, would be more open in terms of access and transfer than something where you had to read an A-Z of context and background knowledge.
So I went to Dakar in 1996, lived there for six months and produced the first issue (No.0) in the first three weeks. I had been going there regularly since 1992 and had worked closely with the Laboratoire Agit-Art becoming one of its members in 1995. I had an idea of how to edit catalogues, but I had never produced anything on paper. The idea was to first of all make a total division between text and image, not to have any illustrational system, and to translate between languages. So if you had an interview in English on the left, you had it in French on the right. But similarly, I was not interested in reflecting Dakar, or Africa, or West Africa, or Senegal as an overriding theme. It just happened to be a base because of the interest and respect I had for the artists I was working with, an interest which I needed to transmit informally. So this particular issue contains a text by Paul Virillio, an interview with Penny Siopis, and a particularly good piece by the Senegalese philosopher and artist Issa Samb. There are a number of image sequences with photographs by Djibril Sy, El Hadji Sy and Joy Gregory, some of which relate to the conversational interaction between London and Dakar. The effect is one of setting up neighbourhoods; it is like creating a series of train carriages: you go through one piece and then you go on to the next piece, in an additive manner. The individual contributors begin to rub shoulders even though they may not have known of each other.

So for me it is a way of configuring inter-scenic communication that is really very specific for artists and writers. It is not meant to be an elucidation of what goes on in Dakar. Metronome is meant to be a jump-plug, like a short circuit for artists and intellectuals into germane art practices. So it does imply that if you took a copy of Metronome and went to Dakar, you would find it easy to make contact with a type of intelligentsia with the aid of this publication. And likewise, if the artists from Dakar came to South Africa or London, they would not be marginalised into a kind of a third rate arts cultural centre on the borders of London, they would enter straight into the heart of the London art world.

When I launched it in Dakar, I launched it at the time of the Dakar Biennale in '96 and it was economically quite a radical move, because the biennale catalogue had been produced at, I think, twenty times the cost in Belgium. However, Metronome was produced in Dakar at a local printer, and the whole process was simple and without any problems. I was not trying to use a lower economic denominator in order to see what would happen; it was just where I was working from and that is how it functioned. Nonetheless a foundation for art in Dakar paid for half the costs together with the British Council. Then I came back to London and in contrast to the exhibitions I had been doing at top places, several artists of the time were curious and interested and keen to do something for the next issue of Metronome. I had achieved the professional curiosity that I hoped for with this platform. And again I had to dislocate the place. In other words, although I produced the second issue in London, I printed it in London, and I based myself in London, if you look at the contents, you will see that there are still Senegalese and Ghanaian artists and writers. In short, there are people who have absolutely no immediate connection with London at all. The third version, still in the style of the large format, was produced in Berlin in 1997 and was launched when I presented my work at the Documenta X's 100 Days. It operates in the same way. It is important to realise, that if there is no city reflection, other than in actual print material, and the phenomenon of me being there, there is also no overt thematic issue. I was not interested in getting people to do something about a particular subject matter. It was, if anything, inspired by a concept that I have taken from Edouard Glissant, the Martinique philosopher, of the 'unforeseeable' or l'imprévisible. In this sense I did not have a preset menu.. Instead I met people and when I met them I would show them the different editions of Metronome. We would negotiate a situation together and see if we really wanted to use the possibility or not, if it had any relevance to what they were trying out as artists. That was very important for me because I never try to reject a piece, it has to be a long process of negotiation or the opposite, a spontaneous yet risk-laden trust. It is a very hands-on process, a constant dialogue, during which we both decide we want to do something together in Metronome. When the pieces come in, I begin to understand what the edition is all about, but it is not something that I know in advance. However, there are clues that emerge. For example, if you compare the first three issues which have been formally based on the tabloid press of Dakar, as well as Documents, the dissident-surrealist organ from 1929, you will find cross-connections. By the time I had done No. 2 in Berlin a lot of people started referring back to other pieces already produced in Metronome.
Now this all seems fairly banal and the kind of a process you could produce as an exhibition as well, except that doing this gave me a lot of freedom of decision. There were no pretentions in doing Metronome of providing a regular journal or magazine, and therefore no editorial board to bolster recognition and induce democratic negotiations, and no commercial distribution. I was not interested in explaining things, where the contributors came from, what had they been doing, what type of art it was and all of these pedagogical systems and I did not have to negotiate anything with anybody other than the contributor. All I had to do was raise the money. And that was nothing compared to doing a show with transport costs, insurance, lodgings, etc.

