Sonorous Image

The loudspeakers form a three by four grid on which the drawings are plotted by electric pulses. The programmer sends 0,5V pulses to the loudspeakers according to a specific pattern, e.g. lines, scribbles, patterns, movement. There are 2040 drawings in all, each lasting 10-15 seconds.

The tone generator sends a square wave with a different frequency to each speaker. The sound volume is low and the sound from all the speakers blends together to produce a steady but faint noise. The combined sound of the loudspeakers fills the room with a soothing ambient noise, a crystalline hum, that doesn’t come from any partic­ular direction. But by moving around the room and by each turn of the head, the ambient noise shifts slightly, even allowing the specta­tor to pick out a single tone for a moment. Only by walking close by the loudspeakers is the spectator able to pick out the sound of each. The loudspeakers form a straight line on the wall, but by walking alongside the speakers the “line of sound” gently jumps up and down with the sound frequency of each speaker. The irregularity of the sound line contrasts with the regularity of the visual line.

The turntable of an old gramophone player turns and activates switches that are connected to ten output channels. Each channel sends a pulse to a loudspeaker when it is turned on by the artist. The loudspeakers are directed into paper cylinders. During the course of
the day the artist opens each channel one by one. The rhythm starts with a single pulse, but gradually becomes more complicated as more loudspeakers join the chorus.

A tone generator sends a sinus wave that accelerates from 0 to 20 Hz in 30 seconds at 30 second intervals. The wave is output to a loud­speaker that hangs from the ceiling 20 cm above a pool of water. The “sound” from the loudspeaker produces waves on the water. A spot­light is directed at the spot where the loudspeaker meets the surface of the water. The wave formations are reflected on the wall opposite. At first the waves are circular, but as they rebound off the walls of the pool and become more frequent, because of the increased frequency of the pulse from the loudspeaker, the wave formations become more complicated, and then gradually subside during the intervals.

Finnbogi’s work is not about sound. Sound is the effect, not the sub­stance. From succession to repetition to pulse to wave to sound. Oc­ular patterns interwoven with aural patterns.

What is Finnbogi’s work about? It is not about what we see, because then the sound would be superfluous, neither is it about sound, or he would have published a CD. The ocular and the aural are interwoven, I say — what does that mean? To clear up the confusion let us make a slight detour. Aristotle noted that there are some qualities of objects we can only sense with the eyes and there are others we can only sense with the ears. Some qualities of objects are special to one sense-organ and no other. We cannot see the song of the bird, nor can we hear the color of its feathers. But some qualities of objects are not specific to any particular sense, such as motion, rest, figure, size, number, unity. These qualities (which later came to be known in the empiricist tradition as primary qualities) are common to all the senses. The ability to sense properties that are not specific to any spe­cial sense but common to all he attributed to a common sense, census communis, which is not a sense organ but a faculty of the soul. De­ceptively simple. Could it be that Finnbogi is directing our attention to perceptual qualities that do not belong specifically either to visual or aural perception?

Finnbogi Petursson: DRAWINGS: The matrix of loudspeakers on the wall is constant, the crackling noise from the loudspeakers is like interference on the radio, yet one can sense the forms coming from the speakers, neither specifically ocular nor aural, but rather both. Movement, directions, lines, circles, scribbles, drawings.

“How strange it is. We have these deep terrible lingering fears about ourselves and the people we love. Yet we walk around, talk to people, eat and drink. We manage to function. The feelings are deep and re­al. Shouldn’t they paralyze us? How is it we can survive them, at least for a while? We drive a car, we teach a class. How is it no one sees how deeply afraid we are, last night, this morning? Is it some­thing we all hide from each other, by mutual consent? Or do we share the same secret without knowing it? Wear the same disguise.
“What if death is nothing but sound?”
“Electrical noise.”
“You hear it forever. Sound all around. How awful.”
“Uniform, white.”
“Sometimes it sweeps over me, “she said.” Sometimes it insinuates itself into my mind, little by little. I try to talk to it. Not now, Death.” “I lie in the dark looking at the clock. Always odd numbers. One thir­ty-seven in the morning. Three fifty- nine in the morning.”
“Death is odd-numbered. That’s what the Sikh told me. The holy man in iron City.”

Don Delillo, “White Noise” (1984)

- Gunnar Arnason, 1993