“Das Gift”


I realize just now that I did not post a project proposal to facebook, but I did email Prof. Aresty. Anyway, here are the details of the original idea. My final project is not relevant to any of my proto-projects and was actually an attempt to get away from the procedure underlying each one: the use of a computer.

I had been inclined to make some material product all along, but couldn’t find a suitable idea. By the end of the course, I had some notion of what this object could be. This idea started with thinking about musique concrete (‘concrete music’) and the New Sound of Music documentary we watched for class, which led me to tape music. However, this was not going to be possible. There is no access to such equipment in the vicinity, or at least that Abby and I knew of. The two of us talked after class and she offered me a tape recorder and tape head. Thus, inspiration sparked from the tools I was given.

Abby mentioned Nam June Paik among talk of using tape as material. He designed an exhibit called “Random Access” in which pre-recorded tape is mounted on a wall and people are given a device (which incorporates a tape head, I believe) to read the tape. Here is a video of the installation. Another group does similar work, but they explore architectural space over large expanses of walls.

I then found this: fabric which is made from cassette tape and polyester and can be read with a tape head. This made me think about combining the ideas of mounting the tape to make it easily readable with my equipment, and creating an object which is partly made of or makes use of tape.

While brainstorming, the idea of the approaching holiday was infecting my thought. So it is logical that an intersection of these three features is a gift. I thought of a boxed present, archetypal, neatly wrapped, with an air of kitschy mystery. So I conceived of such a present that would be “tied” with pre-recorded tape instead of actual ribbon. The ribbon could then be read with a tape head; I knew from the start that it would produce nothing more than garble, but the process of what was recorded was still important to me.

The sound material is recordings of holiday-themed commercials–so yes (you got me), I did rely in technology in some sense. I recorded about 1.5 hours’ worth, or that’s how things clocked out. Next, I took the tape out of the cassette, laid it in strips on some masking tape, then taped it to a gift box to make it look like ribbon. The bow on top is not what I had in mind and a failure in my eyes, but oh well. You can’t have everything.

…which leads me to the statement I was trying to make, which should be abundantly clear. The commercialization of the holiday season is disturbing. I heard a few commercials which explicitly mention money (/credit). Many of the advertisements also recognize that people should find joy in receiving presents, while fewer relate to the joy of giving. The soul of Christmas and related holidays has, in my opinion, been extinguished. One could conjecture as to why, but there are too many reasons and none may be right.

“Das Gift” (get it?) represents the eradication of the spirit of the holidays. It reflects the worrisome way advertisers construct a materialist view in order to take advantage of tradition and how this complicates our enthusiasm. I’d like to think that the box is a metaphor for the holiday spirit. We don’t know what is inside and may not even have a clue. The casings are glittery, deceptive, and ultimately give the wrong message; it shouldn’t matter what is inside, if we will ever appreciate it, and so on and so forth. Rather, as the saying goes, it’s the thought that counts. The thought of the spirit should excite us! Not what lies under a dead tree.

I like how my project turned out because it reflects many of the objectives of musique concrete.


One thought on ““Das Gift”

  1. Hi Kim,

    I’m glad you found a way to move outside of the digital realm and to create a physical object. What I admire about your project is that it demonstrates real creativity–you chose to look outside of the primary tools and materials we have explored in the class, which is wonderful.

    You chose a difficult material to work with, however. (One of the reasons we barely touched on tape music outside of the musique concrete concept lab in which you participated was due to our limited tape-related supplies and equipment.) Since the sound you recorded is not really available to the listener in your project–beyond the garbled playback from the tape head–I think the message you describe might not be as clear to your viewer as you might imagine.

    I wonder if there might be a way to combine different audio technologies to give the project a bit more depth of sonic material (while also allowing you to share more of your artistic intention)? I mentioned to Ric the idea of those Hallmark cards where you can record your own message. You could also include an audio source playing back inside of the box. Alternatively, you could make more boxes of varying sizes, sonic material, and colors, to emphasize the consumerist element. I think some combination of all of these things would add a lot to the experience of the piece.

    Great work this semester, Kim. It was a pleasure having you in class.


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