Jason Kahn 
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Works for Radio
"Other Ghosts"

Technique: speakers, microphones, computer, amplifiers, radios, text

Fri Art
Centre d'Art de Fribourg
Fribourg, Switzerland

May 30–July 26, 2015

The title of the installation takes its name from a text I was asked to write for the exhibition's catalog in response to the show's theme of the "Screamscape," as defined by Gregory Whitehead. "Other Ghosts" is a deconstruction of the concept of the scream, both as actual event (sonically) and as an object of thought, forming itself in stream of consciousness texts written during an eight-day residency at Fri Art leading up to the opening of the exhibition, which was part of the festival "Screamscape."

During this initial period I spent around eight hours each day in the exhibiton space, making recordings of my voice reading texts, vocalising, screaming. I also wrote new texts and hung these on the walls of the exhibition space. These texts were then re-combined in a cut-up style, as I wandered the exhibition space, taking a line of text from various completed texts. Over the eight-day residency, the room gradually filled with sound and text. As the residency was open to the public, people came and went over the course of each day as I worked in the space.

"Other Ghosts" deals not only with the idea of the scream but the relationship between text and sound, how these practices influence and feed of each other, at times vocalising a text or textualising a sound, often with both relationships running parallel and ocurring simultaneously. "Other Ghosts" offers no answers for what a scream is or how text and sound can occupy the same space of thought and perception. Rather, the piece raises many questions in the hope that visitors to the exhbition will themselves find their own answers to these questions, or, better yet, raise further questions.

From a technical standpoint, the recordings of my voice were diffused over eight separate audio channels and speakers in the exhibition space. Two microphones placed in opposing corners of the exhibtion space recorded my voice and the sounds from the installation. I sat at a table in the exhibition space during the eight-day residency period, working on texts and recording my voice.

Other Ghosts

This text is a list of thoughts about the scream and it starts with a concert from Nico in London in 1982, Motor Boys Motor opened, I forget the name of the club. And Nico was there on stage, dressed in black, naturally, reddish hair, junky skin neon glow. Sitting behind an old battered harmonium, somewhere in outer space I guess, or a space somewhere else than the one we were sharing at that moment in that club. She began playing, I don't remember what the rest of the band were doing, they just kind of vanished into thin air for me. They didn't matter. The harmonium's gentle tones, spooky yet also soothing, transformed the club into some fucked up Gothic church. Gradually the sounds coming from the harmonium began to take shape, chords appeared and Nico started singing "Das Lied Der Deutschen," which I didn't know the title of at that time but recognized, as did many of the audience, who, being British, being in midst of the fascist Thatcher years, began to boo, to scream and holler, a couple objects were thrown in the direction of the stage. But Nico just kept on singing, "Deutschland, Deutschland über alles, Über alles in der Welt." And a great calmness filled the club, people began to quiet down, they stopped shouting at Nico to quit singing. Soon the club was silent except for Nico chugging away on her harmonium, wailing in a cracked and wasted voice from somewhere across time, Berlin lying in ruins and this skinny young thing of a girl making her way through the rubble on the Kurfürstendamm, golden hair catching the sunlight and U.S. tanks rolling by, crushing everything in their midst. "Deutsche Frauen, deutsche Treue, Deutscher Wein und deutscher Sang," her voice now disembodied, hanging in the air like a dark cloud, veil of tears looming on the horizon. She sang louder, not exactly a scream but the essence of a scream, wrenching her soul open for all to see in that shit hole of a club, one of the many she would spend night after night in, singing for the same stupid audiences, hearing the same catcalls and abuse, "bloody Nazi cunt!" That voice soaring, taking us all with it, beyond this mortal coil, the cold night outside. "Danach lasst uns alle streben, Brüderlich mit Herz und Hand," yeah, Nico taking us by the hand, till death do us part, shining like a dark star. "This is the end, my only friend, the end," she sang once for Jim, who perhaps more than she transformed us with a scream beyond the body, leading us to the other side, where we became the scream, filling the void with our blinding light. "Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit," that freedom to move on, her quaking voice leading us on as we left the killing floor, souls in unity, holy communion, in search of other ghosts. You couldn't feel sorry for Nico. She was already gone, only her voice there, like the air, filling our lungs, that essence rare. I knew then that I'd never get her out of me, try as I might, howling away along my own journey to the end of the night. "Blüh' im Glanze dieses Glückes."

recording from the exhibition