Sound and Documentary in Cardiff and Miller's Pandemonium

Surrogate Intimacy

Pandemonium is a pivotal project for Cardiff and Miller who are married and have been partnered personally and artistically since the early 1980s. They met at the University of Alberta where Cardiff was an MFA student in printmaking and Miller an undergraduate painting student. [33] Their first collaboration was a feature-length Super 8 film. [34] In 1986 Miller completed a Photo Electric Arts program at Ontario College of Art and Design through which the couple had access to computer technology, film equipment, and a sound studio. [35] Though neither trained as a musician, Miller plays guitar and is something of an audiophile. [36] In the 1990s, Miller explored kinetic sculpture and Cardiff began to create the audio walks for which she would garner increasing acclaim. [37] They mutually assisted one another, but authorship rested with the individual who conceptualized the piece and led its execution. [38] Their first public collaboration The Dark Pool (video clip) debuted in 1995, and in 2001 they represented Canada at the Venice Biennale together with another collaborative piece, The Paradise Institute (video clip).
Cardiff and Miller persistently use technological devices to simulate a sense of proximity with bodies absent or nonhuman. These experiences seem designed to trigger in audience members a sense of real interdependence with the material world accompanied by profound longing for intimacy. Cardiff frequently uses recordings of the human voice channeled through subtly anthropomorphic audio speakers to achieve this effect. Her installation To Touch (1993), for example, features an old, wooden table with photocells hidden in its invitingly worn, tactile surface. [39] By running a hand across, users elicit an aural collage out of speakers mounted at ear level around the parameter of the room. Voices seem to converse and, in their pauses, to listen to one another. [40] To Touch heightens and conjugates the bodily sensations of touch and hearing to explore the extent to which modern hierarchies of vision have pacified the body and dematerialized its experiences of the world. [41]

Miller’s sculptures such as Simple Experiments in Aerodynamics 6 (Escape Velocity) (1998) are spare, cyborg-like contraptions akin to the Pandemonium beaters. These induce a sense of bodily interdependence through motion. [42] Computer-controlled pistons actuate Escape Velocity’s spindly floor lamp suspended upside-down by its base. It swings out on a frenzied, centrifugal trajectory, reminding the percipient of the extent to which balance is precariously relational. Like the electro-mechanical system at the heart of Pandemonium, Miller’s sculptures emphasize bodily entanglement with forces human and nonhuman, organic and inorganic.

More recently, Cardiff used the affective qualities of choral music to conjure presence in 2001 for The Forty Part Motet (video clip), for which she separately recorded each of the forty parts of Thomas Tallis’s 1573 choral masterpiece “Spem in Alium” (“Hope in Any Other”) and played them back through forty standing speakers, one for each channel. [43] The speakers surround the listener, each suggesting the person whose voice it transmits, and the listener moves at will from intimate proximity to immersion in their ensemble. 

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