Every contributor receives many copies, because I believe in the networks of artists and writers. I do not distribute Metronome through the usual systems, I carry it with me wherever I go, and when I sell it, I sell it in different ways; if I have them in a bookshop, which sometimes happens, then they will get sold for the basic rate. So if books, for example, cost £15 in a bookshop, that is fine, but I know very well that I will fight to get the money from the bookshop over one year, that they will sell three copies, and I will never get my 45 Quid.
The system that I prefer is the postage cost system. In other words, you pay me for Metronome by paying me a postage cost, however the postage cost is not necessarily Ljubljana - London, it is everywhere that Metronome goes, so it can be London-Tokyo DHL, it can be any spatial distance, and if you do not have the money, it can also be a very short distance. In other words, it can be what it costs to send it from one street over here to one street over there. But it is you who has to decide upon the level of the postage costs. This is one way, if you like, of finding an economic value for these books that I carry around. At the moment I am trying to find a concept for circulation. The point is, that there is no reason for me to get Metronome out to all the public libraries in America, just to make money, if I am not able to hit the artists and writers, thinkers, activists and motivators that I need to hit. So if all the books are gone and I come to Slovenia and I want to do a project in Slovenia and I do not have any books left to distribute, then my system is not working anymore.

After completing three issues I was often asked where I was going next. But I was getting tired of the current format of Metronome and I had understood how it worked. Then I was asked by Peter Pakesch, the director of the Kunsthalle in Basel, to do something in the building and I did not see what to do at first. I did not just want to get two Polish artists, two Africans, two Indian artists together, put them into Basel for three months and see what happened. What would have been the result? Some public-sited artworks, a few posters, a few interventions here and there, a lot of money spent on their part in terms of coffee and food, lots of hanging around, maybe they would have got to know some of the Swiss art world, maybe not. So I asked Peter Pakesch if we could shift the economy of a big show, of an international show, into a private event, into something that would operate behind closed doors, that would be inaccessible to the larger public, but would be of vital value to the professional people involved. And that is what happened with the Tempolabor which was relayed both before it started and afterwards through Metronome No. 3 The Libertine Laboratory?. The idea was to get a number of different people together, with a similar cast list in terms of age, experience and location to the other Metronomes, but in real-time. So, you had celebrated artists like Michelangelo Pistoletto, famous gallerists, like Tim Neuger from Berlin, you had two activists from India who have been involved in networking systems (Rasna Bhushan and Rummana Hussain), and you had, from this part of Europe, Neboj¹a Viliæ from Skopje and Izeta Graðeviæ from Sarajevo. There were a lot of Swiss artists and there were Senegalese artists, one from Laboratoire Agit-Art (Issa Samb) in Dakar and one (Kan-Si) who works in a very similar way to Superflex with a group of artists in the southern parts of Senegal.
Now, we had a kind of conversationally discursive problem which I wanted to crack. For if we had been sitting in a public conference, we would all have started from A and gone through to Z. 'Hello, my name is this and I do that, I work there and this is some of my work, etc, etc,' and we would have ended the sessions and nobody would have known what the real problem at stake was for this particular person. Using the methodology of Metronome, I asked everyone who was coming to the Tempolabor in Basel to write something in advance that would be a detour from this A-Z and would give us an input as to where they were coming from, but could be thrown to the side once we were in the actual meeting. So the Tempolabor seminars we did were by no means a discussion of what had been written for Metronome.
We had to be a little bit careful; we could not bring all these people over to Basel and really lock them up in a room! I mean, there was an audience that had to be satisfied, and so we made a sandwich of two public moments either side of the private meetings, at the beginning and at the end. But during the three days when we were alone, we were really alone. Everybody brought materials or documents with them, so we had a kind of a jungle of what is assumed to be information all over the walls. I think because we were behind closed doors, people started talking, eventually about their current preoccupations and from quite a subjective or intimate angle. I remember Izeta Graðeviæ talking about silence. It was something that really marked me, when she recalled how, before the bombings in Sarajevo had begun, people had been talking all the time in groups, like there would be a discussion group and it would go on and on and on. When the bombings started nobody spent time talking anymore. One of the reasons being, I guess, because people felt in some way connected rightly or wrongly to a particular grouping, could not divulge information, or did not want be aligned in any way once the war set in. But one of the other much more simple and banal reasons was, that according to her experience, one tends to lower the level of one's voice during a period of intense war. One does not shout during a situation of siege. And these were small details which cropped up throughout the discussions. Eventually, I was left with 16 hours of audio material and I had to cut it somehow. I had to cut it in such a way that it would not betray the system that we had been operating within. I have always been a fan of libertine literature especially from the 18th century, and I so picked up on the form of drama, the dramaturgy of what had been going on and that is what you have in Metronome No. 3. In other words, you have an edited version of what was said, but in addition you have all the movements and all the asides, the whole play being divided into acts and scenes. As you progress through the different scenarios, you begin to understand what the issues might be, couched in a different form of expression. Indirectly, it could focus on how operators and artists with different economies manage to retain a certain amount of continuing visibility, or it could be about the nature of moral engagement today, or it could be on the difficulty of chronicling a collective situation. It is so difficult to put across what happens when more than a few people meet and do something. All these were indices that came through in a very soft and modest manner, and I think that the modesty element was very important. My favourite piece of libertine literature is a book called The Sofa. It was written by Crébillon Fils in 1742, and it is an Orientalist novel. It is the story of a young man who dies and who is reincarnated as a sofa. As you have probably realised, sofas do not get thrown away after they have been used in one house, they go to another house and travel this way. This sofa had certain charms to it, it had embroidery, bouquets and flowers, but it also had one particular asset and that was an eye that could see everywhere, everywhere from the perspective of its upholstery, like this huge soft video-eye. So if someone was sitting on it, the sofa could see every part of their body, every detail. The sofa began to enjoy this, but felt slightly doomed by this fate, because the only way he could be released from being a sofa was if two people made love on him. The author manages to describe all the fickle relationships that were going on in the French society at the time. The book is based on a narrator who is telling the story to a pasha, and at one point, the pasha turns to the narrator and says get on with it, get on with it! Or 'It is harder to know when to stop than to invent.' So the idea of knowing when to stop, rather than elaborating further, was highlighted in the Tempolabor in such a way that there was a kind of economy of thought that we resorted to whilst taking tangents. At the end of the novel, the sofa is transported into the boudoir of a lady of a greater distinction and he falls madly in love with her. The sofa is ready to give up all his future karmas, if he can just remain a sofa and watch her. But because she is a lady of a greater distinction, she has an integral relationship with a man and they make love on the sofa and the sofa is released.

