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Stray Voices, FIAC Parades, Palais de la Découverte, Paris

Stray Voices

FIAC Parades at Palais de la Découverte

16th October 2019

Oliver Beer’s performance for the FIAC and the Palais de la Découverte works with radio waves and Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP). Also known as “stray voices”, EVP are unclear and unknown vocal sounds that occur in-between radio frequencies and permeate empty space. These vocal radio phenomena have been used by spiritualists – and even early scientists such as Thomas Edison – to try to contact voices from the afterlife.

Building on his work with acoustic resonance, Beer turns to resonance in radio waves to transform the strings of an upturned grand piano and a 19th Century bronze sculpture of Giambologna’s famous Mercury, the messenger of the gods, into functioning radio antennae.  Like any metal object, the bronze limbs of Mercury and the copper piano strings can be used to pick up hidden radio waves; their form and dimensions determining the wave frequencies heard.

Activated live in the Palais de la Découverte, these antennae reveal the ‘stray voices’ reverberating within the historic dome. In collaboration with Lebanese electro-indie band Mashrou’ Leila alongside sopranos Michiko Takahashi and Marie Picault a composition working with these fugitive sounds is woven together. In the composition, these 'Stray Voices' evoke the scientists, artists and musicians across history who have been marginalised and obscured, their voices left unheard. 

Video courtesy the artist and Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac. Film: Benjamin Wacksmann  

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