HORCH / LISTEN
Linz 1982 / Innsbruck 1993
The Potential of the public space is communication. The Information according to which we orientate ourselves and understand one another appears on the surfaces of architecture and monitor screens. The language of mass culture presents itself in the public space in the urban square as much as on the monitor screen in a pure and compressed form.
From the distance, I sense a white noise that consists of the infinite number of layered images, texts and sounds. A white noise which is omnipresent, penetrates the body and is becoming continuously louder.
In 1980, I began to study audiovisual and communicative structures, to interconnect them and incorporate them in my work. There were already many possibilities of expression in the electronic field. This path, most often requiring a lot of technical knowledge, was of less interest to me and I attempted to explore the field in a direct and ad hoc fashion. Two works developed from this approach: the Wasserkla4 (more of a mechanical than an electronic construction), with which I gave various performances, and installations with the word Horch [Listen]—a work which probably would not have been created without John Cage's 4' 33" (1952), Joseph Beuys' Infiltration homogen für Konzertflügel (1966), the work of Robert Barry and also Robert Venturi's architectural theories.
The first version of Horch was created in 1981 in various languages, which I completed in the form of classically framed written images and displayed in the Hochschule für Gestaltung in Linz [Academy of Design, Linz]. I installed the individual "Horchs" in such a fashion that they were never beside each other, but rather cropped up at great distances or in different rooms. It was thereby possible that one would be first confronted with languages one didn't know. "Silence" remained for the recipient until he had experienced the acoustic Potential of the work through language. The total acoustic environment of the word being called to consciousness was always part and parcel to the work. The idea was to direct attention to the acoustic environment through a concept image which one perceives and understands visually, to create synaesthetics in a simple and elementary fashion. Cognitive processes make this possible.
I expected yet more effectiveness from the mounting of the word Horch on a facade in Linz-Urfahr. The listening space was now that of the city. Optically, the word appeared in the context of the many images in public spaces appealing to the public from traffic signs to billboard advertisements, etc. The presence of the large letters led to a lot of interest. In 1982, the ORF Landesstudio Vorarlberg produced a "Klangmaschinenfilm" ["Sound-machine film"] in which Horch crops up a number of times as a leitmotif. The original Intention of the work was lost in the context of the film, but at the same time the process: perception (seeing)—comprehension (speech)—perception (hearing) as an imaginary apparatus was equated with the virtuoso sound-producing creations. Although not initially conceived for television, Horch thereby reached a wide audience. The contextual shift proved to be quite fortunate, since the television transmission referred back to the work in situ. Such correlations of realities are exciting processes; we are constantly exposed to them by the mediatisation of everyday life.
Later on, I designed possibilities to perform Horch on television and on the radio.
For the symposium On The Air I have mounted a silver coloured tarpaulin with the word Horch in red letters on the facade of the ORF Landesstudio Tirol. Motorists and pedestrians approaching the Landesstudio from the city were able to see the almost six metre long text clearly from a substantial distance. The work thereby again attained further meaning and effect. The word-image was really connected to the architecture, virtually connected to the function of the building and thereby referred to the transmitting, acoustically perceivable, public space. It was not the consumers sitting in front of their receivers, who were referred to the installation at that particular place and to the event (symposium) happening there—they didn't even exist as far as they were concerned - but rather the passers by and the participants then and there were alerted to the happening (white noise) on the air, to the (data-) space and consequently, to potential recipients.