Sampling the Man of Memory (2014)

Author: Vincent Meessen, Aurélie Lierman
Curator: Elena Filipovic
Exhibition: Patterns for (Re)cognition/Vincent Meessen, Thela Tendu
Open: Feb 2015 – May 2015
Venue: Kunsthalle Basel, Basel, Switzerland
Genre: sonic sculpture

Program notes

Sampling the Man of Memory is a new sound piece made by Belgian visual artist Vincent Meessen and Belgian- Rwandese sound artist Aurélie Nyirabikali Lierman, featuring collected sounds alongside the voice of the 85-year-old Belgian historian and Kuba expert Jan Vansina, known as the “father of oral history.” The piece emanates from four vintage NAGRA audio recorder-players (Nagra means “I will record” in Polish, the language of their inventor) not unlike what Vansina would have used during his research expeditions in the Congo. Magnetic tape reels form a crisscross pattern as Vansina recounts an anecdote of his serendipitous meeting with Tendu in 1953. This oral testimony is by perhaps one of last surviving people who can assert that Tendu was still alive more than two decades after several historical records declared him dead. This adds another layer to the questioning of history writing that is a leitmotif of the exhibition Patterns for (Re)cognition.

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Technical specifications:
Sound installation; media players, 2 NAGRA loudspeakers, 4 NAGRA III tape recorders, magnetic tape; 12 stools, melamine on MDF, wood; each stool 42 • 50 • 50 cm – NAGRAs: Philippe Vandendriessche, Brussels Courtesy Vincent Meessen, Aurélie Nyirabikali Lierman

The installation is presented in Room 4 of Kunsthalle Basel, a square space of 100m2 with a ceiling of 6m high. The sound travels physically (!) through space. The audience can choose to sit on one of the specially designed stools, stand or freely walk around the installation.

The tape recorders are placed in the middle. There are two tape loops running around in a crossing pattern each with their individual sounds. Both tape loops are 5m long and play back +- 1 minute of sound. The volume of the tape machines is relatively low, so you get a continuous but subtle and gentle mass of sounds floating in the air.

The external speakers are 10m away from each other, placed near the walls. The two external speakers each have their own individual loop of +- 3 minutes and are slightly louder then the tape machines. Their sound is fragmented and has a lot of silences.

• PRESS REVIEWS on Patterns for (Re)Cognition

Sampling the Man of Memory

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