Home, Sick Home
Daily Performance / Instant Composition / Soundtrack
If the sound is an event, then the sound of the Xinwen Lianbo * (a daily news program produced by China Central Television, a state broadcast) is an ongoing event that happens every evening at 19:00 . It serves as the background voice of family dinner for 18 years. I wondered if the sound of this broadcast was just ambient for me or if its message subliminally influenced me. Is my attachment to the Chinese music I was exposed to growing up just a memory of the melodies? Or did the narrative of its lyrics and the emotions rendered by the songs also affect me? After 9 years away from home, when I heard these sound materials again in another country, another home, the nostalgic sounds and the alienated narratives made me realise that 'hometown' is a concept that lives in my memory, a place that I can never return to. And this also made me realise that the broadcast sound is always playing there, although I avoided turning it on and listening to it.
Sound is a medium of performance, Xinwen Lianbo is a form of performance by the state apparatus, and music is a form of performance by the artist in a specific environment. Do the individuals listening to the broadcast and music become a passive audience? Maybe we've also been performing our daily lives all along? At the very least, performing is a part of life. I always find out most of the actions we do in our daily life are in the grey zone of 'performing' and 'not performing.' What if I start to perform and choreograph my everyday life so that it is meant to be watched; what would it be like to make an action in this situation?
I started the project Home, Sick Home in May of this year. I wrote a score for this 100 days performance, research and practice: I use a binaural microphone to make instant compositions through live recording of the broadcast, music, objects, conversation, and activities in the room. And compose the sound piece by live action: daily life activities, playing with the objects, turning on/off the sound source, controlling feedback effect on software, changing my position with the sound source to create spatial audio… Since every instance of the project follows a ‘no post editing allowed’ rule, it welcomes the unexpected sounds that occur when performing. One track per day, 100 tracks in total.
* Xinwen Lianbo is a mouthpiece for the party and the state. This program is used as a medium for the state to announce government announcements and meetings, commentaries on major economic and policy issues, and the activities of national leaders. It is the news source with the widest reach amongst China's large population, and so it provides the Party with the opportunity to influence the masses. Watching the bulletin has traditionally been ‘a national ritual at the family dinner table.’
The score, as a fixed system, pushes me to perform between different sound scenarios, just as my life has to react between different narratives. This project and I become a symbiosis, every one of my performative actions causes consequences in my daily life.
Every time I press the record button, I don't have complete control over all the sounds that will appear on the track. The sounds are created by intentional actions for composition purposes; they also come from necessary actions in my daily life; some are unexpected events; some are the propaganda on the broadcast. I'm not the only performer. Each time it's a collaborative performance with the state broadcast, the situation, and the other people present. So if you go through the whole project recordings, you will find that some tracks have a clear compositional trace, and some lean more towards field recordings. All the sounds, whether on the radio or in the environment, are so rich, both in the sense of their sonic qualities and implied information, that the only thing I should do is to open them up and let them come into my work. A tiny sound that happened when I was recording becomes a note registered in the composition.
From Home, Sick Home, I began to embrace living with my displacement, which opened up my awareness and understanding of dissonance and contradiction. Displacement is also the modality that this project operates on. Both the audience and I are displaced: from the cultural and political memory of the broadcast and from the intimate spaces of my daily activities. I hope this project can be a portal that blends isolated spaces: sonic, geographic, personal and public together and open up a new field in-between through performativity. These performative actions of daily life become the bridge between the elements I do not have control over: the unexpected environment sounds, the broadcast.
Listening back to all these tracks, some are very intimate, you can hear me breathing, the friction of my clothes, or a fly getting close to my ear. You will feel as if you are with me at that moment. But suddenly your listening experience becomes alienated because of the discordant overlapping and intense feedback loops. Home, Sick Home is obscure but figurative, the sonic space from state apparatus to a private room, from western public space to eastern music memory. I record the space, but also rearrange, reconstruct and recreate a new space through sounds.
I am listening, living, performing, practicing, and researching within this ‘in-between’.