@ the Park Armory from Friday, August 3 – Sunday, September 9, 2012
If the sublime is a feeling of tranquillity tinged with terror, then Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller have successfully brought listeners into a transcendent moment of fear and awe of the sublime in their sound installation at the Park Armory. To call the piece a sound installation does not seem to fully capture how powerfully the so-called “film without images” transports one to an ambiguous, yet possibly familiar, place and time. The refrains of cawing crows and rustling wind tickle the memory. The crackling gramophone under the dim lights at the center of the circle of 98 speakers fills the room with Cardiff’s calm voice. Like a vulnerable patient reclined on an analyst’s couch, she narrates alone as if guiding the audience in an ambling, hypnotic dream– from sand dunes to abandoned house to mechanical factory to violent militia. The suggested violence and dismembered limbs lead to themes of helplessness. These disconnected fragments create a tension between reality and fantasy, secrecy and exposure– a nightmare that morphs without beginning or ending.
Cardiff and Miller, a husband-and-wife team, elegantly capture the fragility and fragmentation of the self that can often be the result of trauma. Enhanced by the power of the cavernous dark recesses of the Park Armory, the installation is an articulation of an emptiness, a surreal and detached space void of certainty or reassurance. One will struggle to find a coherent or satisfying answer to the pieces of narrative, but that is perhaps precisely the intention.
See also Cardiff’s The Forty Part Motet, at MOMA PS1– a piece of beauty (as opposed to the sublime). Until Sept 4, 2012