That if you like is the kind of thought pattern I was trying to initiate with the Tempolabor.
I feel there is a real value in having a closed seminar situation with a few people and being able to discuss issues on an international level and to know why you exclude a public audience. You are not actually creating a shell or a system of secrecy or an elite group. It is just that sometimes professionals need to be able to talk to one another without all the other attempts to be broad and all-encompassing with what is said.

The blue Metronome, No. 4-5-6 is called Backwards Translation and it was the result of a research situation I initiated in four art schools in Europe, the Städelschule, the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Bordeaux, and the protoacademy at Edinburgh College of Art. It also includes the Bureau d'Esprit which I organised at Michelangelo Pistoletto's Cittadellarte in Italy. For three years I have been operating through art academies as an art curator. Maybe because it turns me into a legitimate researcher once again and because I know that I am not able to do these investigations through museums. And, I really do not want to set up exhibitions until I know why I can do them. I like spaces, do not get me wrong, but I am not convinced that an exhibition (particularly a group show) animates an artist today to the extent that they would produce something of which they are radically uncertain. Too many group shows feel the same, there is too much generic work being circulated. If you want to see a Gillian Wearing video, you can see the same video in every space and every museum. As a curator I feel personal failure when I go into the majority of group shows, I just do not know what to do, I am not even interested. I am becoming less and less concerned with the finished piece and more and more curious about what gets into a piece before it is concluded, and that is a little bit of what the Backwards Translation was about. It was about the phenomenon of art academies. It does not matter if you are dealing with an art academy in Bombay or if you are dealing with one in California, you have the same situation, beyond certain historical or locational specifities. What are we going to teach, which art histories, what kind of technology, what spatial environment, and do we still need studios? What is an academy all about if not social intelligence? What kind of social intelligence is required for an art academy to be different from somebody's flat, or a bar, or different from a street or different from a country? So I worked with four art academies and asked students to basically translate backwards, in other words not to do new work for Metronome, like an art page, because no one is really interested in student catalogues, but in terms of 'stock clearance'. So the backwards translation was about finding out what art students are reading, what are they doing, who are they are interested in, who are the gurus in the art-world, so that all of these references were illuminated as potential material. If one student wanted to invite Superflex, or Hamish Fulton then they invited them and they were dealing directly with their interest in this particular artist. At the moment many students deal with drug-related issues, with old age, with people who have mental and physical handicaps and I wanted this material to be problematised, I wanted it to be a part of this reflection, to get out of this 'Oh my god, now I am in art school, but when I finish I have to earn money'. I tried to make a cross-connection between these different activities. The result is an almanach; it is hard to decode it, and it has been collated on the basis of the titles of the different pieces, rather than the names of the contributors. Metronomes have often been hard to decode. I do this on purpose, and I did it on purpose with the blue one, because I noticed, that Metronome was working too efficiently. For reasons of protection, and to provide 'extra time' for the younger artists involved in Metronome, I made the decoding within the blue book much harder to follow. You need to use a cross-referencing system to know who is in the book. There are, like in all Metronomes, a majority of unknown people depending on where you stand, and well-known people, again depending on where you stand.

