As Stefan Helmreich describes them, auditory chimeras are sonic events created by “sieving one sound through another.” This act combines the pitch and texture of one sound with the envelope (attack, decay, sustain, and release) of another. It is a sort of translation, where the material being translated acquires characteristics of the material it is being translated through. The same could be said for visualizing sound, where the visuals are informed by the sonic characteristics a listener would hear, but gain characteristics that allow them to be visually interpreted. A similar transference happens when sound is documented in a book. All of these elements of combination are found in Florian Hecker: Chimerizations, published earlier this year by Primary Information.
In the book Chimerizations, Hecker documents five of his sound and installation pieces with a fragmented methodology reminiscent of his sound-scapes themselves. For the uninitiated, Hecker’s electroacoustic sound pieces have a raw, digital pallet. Each tone is filtered through an algorithm to distance it from its origins and give it the sterilized timbre of melting static. One of the works documented, Hinge (2012), consists of a text by the Iranian philosopher Reza Negarestani translated by multiple voices into English and Portuguese. These recordings were then siphoned through an algorithm to give them a digital quality that forces the listener to hunt for recognizable phrases. To further problematize the listening process, the audio is played over three speakers, compelling the listener to move from one to the other, through the sound field, and collect the pieces for assembly. Each difficulty to overcome makes the listener more aware of the process they use to internalize the piece, as well as conscious of how the sound behaves in space.
Similarly, Hecker problematizes the documentation of his works by passing each image through a SIFT Flow Algorithm. This algorithm distorts images using temporally adjacent images and gives each picture a range of time while it also represents a snapshot in time. Here again, in the methodology, is the chimera, the contraction of two contradictory concepts. In his introductory essay to the book, Helmreich refers to Jacques Derrida’s use of the word “hinge” to describe this same idea, the holding of two contradictory concepts in the mind at the same time.
If this seems heady, it is intended. Both Hecker’s sound pieces and documentation are ambitious and highly cerebral. His pieces take full advantage of technology to analyze perception over multiple instances using decomposition and synthesis. The audio of his pieces, their installations, and their documentations embody a minimalist aesthetic, both randomized and refined. Their distortions are sharp and create a visceral experience even if the audience may not understand the variances between the iterations of the work. The difficulty of the digestion forces the audience to think about the digestion of the work, its often acrid tones provoking the question of why one tone is different or more intense than the previous.
The book Chimerizations is filled with multiple iterations of images depicting Hecker’s installations. It also includes a “topological hymn to the abyss” in the form a of a libretto written by Negarestani, as well as introductory essays by Helmreich and Catherine Wood. The book is a chimera itself, changing its style from one section to the next. These differentiated sections triangulate around Hecker’s concerns of timbre, pitch, space, time, and perception without emitting a single audible tone. This may be where Heckers’ skill at documentation shows the most, in his ability to so precisely mirror the aesthetics, techniques, and concepts of his sound work in such a different medium as a book.
Reviewed by Kempton Mooney