Sound Art

5 Space as Temporal Flow

Even when the recipients’ movements or interactions do not matter, space can still be experienced as temporal flow. Robert Morris’s Box with the Sound of Its Own Making (1961) underscores the contrast between the moment of the image and sound’s temporal element by accompanying the visual permanence of a wooden box with the ephemeral sounds of its manufacture. In Music on a Long Thin Wire (1977), Alvin Lucier uses an electrically amplified string that resonates by means of hardly perceptible air flows in order to demonstrate how sensitive the hearing apparatus is, allowing it to differentiate invisible processes such as temperature fluctuations. The tightened string that conveys the visual impression of being static and inanimate turns out to be dynamic and is experienced as animated. Bernhard Leitner acoustically rebuilds spatial constructions (e.g., an arch construction) by dynamically reshaping architectural features such as proportion, tension, and weight through sounds moved in the room (Immaterielles Gewölbe, 1974). Through a change of media he demonstrates that the visual experience of architecture is a dynamic process and that the ideal of static space represents a simplification which neglects the constitutive role of the subject with her or his inevitably time-bound perception. In The Pier (1996), Hans-Peter Kuhn uses light and sound to depict large spatial dimensions in ever changing ways. Nine tall towers in color along a New York pier show a static structure, while sounds at high speed—that is, very dynamic and thus counteracting the visual impression—contradict the visual order.