An installation drawing upon the ecological effects of vibration and the history of sonic warfare. At root is an interest in the way sound both makes and disturbs place; in how its very nothingness seduces us. Historically, sound has been an ideal medium for the performance of psychological warfare because of how efficiently it evokes events and locations. Whether declarative, as with anthems or artillery, or deceptive, as with sonic decoys or surveillance, the audiosphere is well disposed to militarization.
Inside the gallery, aural encounters occurred in two strains. One territorial, via the ground walked upon, as much felt as heard; the other aerial, via a sonic beam that occasionally swept the visitor unannounced like a wandering ghost.
Instrumentation of the floor composition was comprised of tank maneuvers, explosions, earthquake frequencies, helicopters and other heavy equipment. These field recordings were filtered, processed and edited together with a variety of sine and sawtooth waves. Conceptually, the floor composition suggested the residual infrastructural sounds of military action. Three subwoofers and three buttkickers were installed below the topography upon which the visitor walked and felt the composition.
The wandering beam composition was comprised of sirens, trumpets and bagpipes - instrumentation that is traditionally declarative and historically associated with warfare or police states. The instruments were deployed without their traditional melodies, resulting in single notes and drones. This piece was played through an HSS (Hyper Sonic Sound) speaker mounted on a gimbal in the ceiling. This sort of speaker generates a highly directional sound beam which is non-discernable unless the beam is pointed directly at the listener.
Credits Sonic Compositions: Deborah Stratman & Jen Wang Sonic Topography: Deborah Stratman, Steve Badgett, Matt Lynch, Melinda Fries, Maren Hoopfer, Amelia St. Peter-Blair, Chris Salveter, Steve Moore, Dana Carter, Ross Cashiola, John Arndt, Steve Ruiz HSS Gimbal Mount: Ean White, Peter Eng Research Assistance: Amelia St. Peter-Blair, Michael Esposito Catalogue Essay: Lucy Raven
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"Tactical Uses of a Belief in the Unseen" takes its inspiration from the use of sound as a tool of war and social control. The notes for the installation, written by artist and filmmaker Lucy Raven, discuss historical examples of sonic warfare, from the curdlers (aka "people repellers") deployed by the U.S. military in the Vietnam War—basic PA systems powered by huge amplifiers and mounted on helicopters, they create pyramids of sound 3.5 kilometers high that can be used to disperse crowds and terrorize enemy fighters at night—to Israel's use of sonic booms from low-flying fighter jets as a psychological weapon in the Gaza Strip. - Peter Margasak “Deborah Stratman’s Sonic Warfafe”, The Chicago Reader online, in "Post No Bills", September 2, 2010
Stratman’s dislocated soundscape literally seeps into the skin through the vibrations emitted by several speakers placed under the floor. Despite the palpable sense of dread this inspires, it’s clear that Stratman intends the installation as a piece of theater—a device to reveal modern sonic warfare as a terrorism of the ordinary, amplified to untenable levels. - Claudine Ise Artforum online journal, "PICKS" section, September 29, 2010
Stratman's "Tactical Uses of a Belief in the Unseen" offers a sophisticated space in which to experience and contemplate sonic warfare. The built structure, carpeted with hauntingly anemic shades of cheap acrylic carpeting, coaxes the body up its angular, mountainous surface. Faceted and sharp, abstract and vaguely neutral, it conjures mysterious visions of sand dunes and pyramids, of a computer-generated model of the desert that the army might use for training soldiers about to be shipped off to fight in the Middle East. The Gahlberg's modernist ceiling grid, almost touchable when standing at the apex of Stratman's sculpture, makes each visitor a soldier-in-training on the unmappable desert below. - Lori Waxman, “Evocative Landscape of Sonic Warfare,” The Chicago Tribune, October 1, 2010
Even before the exhibit opened to the public Aug. 26, director and curator of the Galhberg Gallery, Barabra Wiesen, said Stratman's piece had been receiving a fair amount of attention from students and onlookers who had observed the construction of the piece from the gallery's large glass windows and doors. - James H. Ewert, pdf
Originally published in: “Gallery Opens Fall Season to a Bang and then Hush,” Glen Ellyn Patch online information platform, September 2010