I want everyone to speak at the same time or I want no one to speak at all is a series of works made from spectrograms, or graphic representations of sound. In crossing the fraught boundary between sight and hearing, spectrograms are failed representations. Audio experts note their low fidelity. It is difficult to recreate a sound from its spectrogram; loss is central to its rendering. They underperform their object. In taking up the spectrogram, this series of works elaborates and lingers in the loss that characterizes the movement between sight and sound, image and voice.
The spectrograms come from two types of recordings. Certain of them come from the sound of large crowds cheering. Sourced from Youtube videos and other recordings, the spectrograms extract just that part of the recording in which the crowd applauds and cheers. They are applauding because something has happened: someone has said something, someone has come to the stage, someone has entered the room, someone has played a piece of music. They are establishing a rough equivalency between the crowd and the object of the crowd’s gaze. The other spectrograms come from a rather opposite situation; they are the sound of my voice resonating in an empty room.
The situation in which there is an audience and a performance that requires cheering – perhaps this is also the site of a failed representation: a place where what sound means and what it is called upon to mean fail each other. Perhaps sound continually avoids being called to meaning. Perhaps that is why we tremble before what sound can do, what the voice is capable of, when it is unexposed to the violent grid of sight’s capture.
The crowd sounds come from a selection of historical moments that continue, in one way or another, to resound. Together, they form a kind of abbreviated, meandering case study of the crowd and its utterance: the applause that sanctions, misrepresents or extends the fantasy of its cohesion as well as its cohesive fealty to the speaker. Donald J. Trump at the Republican National Convention in 2016. Pope Francis entering US Congress in 2015. Saxophonist Albert Ayler playing for a small audience at a jazz club in Copenhagen in 1964. The premier of Quebec, Jacques Parizeau, delivering a speech after a failed referendum on sovereignty in 1995.
In dramatizing and extending the loss inherent to sound’s coming-into-meaning, I wish to send a love letter to the crowd and its potential, if misspent, utterance: an utterance that resists and defers capture, a capture that is too easily pawned off on some politico-aesthetic project or another. This is revisionist history. I want everyone to speak at the same time or I want no one to speak at all.
- Adam Kinner