Curator: Monika Weychert Waluszko
Foksal Gallery, Warsaw 2011
Birds sing off key in order to be louder than their environment. The hum of the communication stream which has been changed into monotonous street-noise makes vocal communication impossible. Birds try to sing louder than the background noise. The deformed song makes the bird code unintelligible to other birds. At the same time, the song still seems abstract to man. Beautiful, as always. It is unimportant to us that the bird song has lost its original function – the actual, communicative function. In reality, today it is a lonely and useless song. Noise pollution is the result of human-made noise – natural noise does not exist – there are only sounds which fill the empty space. Birds communicate through vocal communication. The deterioration of the natural environment leads to the impossibility of such communication. Urban noise impersonates natural sounds, in effect, causing communication breakdown. The inability to communicate leads to loneliness and alienation. Birds singing off-key are a symbol of disorder and disharmony. I also have a sore throat because of urban clamour. The screeching sound of lorries and buses hitting the breaks, the high-pitched pedestrian crossing signals and thousands of other sounds which attack me from all directions. It’s an invasion. I feel all the noise surging forward like an enormous wave into which I crush – which literally dissolves me… I feel my reactions slowing down. I fall asleep. The human eye needs 25 seconds to adapt to darkness. At first we recognize blurred shapes, gradually, we see the spatial density. The night is like a vacuum into which sounds and colours dissolve as the evening darkness deprives them of their power and function. In the past the world was filled with natural silence which has been irreversibly interrupted with the invention of machines. Nighttime still has an advantage over urban noise which primarily exists and serves people during the daytime. The night belongs to nature. It is governed by different rules – we are forced to read the space around us without daytime hints. The lonely song will be sang from the gloom, the dusk. Such voice seems to belong to nobody. Songbirds singing an off-key song during the night. This malfunction will be additionally emphasised by reverse emission – the sound register will become the sound’s emitter. During nighttime songbirds are defenceless, they don’t function, but instead, fall into hibernation. I intended to demonstrate the irrationality, inadaptability and alienation of the off-key bird tunes sang at night. An unnecessary, unintelligible, useless song playing somewhere near into the darkness. If we hear it at nighttime, will we ignore it as well? Will we hear it? Will we understand the mechanism? I wish to remember the night so as to survive through the day.
Birds have reacted to the processes taking place in the audiosphere faster than people. Just as the famous geese warning the Romans of the Gallic invasion. We can see people wearing respiratory masks to protect themselves from polluted air. Yet, we cannot protect ourselves from noise pollution. The urban clamour surrounds us from all directions. We have become more and more exhausted, discouraged and frustrated. We find it difficult to concentrate. The number of illnesses related to these syndromes is increasing. Perhaps, the ubiquitous noise constitutes one of the main causes of these ailments. We are unable to diagnose ourselves. We start to behave in a louder manner. Sometimes we interpret the raised voice of other people as an aggressive act. Often contrary to the speaker’s intention. This is the beginning of miscommunication. This is the beginning of communication breakdown.
Monika Weychert Waluszko
“A regular wind-up toy world this is, I think. Once a day the wind-up bird has to come and wind the springs of this world. Alone in this fun house, only I grow old, a pale softball of death swelling inside me. Yet even as I sleep somewhere between Saturn and Uranus, wind-up birds everywhere are busy at work fulfilling their appointed rounds.”
― Haruki Murakami, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle