The Technology of Entrapment: Open Your Mouth and Let the Air Out

(1992)

The installation was entitled “Open Your Mouth and Let the Air Out,” it was an interactive radiophonic confessional presented at the Walter Phillips Gallery, Banff, Alberta for Radio Rethink, 1992, curated by Daina Augaitis and Dan Lander.

Text and documentation titled “The Technology of Entrapment” published in Radio Rethink: Art, Sound and Transmission, eds. Daina Augaitis and Dan Lander. Banff: Walter Phillips Gallery, 1994. A CD accompanied the publication, it included the Transpiring Transistor series which appeared on the Hole in the Head CD in 1996.

CREDITS
Henry See – hypercard design
Bruce Gottlieb – video
Pier Lefebvre – kneeler

Thanks to all at the Walter Phillips Gallery, especially Mimmo.

Photos by Monte Greenshields.

 

THE TECHNOLOGY OF ENTRAPMENT

For all of radio’s broad and far reaching casts, the radio booth rather resembles an implosion. A foreboding cubicle at its point of production in antithesis to its expansive space of diffusion. Wired, convoluted and cramped, the radio booth resembles an inaminate brain rather than a great communicator. Radio is not only constrained by commercial interests and governmental regulations but by itself. The obfuscation of its apparatus is endemic.

Radio naked, stripped of its hardware becomes radiophony, becomes metaphor. Radiophonic sites are numerous and refer not to radio’s technology but to its character. The confessional is one such radio phony, a radio without transmitter. As with radio the confessional’s claustral architecture exists in paradox of its far reaching impact.

In the installation for Radio Rethink entitled Open Your Mouth and Let The Air Out, the radio booth—cranium cockpit—was transformed into a computerized and personalized confessional. A call-in radio program becoming a call-within program; a site where obsessions, absurdities, non-sequitors, and frustrations find a home. Radio does not knock at your door, it lets itself in. Once in, it hunts you down with game calls, calling to air your confession.

Bound tightly in the radio confessional we –a call-in guest and me, the host– amalgamate via mimicry. Roles confuse themselves: I find myself ousted from my radio booth chair by my desire to wander in the rough terrain of conversation, controlling not even mouth and feet. Trapped into a confession, we can unravel ourselves by stumbling noisily into thousands of ears.Naked, radio becomes the in-between separating one from another. In the case of the confessional, the partition traditionally transmit sins and absolutions.

The airwaves are the ideal playground for two strangers to have an intimate conversation. You can perform a pas de deux, you can step on each other’s toes in the imaginary confines of the radio confessional. The conversation does not have to go anywhere, like a dance, it can twirl and twine. I bored her, You bore me ! she said. I said: I think your voice became mine as soon as you called.

Trapped into a radio, we sink our teeth into its electricity and find our speech running away without us.

RADIO CONFESSIONS

CONFESSION 1
Hello
Hello
Is that my voice? Talk! Talk! 
It sounds like mine. I think your voice became mine as soon as you called
How could that be? 
Oh, some kind of relationship that began
And does it end?
It ends as soon as you hang up
Are you trying to tell me something? 
I think so
Should I be insulted? 
You should be happy, angry, insulted….
Does that make sense what you just said? I don’t think so
What is sense? 
What is what? Are you nervous?

No, but I was earlier
I still think you’re nervous, I think I know that you’re nervous 
Yeah. I think you know everything about me
Only if I want to 
Do you want to?
Not really. You don’t intrigue me. Does this thing ever end?

Describe yourself 
I have knobby knees and a rib cage
And a tattoo. I know all about it 
You do? Describe it then
We won’t get personal now 
Why not?
I don’t think it’s the time or the place 
This is not a time nor a place
So what is then, if it’s not a time nor a place, what exactly is it? 
It’s in between
In between what? Can you be a little bit more specific? Is that where you are?
That’s where I try to be, so that only few people can find me
Who are you waiting for?
Somebody who can find a place and a time.

