Pavel Novotný: PROMĚŘENÍ

29. březen 2014

This composition dedicated to graphic artist Jan Měřička is a kind of aural imprint of Měřička’s remarkable graphic oeuvre. As with Měřička’s serigraph prints, the composition is built around capturing the motion of masses of people. However, in this audio work, the “mass” consists exclusively of Měřička’s voice – multiplied, overlapping, deformed, intertwined, or as rhythm. This aural representation of the artist’s graphic works is thus also his portrait.

Since around 2003, Měřička has worked with exploration and graphic portrayal of human throngs. In his large-scale etchings and later serigraph prints, he reduced human figures to mere lines, anonymous silhouettes. They are generally captured as seen from above, and often overlap within the mob to such an extent that they are transformed into a kind of smoky cloud or wisp. At other times the mob flows like a meandering river, or it moves along mechanically as if on a conveyor belt. Měřička arrived at this visual form in a highly original manner: through systematic observation, photography, and other ways of recording movement in places where people flow past: at the airport, a metro station, or at the land registry office. For a while, he was like a coolly detached bird of prey (Jaromír Typlt has called it the “gaze of the predator”), for he recorded people photographically like actual prey, and transferred his figural quarry onto paper in an almost statistical manner. Today, he keeps endless variations of human silhouettes imprinted in his head and his hands, and so he can compose them into his serigraphic screens from memory. In other words: he creates people as he likes, and their flow is controlled for the most part by him alone. The predator has slowly been transformed into a mad demiurge who – as Měřička says in the composition – reproduces people like a yeast culture.

As a radiophonic artist, I wanted to try to create a kind of acoustic imprint of Měřička’s fascinating graphic works. From the outset, however, it was clear that I could not take the same approach as he did – i.e., via a direct, acoustic recording of human thronging, by recording the sounds of the mass. This would probably have resulted in a merely two-dimensional illustration that would have had little in common with Měřička and would probably have also failed to capture his distinctive nature as a graphic artist. I thus decided to do to Měřička what he does to his figures: I worked exclusively with his voice, artificially weaving it into a Měřičkian mob. While working on the composition, I realized that this goal required more than mere digital sound processing; that it would be worthwhile to return to the ancient practice of working with a studio tape recorder and other analog equipment. Although the studio tape recorder cannot do as much as a computer, it encourages the user to take a specific, tangible and haptic, approach to working with the recording. It is an approach that would appear to be far more suitable to evoking a sense of organicity. Měřička slowly weaves the mob from out of himself, i.e., from people that he has created himself: he telephones with himself, thickens and sets himself, abstracts himself, transforms himself into a cloud or a blur of wild and organic smears, and finally and entropically fizzles away.

I am in no way denying that I have basically reinvented the wheel here. Sure, in a way Taking Measure follows up on the sound poetry of the 1960s and ‘70. I do so consciously, however, and it is not intended as fetishist retro (and hopefully will not be perceived as such); it is simply the most fitting way of measuring Měřička (whose name contains the root měřit, “to measure”), of transforming a visual sensation into an aural one – yes into that legendary “landscape of the word”. Nevertheless, the composition was understandably created using a combination of digital and analog techniques: the analog material is used as an interim stage for the intricate digital working of the end product, for discovering its final shape. And since, at the end of the composition, Jan Měřička declares that I have “squeezed [him] like a lemon”, I must add: the feeling is mutual!

Pavel Novotný / BIO

author: Pavel Novotný
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