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FRIDAY 13th : Le Grand Cirque :: On friday march 13th, at La Comète 347 in Paris, we will present the first ever SIMULTANEOUS EAI concert , curated by Jean Bordé. That evening in three different corners of La Comète three different EAI-groups (La Brocante Sonore [Belgium/France], DIKTAT [Paris/Berlin], and Nozal Cube [France]) will perform at the same time ... Be there at 20h30 ...

Time and the weather
"? Footage or Fetish" @ Käämer 12, Brussels (ii)

february 19, 2009.

With no other than technological and (foremost) capitalist entrepeneurial 'progress' to blame, unlike not yet three, four years ago, these days in these parts of the world there is hardly a living soul left listening in public space to music played back through a cassette walkman. (I don't. But then I never did. So even though I could, I do not think I would.) Also cars equipped with a player for cassette tapes and still usable for transport or cruising are getting fewer and fewer, by now even in the suburbs. And some of the Arabic and African music vendors whose small shops until not so long ago were cassette-only, wall to wall, are reportedly running out of stock, and start selling their music on CDr, copied from cassette originals. I mean not only those that are set up in European capitals like Paris or Brussels, and sell homeland music to - by now several - generations of immigrants, but also those that never moved away from home.

belt buckle iPods and similar mp3-players have replaced cassette machines as the number one choice in 'personal stereo'. And did so with a vengeance ... It happened to me only twice over the past two years that I came upon someone handling a cassette tape and a walkman in the parisian subway. Both times that person was a woman of about my age. And both times it struck me how anachronistic a view this provided. How clumsy to have to handle a such relatively large box, to have to flip open its lid, and then slide out, turn and slide in again an 'object' ... (An inconvenience that I'd say has indeed been a major reason why the CD walkman never became really popular for outdoor use.)

Originally Sony called its walkman the 'Soundabout'...
This I learned from one of the visitors to the found tapes exhibition in Käämer 12 in Brussels, who used to work for a record company that, at the time when Sony started marketing the device, received whole boxes full of promotional copies of the little machine, to try out and get hooked to.
Nowadays though there is no longer much 'sound' getting 'about' on cassettes that are being played on 'movable players'.

cassette player buckleAs a corollary, there are correspondingly fewer and fewer heads of tape salad getting and lying about; tape salad originating from tapes being ripped from a jammed walkman and then ending up on or next to the sidewalk; or thrown out of a window onto the highway after getting stuck in a driving car's stereo... Such debris of cassette tape is slowly disappearing from our cities' streets which, for a period of some fifteen to twenty years, it has been decorating abundantly. It was blown across streets, curled along pavements and crawled in the gutters... Only to end up caught by the branches of a tree, wound and tangled around a traffic pole or stuck in a fence. Tree, pole or fence where such tape tangles then remained stuck for months or more, only swaying with the breezes' changing forces and directions, prone to nothing but tear and wear caused by grease, dust, time and the weather ...

During the past five years or so audio-cassettes got kicked out of our front-doors by the millions, and the cassette-for-music rapidly lost its ubiquity. Meanwhile, though, the cassette-as-object - the cassette-image - has slipped back in. Through the back-door. Partly as a 'cult' thing sustained by promoters of sort of a 'back to the mix-tape'- movement. Most of all though, somewhat surprisingly maybe, as part of young and trendy design: clothes, bags and whatever else you might imagine.
Last summer in Amsterdam I chanced upon this mansize silver cassette tape (and a disco ball), in the show window of the Hilfiger Denim fashion store in the PC Hooftstraat. It is just one of many signs of an ongoing trend, due not only to a simple surfing along on the current wave of interest for all things 1980s, but also - for a more important part I'd say - to the nostalgia of a generation of young adults for an object from their teen days, an object that for many - in its guise of a (highly personalizable!) carrier of 'their' music and a token of their individuality - played a primordial role in the establishment of self and identity. But that then all of a sudden ... disappeared.

Some time ago already I showed you the cassette shopping bag that I 'shopped' in Amsterdam. The picture of the silver tape illustrating the second paragraph of this entry actually is a cassette belt buckle, on sale in a Parisian clothes and gadgets shop (but surely elsewhere as well). And I found the cassette player belt buckle illustrating the fourth paragraph at Amazon's ...

...

Both belt buckles look a bit like tombstones, don't you think?

...

Of course there is commerce feeding a nostalgia-enhanced fetishism at work here, which besides making some people wear cassettes for belt buckles, also leads to the production of curious gadgets. Here is one that, just the other day, my fashion minded son bought for me as a present, at fashionable Colette's, in the rue Saint Honoré :

urban dj set

This overpriced Made-in-China thingy is marketed by a Philadelphia based company called 'Fi-Hi Original Soundtrack'. "Bringing Music Back to the People", the company's slogan reads ( * ). It is a simple cross-fader, packed as a cassette tape. You can use it to 'mix' two sound sources. Notably, the box mentions iPods and iPhones, but I tried it with two cassette walkmen ... :-) ... Of course the fader's 'cassette look' is mere image, hinting at some sort of 'street credibility' ...

