Vanishing Point

To see is to forget the name of the thing one sees – Paul Valery

Vanishing Point explores the essence and phenomenology of noise; visual and sonic, natural and artificial. I am interested in the way in which the human mind tirelessly attempts to read order into chaos, and in the precise threshold where the coherent becomes incoherent. This particular boundary seems to me to have a kind of universality to it – as signal approaches noise all things somehow become the same, regardless of source.

With this in mind I’ve used a deliberately wide range of visual materials, with nothing in common beyond their ‘noisiness’. My aim is to achieve extend the idea of ‘reduced listening’ (taken from acousmatic music) – where one attempts to treat sound as a tactile plastic entity divorced from its point of origin – to the visual domain.

The sound, in contrast, was entirely produced using deliberately limited resources, designed to yield a distinctive and consistent sonic language (and to use this coherent sound world as a way to –perceptually speaking – make the disparate visual material ‘fuse’). The only sound source is an antique valve radio with no aerial – this produces noise of a particularly dirty and warm variety, with occasional, almost inaudible, fragments of music and speech deeply embedded in the static. This single sound source is passed through a single process – a plug-in developed in Max for Live. This consists of a massively parallel array of (125) comb filters which can be arranged in various complex geometric ratios to produce harmonic or inharmonic spectra, and can be assigned various temporal ‘behaviours’ to produce a wide variety of gestures and textures, as illustrated here.

The very visually noisy material I’ve used looks pretty bad in places with the vimeo compression. If you want to watch it in better quality, then you can download an mp4 file (be warned – it’s quite big at about 1GB) using this link (may need to right-click (PC) / control-click (Mac) to save to disk).

in Video