Harpo is pleased to have provided support for Deborah Stratman’s Tactical Uses of a Belief in the Unseen (2), an exhibition that was presented by Mercer Union in collaboration with the 25th Images Festival in Toronto (April 14 – May 19, 2012).

By creating an environment that is both a landscape and a speaker, Deborah Stratman shows the way that sound both defines and disturbs place, and how the immateriality of sound can be used to seduce us into believing in something that may not be true. Applying cinematic concepts to sculpture, Tactical Uses of a Belief in the Unseen (2) uses a multifaceted sound collage consisting of explosions, earthquake frequencies, helicopters and other heavy equipment that suggest sounds of military action. These low frequency sounds coming from the floor are more felt than heard and evoke a kind of suspense or approaching dread. This composition is paired with a moving beam of sound broadcast from above. Inaudible until it is pointed directly at the listener, it provides an element of surprise and consists of sounds of sirens, trumpets and bagpipes, which are traditionally declarative instruments associated with warfare or police states.

Despite its immateriality, sound is powerfully suggestive of both physical and temporal realms. As sounds exist in constant flux, we instinctively ascribe to them a here-and-now-ness. For these and other physiological reasons, we have a certain belief in our sonic surroundings, even when the sources generating the sounds remain unseen. Professionals routinely take advantage of our sonic gullibility (film sound designers for instance, or military psy-op units), in some ingeniously subversive and strategic ways.

Historically, sound has often been used as a medium for waging psychological warfare because of how efficiently it suggests events and locations. Whether declarative, as with anthems or artillery, or deceptive, as with sonic decoys or surveillance, the audio-sphere is well disposed to militarization. Sound is a virtual tool that provokes belief in an unseen material world. Stratman allows us to experience and reflect on this in a material world of her own making.

This project was funded as part of the foundation’s 2011 funding cycle, which explores the interchange and dialogue between the non-locality of the digital world and the existential physicality of our everyday environment.

(Text sourced from Images Festival website.)

For more information about this artist, visit www.pythagorasfilm.com/.