Sound and vision

Susan Hiller Sounding 2013-14

Susan Hiller, Sounding, 2013

Susan Hiller’s Witness, which I first saw in a disused chapel in north Paddington in 2000 – and which I wrote about for MostlyFilm a couple of years ago – is one of my favourite artworks, I think (yeah, yeah, it’s a long and ever changing list, but Witness is always there). There’s something about the weirdness of the narratives – recordings of tales of encounters with the unexplained, stories about strange lights in the sky told in many different languages – the beauty of the installation and the oddness of trying to carry on listening even when the story is told in a language you don’t understand, that I find compelling.

Coming across some of those same voices in a different form – as part of the soundtrack to a work called Sounding – in the Box at Pippy Houldsworth was an unexpected pleasure (I’d known about the main exhibition in the space; the Hiller was a bonus). The Box is a small booth space, here containing a small screen housed in a box frame; three sets of headphones hang just outside the booth (though the work is best experienced solo) and it’s these that add sound to the video abstraction on the screen.

Susan Hiller Sounding 2013-14 installation

installation view, Pippy Houldsworth Gallery

The image, such as it is, is an interesting addition. Essentially abstract and effectively video static – visual patterns translated from radio waves emitted by the Big Bang – it does in a way feel like something out there is trying to communicate. The layers on the screen also suggest a sense of place, of landscape, but oddly illuminated and other worldly; admittedly they do this somewhat vaguely and maybe only because I want them to. Regardless, although I’d undoubtedly lose myself for an hour or so in Witness, I like the combination of sound and vision that Sounding offers.

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