I funded Backwards Translation through art academies, thinking that they would provide distribution or what I prefer to call 'circulation'. So, I gave each academy 500 books, thinking that they would then circulate them through their channels. The problem is that our academies have libraries which are meant to buy books, not sell them. Librarians got very confused, they did not know how to sell this book, and did not know how to account for it within the art academy bureaucracy. So basically, all these locations now have stacks of Metronomes which can not be distributed and which I am not even sure I can get back. These are small details, but they make you wonder more and more about how to circulate material effectively once you know to whom it is addressed.

Then I started to get more and more fascinated by the use of voice by artists. That stemmed from many reasons. I guess in a background sense, it comes from the fact that I have been working a lot in Senegal and that the culture of the voice there is extremely elaborate. I was sitting in a friend's house one day, with the other members of the Laboratoire Agit-Art when one of them dropped the term la parole magnétique or magnetic speech and explained that when someone speaks, the words can fire out of the mouth and can cling to the other person. So much so that in order to have a constructive dialogue, you have to have witnesses. The idea of the witness and of the magnetism of speech fascinated me. So I went back to the Städelschule where I was a guest professor and started a seminar called Magnetic Speech. I had no real idea of what material to use within this research process. I was interested in rhetoric, but when I went hunting for books on rhetoric in Vienna for example, all I found was books on Hitler and on how to convince a lady to go out with you in the evening or on manager-speak, in other words a very narrow reduction of rhetoric for the purpose of the 20th century dialogue.
To me, the voice seemed the least commodifiable thing that I could find. If I worked on the voice, then what would the other people working and watching in this frenzy of global curating at the moment, do with it? They could not exhibit it, they could not sell it, they could not corrupt it, because it is just there. The voice spoke so clearly about presence and about translation. It fascinated me as a curator to deal with that. And about not knowing how I would show it, what format I would bring it into? The other reason was that I was growing tired of art conferences. I was invited over and over again to conferences that were always about 'something'. It was as if we could only talk through a substantive. For example, the last major conference I spoke at was on 'borders'. I thought: so we are going to talk about borders and then I started doing things like saying 'I border, you border, he borders, she borders, we border, they border'. If you start doing that to substantive forms, it becomes very interesting and it does not work. But I wanted to get back to the verb-type of language, and less a noun type of language. So I was also curious about the modalities of conferences, about the way they are set up. When I was a student in Vienna, conferences took place at the centre of a gallery, but nowadays they are relegated to an auditorium. The auditorium is not meant for speaking, it is meant for showing video-material. If you go to Tate Modern and you see how it is set up, there is no true consideration of a speech moment in connection to art practice. Even more, if you are listening to a curator, the majority of the time you will not know what they are really interested in, because their alibi will be the institution coupled with a fear of subjectivity. In the beginning of your career you are not sure why you are doing something, but after 10 or 15 years you can say 'I have been doing all these exhibitions because at the end of the day I am really interested in some kind of terror', or 'I am really interested in a philosophical idea of the erotic', or 'I am interested in ankles', or 'I am interested in people who move in this direction'. I am being a little simplistic now, but I crave for more subjectivity and I have not been finding it through the language that is being used by curators.

