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«Title of Thesis: SOUND AND DOCUMENTARY IN CARDIFF AND MILLER’S ‘PANDEMONIUM’ Cecilia T. Wichmann, Master of Arts, 2015 Thesis directed by: ...»

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ABSTRACT

Title of Thesis: SOUND AND DOCUMENTARY IN

CARDIFF AND MILLER’S ‘PANDEMONIUM’

Cecilia T. Wichmann, Master of Arts, 2015

Thesis directed by: Professor Joshua Shannon

Department of Art History and Archaeology

From 2005 to 2007, Canadian artists Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller

automated a live performance of simple robots striking furniture detritus and pipes in the

cells of Eastern State Penitentiary, a Philadelphia prison that once specialized in isolation and silence. Oscillating between referential and

Abstract

sounds, Pandemonium suspended percipients between narrative and noise. So far scholars have investigated only the work’s narrative aspects. This projects examines Cardiff and Miller’s specific use of percussive sounds to position Pandemonium in dialogue with noise music, sound art, and documentary-related practices in contemporary art. Pandemonium’s representational sounds coalesce into a curious kind of concrete documentary that triggered a sense of radical proximity between the percipient’s body and the resonant environment of Eastern State Penitentiary. In doing so, it explored the potential for sensory relations and collectivity in a complex, contemporary world.

SOUND AND DOCUMENTARY IN CARDIFF AND MILLER’S ‘PANDEMONIUM’

by Cecilia T. Wichmann Thesis submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of the University of Maryland, College Park in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts 2015

Advisory committee:

Professor Joshua Shannon, Chair Professor Renée Ater Professor Steven Mansbach © 2015 Cecilia T. Wichmann For Andrew.

ii Acknowledgments This project would not have been possible without the openness and generosity of Sean Kelley, Senior Vice President and Director of Public Programming at Eastern State Penitentiary, who readily shared his records and memories of Pandemonium. Equal thanks are due Julie Courtney for her singular perspective on the circumstances of Pandemonium’s creation. I thank Richard Torchia for all he did to bring the artwork to life and, through his vivid writing and recollections, to preserve some part of it for the future. Experiencing Cardiff audio walks first-hand was essential to interpreting Pandemonium; at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden my thanks go to Nick Kaplan, Collections Assistant and New Media Conservation Specialist, for facilitating my experience of Words Drawn in Water (2005), and at the Public Art Fund to Megan Burns and Kellie Honeycutt for granting access to Her Long Black Hair (2004). Further appreciation is due Christopher Harris and colleagues at Luhring Augustine for a productive day with the gallery’s Cardiff and Miller archive.

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Dedication………………………………………………………………………................ii Acknowledgments………………………………………………………………………..iii Table of Contents…………………………………………………………………………iv List of Figures………………………………………………………………………….….v List of Audio Tracks……………………………………………………………………viii Chapter 1: Pandemonium—Sensory Assault and Deprivation……………...…………….1 Recovering Pandemonium………………………………………………...6 Surrogate Intimacy…

Eastern State Penitentiary………………………………………………..17 A Haunting Narrative…………………………………………………….24 Chapter 2: Sound Art—Narrative and Noise……………...……………………………..27 Sonic Force………………………………………………………………34 Volume in an Expanded Field.....………………………………………...36 Composing Pandemonium……………………………………….............41 Chapter 3: Documentary—“Waking the Dead”…………………………………………45 Trompe l’Oreille and Near Documentary………………………..………52 Words Drawn in Water and Synchronic History………………………...56 Conclusions: Pandemonium, Radical Proximity and Protest……..……..62 Figures……………………………………………………………………………....……67 Bibliography………………………………………………………………………..……82

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Figure 1. Eastern State Penitentiary south wall and entrance seen across Fairmont Avenue.

Photo by the author, August 2014.

Figure 2. Plan of Eastern State Penitentiary existing structures as of 1993.

Marianna Thomas Architects. Labels added by the author, April 2015.

