The Killing Machine
|Partly inspired by Franz Kafka's 'In the Penal Colony' and partly by the American system of capital punishment as well as the current political situation, the piece is an ironic approach to killing and torture machines. A moving megaphone speaker encircles an electric dental chair. The chair is covered in pink fun fur with leather straps and spikes. In the installation are two robotic arms that hover and move- sometimes like a ballet, and sometimes attacking the invisible prisoner in the chair with pneumonic pistons. A disco ball turns above the mechanism reflecting an array of coloured lights while a guitar hit by a robotic wand wails and a wall of old TV’s turns on and off creating an eerie glow. |
In our culture right now there is a strange deliberate and indifferent approach to killing. I think that our interest in creating this piece comes from a response to that.
|Robot arm design: Carlo Crovato |
Music: “Heartstrings” by Frieda Abtan
Percussion assistance: Titus Maderlechner
|Tip tap tip tap. Is that the sound of dripping or is it someone in a cell tapping a code on the wall? Now there are many more tapping sounds. Far and near. Loud and soft. Now someone is banging on a pipe, now a cupboard. Now the hall is filled with a cacophony of beats, working their way back and forth, a PANDEMONIUM of percussion. Using the existing elements in the prison cells Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller have made the entire Cellblock Seven into a giant musical instrument, producing a percussive site work. This instrument, controlled by a computer and midi system, is made up of one hundred and twenty separate beaters hitting disparate xobjects such as toilet bowls, light fixtures and bedside tables found within the prison cells. The composition begins subtly as if two prisoners are trying to communicate and then moves through an abstract soundscape and lively dance beats until it reaches a riot-like crescendo. |
The massive Eastern State Penitentiary was once the most famous and expensive prison in the world. Its gothic, castle-like towers stood as a grim warning to lawbreakers in the young United States. This was the world’s first true “penitentiary,” a prison intended to inspire profound regret – or penitence—in the hearts of criminals. The influential design featured cellblocks extending like the spokes of a wheel; each inmate lived in solitary confinement in a vaulted sky-lit cell. The prison itself had running water and central heat before the White House, and once held many of America’s most notorious criminals, including bank robber “Slick Willie” Sutton and Al Capone.
Eastern State closed in 1971. The prison stands today in ruin, a haunting world of crumbling cellblocks and a place of surprising beauty. Cardiff and Miller present Pandemonium in Cell Block Seven, a massive, cathedral-like, two-story wing completed in 1836. It has never been open to the public, and has been stabilized especially for this exhibition.
|Sound composition: Titus Maderlechner|
I don't understand a culture that focusses so much on punishment especially when our scientists show us how all of us are connected at the atomic level. We need more compassion in our culture.