Who are you?
Who am I? Just another nameless, faceless being in this planet
And…
There’s lots to say that hasn’t already been said 
That’s true. It’s becoming kind of empty
Does this ever end? 
It’s just you and me
Strange. It feels like I’ve had this conversation before. Are you still you? 
No. I think I’ve changed
Grown within the past minutes have you? 
No. I haven’t progressed or regressed, just changed
You bore me.
Sometimes I bore myself too
This conversation is going nowhere 
I agree. Goodnight

CONFESSION 2
Testing 1,2 3…
Is that my voice? Talk! Talk! 
It’s been 3 years since my last confession
How could that be? 
I suppose I should have gone to church, but I didn’t
And does it end? 
Anxiety, money, anxiety
Are you trying to tell me something? 
Totally absctract you
Should I be insulted?
I spread the Ritz Cracker with peanut butter
Does that make sense what you just said? I don’t think so 
Oh, sorry
What is what? Are you nervous? 
No, but I was earlier
I still think you’re nervous, I think I know that you’re nervous 
What about you?
Only if I want to 
Do you want to?
Not really. You don’t intrigue me. Does this thing ever end?

Describe yourself 
What to do you want to know about me?
And a tattoo. I know all about it 
Can you hear me?
We won’t get personal now 
Why not?
I don’t think it’s the time or the place
I don’t know what to do about that
So what is then, if it’s not a time nor a place, what exactly is it?
Revisit the spots I once knew
Can you be a little bit more specific? Is that where you are? 
This is off the topic, but I saw ‘My Private Idaho’, which is really bizarre
Who are you waiting for?
The idea as it dissipates

What about you?
Who am I? Just another nameless, faceless being in this planet 
I wonder if there’s somebody in there doing this
There’s lots to say that hasn’t already been said 
You won’t listen, it’s your fault
Does this ever end? 
The idea as it dissipates
Strange. It feels like I’ve had this conversation before. Are you still you?
We’re all us
Grown within the past minutes have you? 
I’m just a generic type fellow
You bore me. 
Who’s the artist who put this together?
This conversation is going nowhere
Aren’t you going to tell us a story?

CONFESSION 3
I don’t hear anyone.. oh, I see a light now
Is that my voice? Talk! Talk! 
Show me the on button
How could that be?
What does that mean?
And does it end? 

You’re talking to me or am I hearing your confession?
Are you trying to tell me something?
Totally absctract you
Should I be insulted?
No, you should not be insulted
Does that make sense what you just said? I don’t think so 
There somebody in there isn’t there?
Are you nervous?
No, but I was earlier
I still think you’re nervous, I think I know that you’re nervous 
Can you describe yourself?
Only if I want to 
Are you nervous, really?
Not really. You don’t intrigue me. Does this thing ever end?

Describe yourself
I feel like a comedian or something
And a tattoo. I know all about it 
No way
We won’t get personal now 
Why not?
I don’t think it’s the time or the place 
I don’t know what to do about that
So what is then, if it’s not a time nor a place, what exactly is it?
Looks like a confessional
Can you be a little bit more specific? Is that where you are?
It’s very interesting here
Who are you waiting for? 
Is this a dialogue with a computer, or is this a dialogue with other people?

Um.. ya , um so how are you doing today? Ya, this is wild
Who am I? Just another nameless, faceless being in this planet 
Weird, some chick just said who am I?
There’s lots to say that hasn’t already been said 
It’s becoming rather metaphysical
Does this ever end? 
Did you say something?
Strange. It feels like I’ve had this conversation before. Are you still you?
No way
Grown within the past minutes have you? 
We all need contact, we all need communication
You bore me
Oh, sorry.
This conversation is going nowhere
See ya later.

Note:
The first confession is the original conversation between myself and a caller on CKUT-FM, Montréal Fall 1990. Confessions two and three are composites of the responses from people who interacted with the computer in the confessional of the Open Your Mouth and Let the Air Out installation during Radio Rethink.

THE STORY OF IMPACTED RADIO RELATIONSHIPS

Radio relationships develop inside the bone. Conversations occur first, then the roots. If the conversations last long enough, the relationship can erupt and be aired. If the conversations are not long enough, the relationship stays impacted inside the bone. Impacted relationship can cause: A. Infection of the air over and above the two involved; B. Destruction of the next caller; C. Destruction of the bone by the formation of a sound; D. Other relationships pushed out onto the airwaves.

