Polisounder

sound installation

Anna Salmane, Krišs Salmanis, Kristaps Pētersons


The Polisounder is a mechanical instrument (no pre-recorded or digitally generated sounds are involved) producing a strict four-part polymetre. Each pipe plays in its own rhythm, time, tempo and pitch. The different lines of sound mingle, mix and overlay, each following its own algorithm. However, there is a moment in each cycle when the individual trajectories all meet.

The starting point for this object is The Black Cloud (1957), a science fiction novel by British astrophysicist Fred Hoyle. As the story opens, a cloud of gas and dust is approaching our solar system. When it reaches the Sun, it stops. The cloud’s unexpected and unpredictable behaviour suggests that it might be an intelligent being. Eventually, scientists on Earth begin a conversation with the cloud, which, it turns out, has arrived here to recharge its energy source and is surprised to find that a relatively intelligent form of life has developed on such an insignificant planet. At the humans’ request, the cloud attempts to impart some of its knowledge to two volunteer scientists. But the cloud’s information immeasurably exceeds the capacity of the scientists’ minds, leading to their deaths.

Like much sci-fi literature, this is a story about people instead of aliens. About our own reactions in extreme circumstances and extraordinary situations. About our ability to understand each other and about the limits of our understanding. About humans’ thirst for crossing boundaries – no matter the consequences. In the real world, understanding is often complicated by culture, education, experience, individual character, gender, age. Complete understanding between two people is rarely possible, even though it is constantly demanded. Because of this expectation that achieving understanding is always necessary, the existence of differing opinions and views leads to bitterness. However, by changing our perspective and accepting difference as the basic condition, respectful failure to understand can actually free us and enrich us.

Polisounder was created specifically for the Cupola Hall at the Latvian National Museum of Art as a special project for the Purvītis Prize. Oskars Poikāns, an artist known for the unusual musical instruments he makes from drainage pipes, polyurethane and fibreglass, also participated in the construction of Daudzskanis.

Special thanks to Oskars Plataiskalns & Dizaina darbnīca and Martins Vizbulis. Presented by The Latvian National Museum of Art in collaboration with the art portal Arterritory.com and the INDIE Cultural Projects Agency, supported by Alfor.
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