Courtesy of Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site.

–  –  –

Figure 4. Cellblock seven from ground level.

Photo by the author, August 2014.

Figure 5. Cellblock seven skylight.

Photo by the author, August 2014.

Figure 6. Cellblock seven from balcony.





Photo by John Woodin, 2005. Courtesy of Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site.

Figure 7. Cell interior in abandoned state.

Photo by Albert Vecerka. Courtesy of Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site.

Figure 8. Cell restored to 1830s appearance.

Photo by Tom Berault, 2001.

Courtesy of Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site.

Figure 9. Matrix editor view of Pandemonium score.

Figure 10. Waveform view of Pandemonium recording in Adobe Audition.

Figure 11. Robotic beater in a cell, Pandemonium.

Photo by Sean Kelley, 2005.

Courtesy of Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site.

Figures 12–13. Selection of Pandemonium beaters in situ. Photos by John Woodin, 2005. Courtesy of Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site.

Figure 14. Control room containing MIDI system.

Photo by John Woodin, 2005.

Courtesy of Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site.

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Figure 16. MIDI and beater diagram from George Bures Miller's notebook.

Courtesy of Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site.

Figure 17. Inventory from George Bures Miller's notebook.

Courtesy of Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site.

Figure 18. Layout from George Bures Miller's notebook.

Courtesy of Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site.

Figure 19–20. Janet Cardiff, To Touch, 1993. Wooden carpenter's table, electronic photo cells, 16 audio speakers. Dimensions: Table: 38.58 x 55.12 in., room size variable. Photo: Nancy Robinson Watson. © Janet Cardiff;

Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York.

Figure 21. George Bures Miller, Simple Experiments in Aerodynamics 6 (Escape Velocity), 1998.

Mixed media with compressed air, pneumatic pistons, electronic circuit, lamp stand and light bulb. © George Bures Miller.

Figures 22–23. Janet Cardiff, The Forty Part Motet, 2001–ongoing. Multimedia installation exhibited at Fort Tilden’s military chapel, Rockaway Beach as part of Rockaway! public arts festival, 2014. Collection of MoMA, New York. Photos by the author, August 2014.

Figure 24. Masked prisoner in Eastern State Penitentiary, late 19th century.

Courtesy of Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site.

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Figure 29. Tresor techno club and record label, Berlin, founded 1991 in the vaults of a former-East Berlin department store.

Figure 30. Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller, Feedback, 2004.

Guitar amplifier, wa wa pedal, electronic equipment. 42 in. x 29 ¾ in. x 14 in. Duration: 2.5 minute loop. © Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller; Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York.

Figure 31. Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller, The Killing Machine, 2007.

Mixed media, audio installation, pneumatics, robotics. 7 ft. 10 in. x 13 ft. 1.5 in. x 8 ft. 2.5 in. Duration: 5 minutes. Photo by Seber Ugarte and Lorena López. © Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller; Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York.

Figure 32. Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller, The Murder of Crows,

2008. Mixed media installation, audio speakers, amplifiers, computer, electronics, miscellaneous media. Dimensions variable. Duration: 30 minutes. The installation was made possible with the generous support of Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, Vienna, Freunde Guter Musik e.V. Berlin, The Canada Council, and Bowers and Wilkins Speakers. Installation view at the Nationalgalerie im Hamburger Bahnhof, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. Photo by Roman Maerz. © Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller; Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York.

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Track 1. Pandemonium by Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller, curated by Julie Courtney, 16:02, recorded by Titus Maderlechner, 2005, compact disc.

Courtesy of Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site.

