Essay by Dirk de Bruyn

Black Noise

Where the speed-up of technology led Marshall McLuhan into the realm of ‘pattern-recognition’ the game has now been ratcheted up a further notch. Technologies themselves are being creatively re-designed and reconfigured to hunt down the Snark (see Lewis Carrol, 1898), a game in which the skill of identifying gaps, ruptures, of cracking the surface, remains critical. In this situation a New Minimalism has taken shape in which narrative and content have not been erased exactly but have retreated, to be resident in the architecture and flow of the apparatus itself. For Marcia Jane this is where the story now sits, to be laid bare on the Gallery floor.

Jane’s sonic response here is to materialize sound by arranging her fragmented ‘apparati’, which, acting much like the cloud chamber of particle physics, outputs a tenuous flickering light. This is not Oscar Fischinger’s visual music of a one-on-one animated mapping of musical note to abstract shape and colour to create an idiosyncratic experience of synesthesia. This is closer to Goethe’s critical eye as performed phenomenologically in his Theory of Colours (Goethe, 1967 [1810]), now migrated, resident in the relationships between objects, machines and hardware.

Where Wassily Kandinsky used the metaphor of the machine to describe his elusive perceptual experience of light: “Color is the keyboard, the eye is the hammer” (Lindsay and Vergo, 1982 p.161), Jane turns this around, moving from machine to metaphor, to project light’s Janus-like scientific duplicity as both particle and wave.

There is also a trace of Konrad Zuse’s Z1 on display here, built in 1935-8 as the world’s first binary calculating machine, the world’s first computer, reading its information from a perforated strip of 35mm film, like Jane’s stuttering 16mm projectors do. These hesitancies, transcribed silences, bring us to the installation’s title “Black Noise”, gleaned from Graham Harman’s object oriented philosophy. “Black Noise”, like peripheral vision, implies ‘muffled objects hovering at the fringe of our attention’ (Harman, 2005 p.264) and recalls for me a ‘Classic’ minimalism, because these projections are as much, if not more, about “Not Light” than about ‘Light’.

The caught hint of a cloud covered full moon, shot from a moving car and processed as high contrast black and white 16mm work-print already extracts a manic trace. And the gallery plays its part because this installation finds its life, as sound does, in the unique ways it fills and responds to the gallery’s architecture, as it can no-where else, distilling a sense of place, the local as a prism, for the passing viewer who may just stand by, an opportunity no longer available for Jane’s originating moonlight glimpse.

Dirk de Bruyn November 2012

Carroll, Lewis (1898) The Hunting of the Snark in Eight Fits, Macmillan.
Goethe, JW [1810] 1967, Theory of Colour, MIT Press, Cambridge.
Harman, G (2005) Guerrilla Metaphysics: phenomenology and the carpentry of things, Open Court, Chicago.
Lindsay, KC and Vergo, P (eds) (1982) Kandinsky: Complete Writings on Art, Vol 1. London.