flor viton tape jewelryAt a diametrically opposite side of the commercial spectrum one finds the recycling of cassette tape as a raw material for... something else. Like the wondrously bizarre necklace in the picture. It was made by Argentinean artist Florencia Viton ( ** ). [ You may click the picture to see a somewhat larger version. ] On Florencia's web site you'll find a whole range of these 'techno-jewels', whose principal materials are cassette tape and components from obsolete electronics. It is a ragged and edgy jewelry. To me these necklaces actually look like things that evolved, rather than that they were made. It is as if the materials auto-organized and the 'jewels' somehow generated themselves, at the border of one of our city dumps maybe, with a little help of nothing but time and the weather. (They reminded me of the crown of thorns that I slid off a pole on the pavement along the Hohenzollernring in Cologne, in april 2007.) What I especially like is that, as you can see on Florencia's site, each one of the necklaces comes with a mention of what is recorded on the tape that it was made of. The one in the picture contains a recording of Shirley Bassey's "For all we know". (Others are made from Elvis Presley tracks. I also saw a Bill Haley track.)

Wonderful work, which really does evoke the 'feel' of the randomly entangled tapes as I continue to pick them up from the streets.

käämer 12 käämer 12
Two random tape paths, part of the "? Footage or Fetish" expo and installation in Käämer 12, Brussels - january 19-25, 2009 (these reflect the earlier, similar, paths in the pictures, made in the Transit Lounge in Berlin, february 2007).

Though fresh heads of tape salad ending up in our streets due to failing playback mechanisms of cassette players is pretty much a thing of the past, I still regularly come across bits and pieces of cast away tape here and there. Many of these I tout de suite suspect to have been for a pretty long time already at the very spot were I find them. For, as you probably realize, once stuck somewhere, a bit of tape is unlikely to move again soon, unless someone comes along that willingly (re)moves it. An example is the row of small metal fences lining the tram track in the avenue Fonsnylaan in Brussels, running parallel to the railway tracks leading into and out of the Gare du Midi train station. During my stay in Brussels last january it was there that I picked up one dirty-dusty and one greasy clod of tape. The dirty-dusty one was wrapped around a dead branch half buried in the mud.

found Fonsny

With these two finds I think I did manage to get all of the audio tape that remained stuck (since ...?) along that stretch of the Brussels tram track. I did leave however the (many) bits of VHS tape. Those of our viewers that are going to pass in front of the Brussels Gare du Midi over the coming the weeks and months should keep an eye open when doing so. Chances are - and I think they are high - that those clods of video still will be firmly in place ...

Some of the other tapes that I find these days are likely part of the enormous quantity of 'old' tapes that 'modern' people continue to get rid of. Often when they are moving houses, or because they decided to empty attics and cellars; or as part of spring cleaning. Such finds come from cassettes that must have somehow fallen off trash bags or bins, maybe at the very moment a trashman hauled them into the crush load van ... ( *** )

During my stay at Käämer 12 in Brussels, from january 19th and january 25th, I assembled two new acquisitions for the Found Tapes Exhibition, numbers #90 and #91 both of which recently went online. Especially in many of the bits and pieces that make up fotex90 one hears an awful lot of wear and tear at work. All of these were found about one year ago, in january 2008, in the Parisian suburbs of Aubervilliers/Pantin and Bobigny. As usual with tapes found in these areas, much of it is music of Arabic/Moroccan origin. #90 also contains three finds that I picked from the fence of an immigrant settlement, facing the entrance of the campus of the IUT Bobigny, on the avenue de la Convention. Here among the sounds there are french pop, classical organ music, an extremely distorted popsong and part of an interview (in french) on the difference between social life in France in- and outside of Paris.

Also fotex91 contains part of a tape that seems to have been used for the recording of an interview. In dutch this time, a woman interviewing a man. The tapes in acquisition #91 were picked up in Amsterdam, Brussels and Bagnolet between the first week of february and the first week of march 2008 ...

...

The weather in Brussels during the week of january 19th-25th, 2009, by the way, was absolutely horrid. No foundtaping weather, even though I finally still came home with three ... without specifically going out to look for them. For that just wasn't an option.

It was storming and it was raining. "Alle mensen wat een weer!", I overheard a woman exclaim in dutch, while struggling along a wet pavement and looking up at the sky from under her broken umbrella. It was like that. The weather of Holy Fuck. Le temps de Bon Dieu. Het weer van Alle Mensen ...

notes __ ::
(*) "Make everyday like the movies and accompany that new found celebrity status with an original soundtrack from your Fi-Hi," it continues. "Plan your getaway mix, dub tracks with fast paced action sequences for the slopes, then add some seductive scenes to get your groove on and finish with some funky beats for the city streets. Wear a Fi-Hi Original Soundtrack!" ... [ ^ ]
(**) Thanks to Yiyi de la Mota, who sent me pictures of her friend Florencia's jewelry during her recent trip to Argentina ... [ ^ ]
(***) In Amsterdam - at least in my borough, Oud-Zuid - old audio and video tapes (sic: "oude cassettes en video-banden" - emphasis mine - I read in this year's edition of the 'Stadsdeelgids') are classified as 'small chemical waste' (klein chemisch afval), the collection of which comes with special rules ... [ ^ ]

tags: Brussels, foundtaping, found tapes

# .295.

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