Seeing Sounds – with Deaf Joe

An ethereal soundscape fills the space, framing the meditative installation of colour and light, created by Emma Macleod, for our first venture with the Mash House. It was, we admit, accidental (and maybe slightly panicked!) happenstance that led us to discover Joe Harney, aka Deaf Joe, and his experimental dreamlike work. Yet the work of Deaf Joe and Emma Macleod could not have complemented each other more – almost as if planned….

With the release of his second album earlier this year accompanied by a publication in collaboration with artist Paul Hallahan, Deaf Joe is no stranger to exploring new mediums of art, expression and space. We chat about his work and the unexpected collaboration at The Mash House as part of Vault 23 – now PARADIGM, August 30 2014.

_MG_2283__Vault 23, image by Chris Scott

Your music has a reflective quality about it, the layers of sounds seemingly create narratives and uncover memories. Would you agree? How do present space (/environment) and past events influence your work?

Yes I’d agree. I’m interested in incorporating found sounds, field recordings into studio recordings of songs in such a way that they sit right up at the front of the mix and feature alongside acoustic intruments. The last batch of songs I finished was me playing with that idea of past and present happening at the same time.. the way you can be on a train staring out the window and be completely reliving something from your past in your head. And they’re both happening at the same time. or you open an old book and the feel of the pages can trigger an odd, random childhood memory. You’re never really in control of your memory, of what it might throw up at you. Environmental triggers are everywhere.

It is fair to say then your music has a prominent visual element to it. How do you feel a different environment- such as a nightclub – affects or changes the tone of your work?

A nightclub would be an odd place for some of my music! I think of a lot of the stuff I do being, as you said, reflective. which means it’s a bit drifty and spaced out and probably works best for people listening on their own, in their own head space. I’ve always thought of it like that anyway. I find it doubly weird cos a lot of the music I’d listen to would be fairly full-on (I’m a huge lightning bolt fan for instance). I’ve just never been able to make music for a fucking dance floor. Have plenty of ambient odds and ends knocking about that would serve an old school chill out room well though..

True! I’m thinking a slightly run down, smokey, wine bar possibly in France!? So how did you feel when Project Space asked to pair your piece ‘Angles of Light’ with a visual installation in a club night setting? What were your impressions of the space on the night?

I was delighted.. as you said about ‘prominent visual element’, I’ve always got fairly strong narrative or visual elements in my head when I’m putting music together. Some people play off groove, I need an image or a place to be making it for. I’m always thinking stories or pictures. So to put the music with Emma Macleod’s really strong installation was great, it’s as if I’d tailored it for the room! That particular piece of music was an ambient homage to a piece of music by Finnish composer Rautavaara, his 7th symphony third movement. It’s dubbed The Angel of Light so I flipped the title to ‘Angles’. Check Rautavaara out by the way, that’s not me being a pretentious obscure-o muso-twat, its harmony twists and turns in very beautiful unpredictable ways, there’s something of the natural world about it. Sounds like it has inspired the composers of many a soundtrack for BBC and David Attenborough documentaries.

for each and every
film still, For Each and Every One of Them, Deaf Joe

Wow that’s incredible! – thank you for the recommendation. After this experience, would you be tempted to make more work in collaboration with visual artists or for unexpected spaces?

Yes, indeed I would. As it is I’ve collaborated with some wonderful contemporary artists in Ireland in recent years. I like it when there’s a concept in place for a piece of music, where you’re contributing to the realisation of an idea. In that forum you really get to step into a place where the line between music and sound blurs. The nature of what’s required of the music/sound depends on what the artist’s intentions are for their work, so you’re most often bounced into having to approach composition or sound design from a new angle. I’ve recently finished a half-hour work with an Irish actor, I’ve scored music for his narration of a gruesome short story. We’re currently looking forward to realising it as an installation in a suitable found space in the future!

That sounds great! We will watch out for that project in the near future – keep us updated! You also released your second album – From the Heights of a Dream – this year, Congratulations! What does the future hold for you?

I’m currently finishing two album for different musical projects. I’m nearly done on both, but then again it could be another six months… Also I’ve just finished the mastering of an album by a friend of mine, Irish musician Katie Kim. It’s sounding beautiful, keep an eye out for her music on your internet radar. I also hope to find more contemporary artists to collaborate with in the near future, as it’s an amazing forum in which to work.

Check out Deaf Joe’s website – http://www.deafjoe.net/ and Facebook page to keep up to date with future projects – https://www.facebook.com/deafjoemusic?fref=ts

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Rhythms of Light

in conversation with emma macleod

Primary colours anticipate thick drops of resting paint, illuminated against a stark backdrop of white. Glowing plynths smoothly change their hue, as a large projection on the right-hand wall draws you into a space of accidental rhythms and strangely calming bursts of an electric palette.

Working with a brief of audiovisual experimentation composed in dialogue with, as well as in contrast against, the grimier elements of the club two floors below, Edinburgh based artist Emma Macleod brought something unique to Edinburgh’s Saturday night out. Creating a meditative space for wandering members of a Mash House public, the installation drew an audience who were free to sit beside, walk through, and contemplate her striking piece.

(as part of Vault 23 – now PARADIGM, August 30 2014)

_MG_2086image: Chris Scott

You describe your work as being concerned with the ‘staged’ environment and the perception of scale. Suggesting a preoccupation with both the space your work is situated as well as its prescribed audience.