I had an idea of doing a big conference in Sweden coupled with high-tech material from Denmark, and new research from Norway. I wanted people to be able to leave the space of discussion and hear what was going on outside. I wanted a system of phonic doubling, I wanted to take the dolmetscher out of the back room and place them centrally, initiating a different situation of trust between the two speakers. One day I would like to try this out myself. Mladen Dolar is here tonight and I am very honoured. He is a great thinker in terms of the subject that has interested me for a year and a half. Imagine if Mladen and I were both sitting here and knew each other a little bit more. I could say something in English and Mladen would do a form of translation, but it might not be literal. You as an audience would be in a state of not knowing whom to listen to. Where would you be losing out, what do you do with the sense of the loss between the two languages? This was the kind of a process that I wanted to engage with in Scandinavia.

I travelled to different academies and set up situations in which involved microphones and we could not talk unless we took a microphone into our hands. It sounds like a pretty rigid game, but there were two to three microphones. It was really good because the microphone became a drug. It became something which enabled even the tiniest, most timid person's voice to be amplified, and you could actually hear them. The idea of doing this investigation on the verbal or vocal was to dislocate this sensory channel and to see how far it could survive alone. You are all aware of the synthesis that has been going on for the last 10 years, it is crazy. You cannot go to an exhibition anymore without having smells, sound, touch, taste, everything is mixed up together, and I wanted to dislocate one in order to see what happens. I was aware of the increasing importance of sound installations, but I did not want to get into sound, because it was too broad and it also caused less problems in terms of exhibiting. A sound installation is still possible, but the voice is much more complex. It is not enough to have headphones to exhibit the voice.

We listened to a lot of material and then there would be situations where artists would speak about their work and the moment they did that, they were caught in the verbal, they were in the verbal, through the verbal and there was no way out. This meant that the reflection of what they were saying, the analysis of their voice, became equal to an analysis of the way you contextualise your own work, the way you speak about your own work, how much can you bring into fiction, how much can you send off on a false track. What is the nature of information that we produce around the work we do, either in a voice moment or a written moment when they come close together? After listening to a lot of material we began to find certain categories, which are not watertight. We had found out that there were different ways that artists had used the voice. For example, there are moments when artists have gone and taken over radio stations, so the radio station became a studio. All this was fine in the period of the sixties, when if you made exclamatory comments on a radio station, you made a statement as an artist and as an activist. Nowadays, I do not know what you would do on a radio station that would have the power of the voice as the voice once had in the sixties. A very good example of that is the work done by Åke Hoddell. He was a brilliant Swedish artist, who once did a piece in '69 called Mr. Smith in Rhodesia. So, there was this politicised work, including the very complex pieces by Öyvind Fahlström, there was a lot of phonetic work and verbal brainwashing again from Åke Hoddell. Then, recently, there has been this new trend of parapsychology, you know, this revival of voices from the other side. So people like Carl Michael von Hauswolff picked up on the earlier experiments performed in the 50's when tape-recorders were put into a room to record other levels of noise. And then you would hear screeching and it would obviously be a wavelength problem but interpreted as 'Van Gogh is here', or 'I am talking to you Hitler, this is Annie Besant'. And all sorts of very strange stuff. After a while we began to realise that there was nothing 'sexy'. People were not dealing with an intimate voice. Why is there no audio pornography other than telephone sex, which is a different story altogether? Telephone sex is another thing, it is about the precision naming of desire. If you shoot a porn video in Bulgaria, you dub it, and it works, does it not? It is still the same tits and ass if it is in Bulgaria, or if it is in Corea. But if you have an audio piece in a particular language, it is not easy to sell it in another part of the world. Yet there was something more curious and this is I guess why we continued. We were not really trying to be critical of pornography. We just wanted to know what happens when you try to translate from one sensory channel into another and it fails. If I want to translate the effect of visual pornography into an audio channel, can I produce that gut feeling or that kind of a punch in the stomach? Even if you do not like the image, even if you do not approve of it, you can be turned on in some sort of a way. Could I do that with the voice that did not include popular music, in other words, all the sexiness of rap or soul or music in general, but just the elusiveness and magnetism of the verbal channel? And that is what this investigation is all about. The compact disc in the book (Metronome no. 7) consists of 26 tracks of which some are two seconds long and the longest is seven and a half minutes in duration. But even if you listen to a track that is three minutes long, it feels like twenty minutes. That is also to do, I think, with the reduction of the senses. Plus if it is in another language, then it will seem all the longer.
Certain pieces are for me very important, because they work on a camouflage basis. With Initiation I by Bernard Marcadé and Rabia, if you do not speak Arabic, you do not know that this is a woman who is explaining to a man how to perform 16 (and no less) forms of anal intercourse. So it camouflages itself as a language course. The Frenchman is repeating after the Arabic speaker and the particular pauses in between the phrases are time for actions.

