november 28, 2010.
Within the set of countries that I visited over the past eight and a half
years, the element Switzerland is characterized by a curious property for which in Twitter
lingo one would use the hash
tag triplet #found #tapes #fail.
When early 2005 I was in Montreal, it was much too cold to spend lots of time drifting down the streets. Nevertheless, I did pull out a strand of stray cassette tape (along with a cast away car cassette player) from under the snow & ice covering the pavements a mere block away from the Etay loft.
Late 2007 the streets of the Williamsburg (Brooklyn, NY) still carried a colorful variety of magnetic audio tape trash. And so did the streets of London, as short a while ago as 2009's summer.
Some months later that same year, Leipzig was somewhat less evident. There it took persistence & hours of cycling. But I did end up harvesting three decent bits...
In a similar manner I picked up strands, knots and clods of audio tape everywhere that I stayed for some reasonable span of time, whether I was consciously looking for them, or just stumbled upon them while passing along one or other of my daily city routes. From none of my 3 short trips into Switzerland over the past three-and-a-half years, however, I managed to bring home an addition to the Found Tapes Exhibition.
The closest I came was the
first time, early 2007. When driving with Jonas & Rafaël from Bienne to Bern I am pretty sure that indeed I
saw at least one strand flapping in the wind, stretched out at the side of the highway. But, for obvious reasons,
it was not possible to halt and get it, out there in the middle of a Swiss highway.
Should we have re-traced our path to try and pick it up at some later time?
I didn't see anything like it again. Not in Switzerland.
I got a second chance earlier this year, in Lausanne, where I ventured on foot out into the very outskirts of town. On my way I picked up a fine black umbrella, a brand new iThing charger and a couple of electro-toys. But, my path did not cross the least bit of magnetic audio tape trash.
Time, of course, is not on foundtaping's side. Which, on the one hand, for me is one of the fascinating meta-facts of the FT enterprise. On the other hand, it also made that I had little hope that I was going to be more successful during my third visit to Switzerland, at the end of this October month, when I trained to Basel for the Shift Electronic Arts Festival, where I showed, played and talked about the many hundreds of bits and pieces of tape that I had *not* found in Switzerland.
I would not have been me, though, had I not at least tried again, also this time.
It did not come as too big a shock that, again, I found nothing.
Even though in the process I lost my soles...
Lost & Found was the theme of this year's Shift Festival, that took place October 20th-31st at the Dreispitz site and the neighboring venue Schaulager, in the Münchenstein district, a short distance from the Basel city center.
Within this context, the festival's curators set out to investigate how media technologies determine and change our view of cultural production in the, often even not-so-distant, past: the current "bubbling whirlpool of information brings to the surface things long believed forgotten, triggers reminiscence and allows us in part, to compose new, fleeting histories and rearrange our memory banks"...
The Found Tapes Exhibition is such a re-composed, fleeting history and re-arrangement of memories. Listening to the corresponding audio web stream, which continuously shuffles the near to fourteen hours collection of fotex montages built from the 700 finds that are currently archived, you are taken on a dazzling random tour of music, words & sounds as they have been recorded and listened to in our cities over the past 20-30 years, and given an outline and image of this period's sonic heritage. It is an amazingly fascinating image, one that is neither curated nor drawn with material chosen from well-kept corporate or individual archives. It - quite literally - has been randomly extracted from our collective garbage bins, including the traces of all the damage that this trashing brought about. The result is an instant cut-up composition of fourteen hours of 'plundered' natural glitch, a 'siren song of decaying media' ( * ).
Needless to say that it was a pleasure to present an overview of these past eight years of foundtaping at this immaculately organized festival in Basel, which over the three days that it lasted - partly due, I guess, to a highly efficient PR, but maybe also because of something like a natural 'Swiss curiosity' :-) - managed to attract a surprisingly large number of visitors and lots of attention from the press.
Here are some pictures of the Found Tapes' corner that was set up in the Shift Exhibition Hall.
My passage at Shift 2010 provided the right occasion to switch the Found
Tapes Googlemap interface to 'live'. The map interface allows you to
view the finds in the collection and listen to audio extracts at the
geo location of their finding.
You may also restrict the items shown on the maps to those made in one or more
years of your choice.
The map and exhibition site are currently fully up-to-date. Which is to say: they include all the tapes that I picked up. Until last july. Between then and the day of this writing, I did come across four additional finds. But (adhering to my self-imposed working rules & instructions) there will have to be at least one more pick up before I sit down to compile a next, the 119th, acquisition... Indeed, at this rate keeping the online archive update in the future will no longer be the major task that it used to be. The ever fewer trashed tapes that these days cross my path are the unequivocal consequence of the compact audio cassette's abandonment by the general public, hence its disappearance from public view. Cars out there that continue to be equipped with a cassette player are increasingly rare. And so is the tape salad that is thrown out when a cassette gets stuck and its tape is broken and messed up by a such machine.
The wondrous shapes, twists and curls of the magnetic plastic vegetation, that for many years abundantly decorated the habitat of cassette tape listeners world wide, are vanishing quickly & irreversibly from the cities where I pass my days.
But what if I'd be heading east? Or took a long hike down to the south? Had a peek up in far norths? For as the Found Tapes Map relentlessly bring to the fore: in fact, I ain't seen nothing yet...
[ Special thanks to miss.gunst for the persistent & support & kind words & nice tape strand shadow play picture (Schöne Schlaufen) in her Home Made Labor blog. One day soon I will return to Switzerland and one day soon I will return to Basel. And one day soon that particular & still blank spot on the Tapes Map will be filled. ]
tags: foundtaping, found tapes, Switzerland, Basel
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