Taking over the West Lake (sound/performance art)

(UPDATE: Dajuin Yao has sent in his own translation of the text, here is the official webpage of this work – with a lot of photos.)

It’s far too late to blog about this but I’m doing it anyway, since it’s unbelievably under-exposed. On Dec 1, sound artist Dajuin Yao, who’s now teaching computer music at China Academy of Art in Hangzhou, got an unique idea realized. Here’s the introduction written by Yao:

Taking over the West Lake: One Minute of New Order

a sound performance work

Dajuin Yao (China Sound Unit)

(Created for the sound installation exhibition – SOUND IMAGINATION, 2005.12.9 – 12.16, New Media Art Department, China Academy of Art, Hangzhou, China)

Time: 22:00 – 22:01, December 1, 2005
Location: Around the West Lake, Hangzhou, China
Documentation: Jiang Zhuyun
Equipment: XXHZ1 custom-made sound interception device, Marantz PDM660 digital recorder, TOA weather-proof loudspeaker network.

“What is noise to the old order is harmony to the new.” – Jacques Attali, Noise: The Political Economy of Music.

” …Pollution damages the senses by which the living being, from animal to man, recognizes its territory, its habitat: sight, smell, hearing… Pollution prevents listening.” – Roland Barthes, “Listening.”

The aural conditions of public space invariably bespeak the invisible ideological structure of a society. Even the low-key, relaxed, and tender beauty of the West Lake conceals a certain unseen and unnecessary imposition – in certain areas around the lake, large networks of inconspicuous PA loudspeakers continuously broadcast “mellow” traditional music (such as traditional Chinese guqin and ensemble music) to the massive amount of visitors. This cultural beauty imposed unnaturally on top of the scenic beauty is in fact a form of uncalled-for public harassment.

In this sound action piece, the artist, taking advantage of the existing outdoor loudspeaker network system around the West Lake and its central amplification control system, intercepted the broadcast sound source and replaced the existing mood music with high-volume noise art recordings by local Hangzhou sound artists. The loud broadcast lasted 60 seconds in duration.

In that one minute, forward-reaching antennae of the local Hangzhou culture became one with the public landscape; and in that brief moment, the West Lake sounded a certain new order for the future.

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