In listening to particular pieces you have to constantly think about the way in which this voice-work does something in a room. When I was working on the editing of it, I could not, even if I needed to, wash up at the same time! Even if it was language that I could not understand, I had to listen. There was something about voice rather than sound, such that without music it was very difficult to not stop and hear. Kendell Geer's piece Fucking Hell is curious because of the overriding sonic element within it that has been built up from the cries of people having sex. When you listen to it on headphones, the noise part, which is all built up on voices, goes on for about 2.2 minutes. It is that little bit too long for it to be fun. But the moment it breaks down into the couple fucking at the end, that is when the click works between the sonic experience and the idea of something interesting happening. It is the only one for me in the whole CD that has managed to transfer a sensation of arousal that you get with pornography. Your whole body is filled with this nearly unbearable sound and then suddenly at the end you are reminded that it is two people having sex.

This investigation into the voice resulted in Metronome No. 7 The Bastard which was designed by Liam Gillick. It contains a compact disc and a book. The book is called The Bastard because I was interested in two aspects of the term. I was interested in the miscegenation process within language. Miscegenation is a very nasty word, it comes from the racial theory. I wanted to look at miscegenation in terms of linguistic alloys, new linguistic alloys perhaps, and social encounters. The book has been structured without translation this time because, as far as I am concerned, translation here is a predisposition. If you think about the way books are structured, (and I have been a victim too in the sense that in the early Metronomes I had one language on one page and one language on the other), there is a strange apartheid within that we are used to. If you use two languages in an art book, you will make sure that they do not cross over. Perhaps you will put English first, and the Slovene at the back, or you will separate the columns. Sometimes you see books that have been laid out with a kind of overemphasis of graphic design and then the different languages will intersect and it makes it usually quite hard to read. Nevertheless, what I wanted to do was to go simply from one language into another repeatedly. This time with Metronome, I was working with people who were writing in languages that I could not understand, which created a very interesting relationship of trust between us, even more extreme then when I had been working with the visual in earlier Metronomes. Then when it came out to working out the sequence of the book, just like when it came to working out the sequence of the CD, that was when a type of curatorial activity for me became very akin to a show. Not the arrangement, not the transport, not the insurance, not the concept, not the pedagogy, but those dynamics that you as a curator hopefully encourage and initiate between different pieces through the sequencing system that you can provide, and that happens in the book as much as with the CD.

So half of the book deals with different notions of the verbal, but retaining that kind of open field that Metronome offers. It is just about testing out everything from a cat conversation through to a much more academic piece on opera against another piece which is about karaoke or another one which is a web translation of a pop song. In short, various approaches to the voice. The second part is to do with another form of bastard and that is the bastard of the encounter and the difficulty that we have today of transferring information about a collective encounter. In some cases you get very intimate discussions, you get references to the Arabic piece on the compact disc. There is a very beautiful piece by a Metronome regular, Issa Samb, the philosopher, but this time it is written in Wolof. I like the idea that when you pick up a book it tells you that you can not read it all, because you know very well that when you read a book, you only retain part of a book anyhow. I guess what I wanted to do here was to define that for the reader. But I equally wanted to take the structure of the book and shift the front door into other languages. For me these are experiments on what will provide an access point or an entry point for an artist or a professional working elsewhere. What will the book generate now, how it will connect different people through the different languages that are in it? In a way it is a battle against the leadership of English, even though we are speaking English today. I am bothered with the lack of words that we use and I am as guilty of it as anybody else, so this is the kind of process I have been trying to understand as a curator, working with artists and thinkers. It is not just the action that you do and then the reportage of that that makes information pass hands. The reportage has to be a modular part of the action before the action actually happens. Metronome is a series of jump-plugs into inter-scenic considerations whereby artists can get interested in other artists work, and so that the reliance on available vectors within the art world that we operate within becomes less dominant.