Sound and Documentary in Cardiff and Miller's 'Pandemonium'
Wichmann, Cecilia T.
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From 2005 to 2007, Canadian artists Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller automated a live performance of simple robots striking furniture detritus and pipes in the cells of Eastern State Penitentiary, a Philadelphia prison that once specialized in isolation and silence. Oscillating between referential and abstract sounds, 'Pandemonium' suspended percipients between narrative and noise. So far scholars have investigated only the work's narrative aspects. This projects examines Cardiff and Miller's specific use of percussive sounds to position 'Pandemonium' in dialogue with noise music, sound art, and documentary-related practices in contemporary art. 'Pandemonium''s representational sounds coalesced into a curious kind of concrete documentary that triggered a sense of radical proximity between the percipient's body and the resonant environment of Eastern State Penitentiary. In doing so, it explored the potential for sensory relations and collectivity in a complex, contemporary world.