Would you agree ? How does the consideration of space and audience determine the outcome of your work?

In a word…yes. All of the work I make is pre-occupied with space in some way and I’m always thinking how the audience will interact with my work and how they will ‘experience’ it.

I make work in lots of different mediums – video, photography, installation, painting, drawing and object & model making – but the crux is the staged environment. I’m influenced by the aesthetics of theatre and film, especially stage lighting, colour and the glow of the screen. I’m also really interested in staged photography and still life – the theatricality of placed objects and light.

Until recently, I followed a very particular process for making work that involved creating small-scale environments and photographing them. The photograph became the final work and the model environment was destroyed. Initially these were very film-set like but over time the environments became more ambiguous and emphasis was placed on the objects, which had become more abstract and concerned with the ‘art object’ or ‘art installation’.

_MG_2090_image: Chris Scott

I have always been interested in how the audience reacts to small-scale in lens-based media. Video and photography are entangled in ‘reality’ and ‘alternate realities’, as is model-making, to a certain degree; I think the audience reads my photographs in a similar way, for a split second reading them as reality, and then reading them as playful, imagined spaces.

As the subject of my photographs has become more about the ‘art object’ and ‘installation’ a question has started to regularly occur when I show work –“are you going to make this big?” So for the last few months I’ve been pondering and reacting to this question by making more installation based and ‘human scale’ work.

Screen Shot 2014-10-14 at 16.45.30image: ‘Dripping, Pouring’ film still

How would you describe the work that you created for Project Space, Vault 23?

I used Vault 23 as a chance to try out some work in development – really new ideas I had been thinking about and playing around with in the studio. From the off, I wanted to create a space that was quiet, ambient, meditative yet colourful – a space that would contrast the club night downstairs.

The work consisted of a projected video, light boxes that changed colour gradually and some sculptural objects, which were spot lit. Each element was separate but connected.

The video, called ‘Dripping, Pouring’, was really colourful and consists of white sculptural vessels on plinths with thick, glossy, brightly coloured paint being poured into them until they overflow. The video is slowed down, which adds an element of anticipation as the vessels become full and the paint oozes out.

The sculptural vessels in the video were then displayed in the room. The objects are made from really crude materials – plastiscine & air-drying clay painted white and gold – but they are given some air of importance by being displayed on plinths, kind of reminiscent of high-end contemporary craft objects.

Lastly, the free-standing light boxes also feature in the video as the background colour. I wanted to bring the colour directly into the room to add a certain ambience. The colours changed very gradually and were a further development of a work called ‘Screen’ that I exhibited at Hidden Door in March.

By bringing all the elements into the room, I think I was trying to de-construct the video and say something (although I’m not sure what exactly) about the construction of images. I’m still at a point where I’m developing and processing the work…pondering and considering.

_MG_2408image: Chris Scott

Have you ever produced work for a club night setting (or similar) before? What was it that led you to take on that challenge?

No, I’ve never produced work for a club setting, ever. Initially the idea of creating something for a club freaked me out. When I think club, I think loud, banging beats and crazy visuals and that intimidated me. However, when I spoke with Claire and Steph (Project Space’s producers/curators) my mind was put at rest. We spoke about creating a quiet, calm and almost meditative space that contrasted the club night proper– giving the audience a journey & different experience through the building. That was also when we spoke about sound and the need to pair the work up with sound/music that was equally calming and meditative. Claire & Steph then went on a musical hunt and found the amazing Deaf Joe whose sounds fitted just perfect.

Ultimately, what really led me to take on the challenge was the space and it being out-with the gallery context. I was also really excited about being involved in Project Space’s first (ad)venture.

How did the location of your work in the top floor of The Mash House, combined with its presence within a Saturday night setting influence the work that you produced?

Ummm… I think probably the biggest influence was the use of colour – when I was making the work I was thinking about the bright electric colours of the club and the fast changing lights but slowing this right down. So the top floor became a place to slow down the pace, relax, drink, chat with pals and look at stuff.

Screen Shot 2014-10-14 at 16.44.27image: ‘Dripping, Pouring’ film still

Did you enjoy the experience?

Yeah, I really enjoyed the experience – it was a chance to try out some new stuff, in a new context and meet new people. Probably the best experience was pulling some questionable dance moves in the club that night with Martin’s (Unstable Creations) floating visuals (it’s amazing how beer & whiskey make you move!)

Are there any future projects you have lined up that we should keep an eye out for?

I’m taking part in Place+Platform’s “The Line of Best Fit”, an event within the surroundings of the ‘Settlement Projects’, a curious junk shop in Edinburgh. It should be fun, there’s musicians playing, spoken word, art and apparently some home brew.

_MG_2263image: Chris Scott

Vault 23

VAULT 23
Saturday 30 August @ The Mash House
10pm-5am

Meeting for the first time as part of Hidden Door 2014 to help organise HD’s Secret After Party – Vault 25 -, Vault 23 pays homage to the meeting place of Project Space, Unstable Creations, and Witness through a celebratory reference to that iconic night.

Curating unexpected interactions between people and space, Project Space, as part of club night Vault 23, bring a beautiful collaboration of audio/visual experimentation to your Saturday night out.

Project-Space-Flyer-small-front image by Chris Scott