DAHMER'S ACID LOBOTOMY: METAPHYSICAL MANIPULATION OF THE HUMAN VOICE THROUGH SOUND ART

henri-chopin

In my third year at Uni, I met a lecturer named Jeremy Blank. His overzealous yet lax approach to teaching fascinated me and his personal familiarities towards Rik Mayall also slapped me in the face meeting him. He was teaching the Media Arts class which I was majoring in. In my last year, having Jeremy as a guide, meant I was exposed to strange and experimental world of sound art. 

With our mutual respect for the Dada and Fluxus Art Movements of the early to middle 1900s, I started researching everything I could—then I was introduced to Henri Chopin

Chopin was born in France in 1922. His work was comprised of a large body of groundbreaking recordings using old tape recorders and sounds manipulating the human voice. His work was stripped back and very raw. He wasn’t keen on using professional equipment, instead he would use a ‘bricolage’ method, meaning a DIY technique. For example, he would manually interfere with a path that a tape is on, or stick matchsticks to an erase head of an old tape recorder to create his own identifiable and unique sounds. 

He was extremely loose but had a sense of intelligence, and I enjoy his tactile approach to recording and playing live shows.

 
 

Jeremy and I decided how I could use the influences that I had gained from Chopin and other sound and visual artists like Jeff Keen. At the time, I was listening to and really digging the album Shiva by a Japanese band called Sarry. 

 
 

I would sometimes smoke a joint and play that album through my headphones late at night, all the lights off and the laptop screen blasting my face with Marcel Duchamp videos on YouTube while I’m just sitting there, completely losing my mind. 

I decided to create my own sound art to go with my Grad Show photographic works. It was meant to be unnerving to listen to. I’d picked up a fascination for unnerving an audience, as a lot of my favourite artists like John Waters and Nick Blinko are of that vain—so it seemed I was headed that way too. 

My photographic works were focussed on the life of my late great grandfather, William Holt. I also own a recording of interviews with my great grandparents, William and Florence Holt, through a documentary film called The All Or Nothing Man, which appeared on the BBC in the 1970s. The film explained in detail the life that William Holt led. He was an artist, an author, an inventor and an actor. 

I have always had a fascination with my predecessors due to their intense nature and bohemian backgrounds. I ended up recording sections of their voices and adding more layers of sound. 

I was also recording the soundtracks from old horror films and slowing them down to create an uncomfortable atmosphere. The first track, Isolation, was interesting for me, as it’s about my grandparents dealing with my great grandfather going to prison for nine months for protesting. The idea was creating the atmosphere and feeling of being trapped in a cell, and is particularly close to me;  I identified with my great grandfather a lot here. 

Using the aesthetics and knowledge that I had learned from Chopin’s practice, I created these: 

 
 
 
 

I used my own technology, and whatever I could find to make sounds around the house, as Chopin does. He continued to use analogue until his death in 2008. 

I’ve been lucky enough to bump into Jeremy from time-to-time at local exhibitions. I can definitely say he is someone I would consider as equally weird and fascinated with the surrealist side of art as I am. 

When Meagan isn't making art herself and curating weird and wonderful things, she's helping others express themselves through art therapy. She also creates sounds with Perth-based experimental outfit Pissed Colas