A RADIO-IMAGINARY CONVERSATION

John Cage: Sometimes when I speak, I give the impression that I am against feelings. But what I am against is the imposition of feelings.[1]

Daniel Charles: So in your ideal society, people would be near each other, but not communicating.[2]

John Cage: They would not communicate, but they would talk, they would carry on dialogues, I much prefer this notion of dialogue, of conversation to the notion of communication. Communication presupposes that one has something, an object, to be communicated. Communication is always imposing something: a discourse on objects, a truth, a feeling. While in conversation nothing imposes itself.[3]

Raymonde: You play mute, I don’t know if you play deaf too.[4]

Erik Satie: We must bring a music which is like furniture – a music, that is, which will be part of the noises of the environment, will take them into consideration. I think of it as melodious, softening the noises of the knives and forks, not dominating them, not imposing itself. It would fill up those heavy silences that sometimes fall between friends dining together. It would spare them the trouble of paying attention to their own banal remarks.[5]

Bertol Brecht: It was suddenly possible to say everything to everybody but, thinking about it , there was nothing to say. Radio should be capable of not only transmitting but of receiving of making the listener not only hear but also speak, not of isolating him but of connecting him.[6]

Diana Burgoyne: By placing the viewer in a position of control, it takes them out of passive role and places them in a very active one … setting up relationships which raise broader questions about human co-existence with technology.[7]

Sol Yurick: Now, it is said, all can be linked: electrical grid systems, voice conversations, on-line-in-real-time accounting systems, financial markets telemedical diagnostic and treatment-delivery networks,… All change the notion of time and timing. The movement of humans, matched up to the movement of the records of humans and their endeavours change the notion of time, timeing and human behaviour.[8]

Marshall McLuhan: Radio is that extension of the central nervous system that is matched only by human speech itself. Is it not worthy of our meditation that radio should be specially attuned to that primitive extension of our central nervous system, the vernacular tongue? [9]

Jean Baudrillard: The non-directed interview, speech, listeners who telephone in, participation at all levels, blackmail through speech – all say: “It’s your concern, you are the event, etc.” More and more information is invaded by this sort of phantom content, this homeopathic graft. It is a circular set-up in which the desire of the audience is put on stage, an anti-theater of communication. [10]

Elias Canetti: All questioning is a forcible intrusion. When used as an instrument of power it is like a knife cutting into the flesh of the victim. The questioner knows what there is to find, but he wants to touch it and bring it to light. He sets to work on the internal organs with the sureness of a surgeon. But he is a special kind of surgeon, one who keeps his victim alive in order to find out more about him, and, instead of anaesthetizing, deliberately stimulates pain in certain organs in order to find out what he wants to know about the rest of the body.[11]

Milan Kundera: The only person who ever had ever really interrogated her was her husband, and that was because love is a constant interrogation. In fact, I don’t know a better definition of love. Which means that no one loves us better than the police, … and I wouldn’t be surprised if lonely people secretly yearn to be taken in for cross-examination from time to time to give them somebody to talk to about their lives.[12]

Emile Benveniste: From the utterance stems the establishment of the category of the present, and from the category of the present is born the category of time. The present is precisely the source of time. It is that presence in the world that only the speech act makes possible, since (if we reflect on this) man has no other way of living “now” at his disposition besides the possibility to realize it through the insertion of discourse in the world.[13]

David Wojnarowicz: I’m a xerox of my former self. I am a stranger to others and to myself. I am shouting my invisible words. I am vibrating in isolation among you. I am signaling that the volume of all this is too high. I am waving. I am waving my hands. I am disappearing. I am disappearing but not fast enough.[14]

NOTES
[1] John Cage, For the Birds (Marion Boyars Publishers, London, 1981), p.148 .
[2] Raymonde, transcribed from audio material used in “Open Your Mouth and Let the Air Out” installation.
[3] Erik Satie in The Recording Angel, ed. Evan Eisenberg (Viking Penguin, New York 1987), p.75.
[4] Bertol Brecht, “Radio as a means of Communication: a talk of the function of radio” in Screen winter 1979/80 vol.20 number 3/4 London), p.24-25.
[5] Diana Burgoyne, Siting Technology (Walter Phillips Gallery, Banff 1988), p.37.
[6] Sol Yurick, Metatron (Semiotext(e) Foreign Agents, New York 1985), p.156.
[7] Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: the Extensions of Man (McGraw-Hill 1965 Toronto), p.302.
[8] Jean Baudrillard, “Implosion of Meaning in the Media” from In the Shadow of the Silent Majorities (Semiotext(e) Foreign Agents, New York 1983), p. 98.
[9] Elias Canetti in Jean-Jacques Lecercle, The Violence of Language(Routledge, New York 1990), p.46.
[10] Milan Kundera, Book of Laughter and Forgetting (Penguin, New York 1981), p.163.
[11] Emile Benveniste in Giorgio Agamben, Language and Death (University of Minnesota Press, 1991), p.36.
[12] David Wojnarowicz, “Spiral” Artforum (March 1992), p.100.
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