Track 1A. Pandemonium, compact disc, 00:09–1:03 Track 1B. Pandemonium, compact disc, 1:04–1:39 Track 1C. Pandemonium, compact disc, 1:40–2:22 Track 1D. Pandemonium, compact disc, 2:23–3:20 Track 1E. Pandemonium, compact disc, 3:21–4:15 Track 1F. Pandemonium, compact disc, 4:16–5:25 Track 1G. Pandemonium, compact disc, 5:26–6:20 Track 1H. Pandemonium, compact disc, 6:21–7:06 Track 1I. Pandemonium, compact disc, 7:07–9:20 Track 1J. Pandemonium, compact disc, 9:21–10:10 Track 1K. Pandemonium, compact disc, 10:11–11:20 Track 1L. Pandemonium, compact disc, 11:21–13:54 Track 1M. Pandemonium, compact disc, 13:55–15:49 Track 1N. Pandemonium, compact disc, 15:50–16:02

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From 2005 to 2007, Canadian artists Janet Cardiff (b. 1957) and George Bures Miller (b. 1960) overwhelmed a cellblock at the Eastern State Penitentiary historic site with sound. They automated a live performance of real noises made by simple robots striking furniture detritus and pipes in the cells of this abandoned prison, which had once specialized in enforced silence and isolation. Ceramic toilets, iron bedsteads, and metal lightshades struck by screws and drumsticks rang out treble while wooden cupboards and a dozen steel barrels hit by felt-wrapped mallets resonated deep bass. 1 The looped composition comprised fifteen-and-a-half minutes of rhythmic music followed by thirty seconds inaction that framed environmental sounds. Beats emanated from cells up and down the corridor as if generated by ghostly inhabitants. Unfolding in a progressive narrative arc that accelerated to a thundering crescendo, the composition structured an interplay of communicative tapping and seemingly random organic noise, a call-andresponse counterpoint of military-style demonstration and ecstatic dance beat.

Pandemonium was also replete with pauses, discontinuities, and slippery sounds that resisted signification. It included the reverberation of this unstable acoustic environment, 1 Sean Kelley (Senior Vice President and Director of Public Programming, Eastern State Penitentiary), in discussion with the author, August 14, 2014. The steel barrels, which the artists found in the prison yard, were artefacts of the penitentiary’s mid-twentieth-century function as a fallout shelter.

–  –  –

vigorous perceptual experience in continuous flux.

This essay takes Pandemonium as its pivot point, examining through this one complexly resonant artwork the intersection of sound art and documentary the better to understand both fields of practice. In the first of this paper’s three sections, I offer an account of Pandemonium’s operations and relation to its site, Eastern State Penitentiary, which had functioned as a prison from 1829 until 1971 and was by 2005 a museum about the institution’s extraordinary place in American penal history. Renowned for its Romantic architecture, radial layout, and above all its controversial system of enforced silence and isolation, Eastern State Penitentiary presented an apt context in which to interrogate sound and the effects of sensory assault and deprivation on the individual and social body. Responding to these conditions, Cardiff and Miller, a married couple and artistic collaborators, produced a musical composition that oscillated between highly allusive sounds—conjuring an illusion in the cellblock that occupants were communicating, congregating, dancing, and rioting—and indeterminate, atmospheric sounds that continually morphed and undermined this haunting narrative. 3 What little has been written about Pandemonium presents the work as a clever reenactment of inmates’ real struggles to communicate during the penitentiary’s silent years, an interpretation according to which the artwork gives voice to former occupants and reactivates the prison’s history. I propose instead that Pandemonium’s peculiar mode 2 Richard Torchia, “Beat Music,” in Pandemonium: Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller, exh. cat.

(Philadelphia: Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site, 2005), 29.

3 See Adair Rounthwaite, “Hearing History: Storytelling and Collective Subjectivity in Cardiff and Miller’s Pandemonium,” in Sonic Mediations: Body Sound Technology, 193–207, eds. Carolyn Birdsall and Anthony Enns (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2011); Pandemonium exhibition

catalog; and contemporaneous reviews compiled in the Pew Pandemonium Final Report (Philadelphia:

Eastern State Penitentiary, March 6, 2006).

–  –  –

noise. I ask what experiences of Eastern State Penitentiary Pandemonium made possible that other forms cannot and whether Pandemonium might function as a sonic documentary.



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