Project 2: Case Study – Longplayer

Initial Reaction to the piece:

Intrigue, how does it work? Do the audience participate in making the sound and therefore completing the art work?

Site Specific Art:

‘Refers to a work of art designed specifically for a  particular location and that has an interrelationship  with the location. If removed from the location it would loose all or a substantial part of its meaning. Site-specific is often used to describe installation works, and Land art is site specific almost by definition’  page 199 The Tate Guide to Modern Art Terms, Simon Wilson and Jessica Lack, Tate Publishing 2008.

Analysis of the piece:

Quality of sound used:

the sound has a resonant quality, you can hear it lingering long after the bowl has been struck or played. This adds to the sense of the sound moving as you can hear the sound dissipating, perhaps reminding us of our movement through time, the strong start of human life and the frailty at the finish.

The lack of a melodious hook or refrain, adds to the sense of eeriness or otherworldly nature of the piece.

The sound lingers in the space, again leaving time for reflection or contemplation.

Choice of singing bowls:

The bowls seem significant in that they emit such a resonant tone, I also wonder if there is significance in the bowls being formed of metal. It allows a sound to happen every so often that sounds like the chiming of a bell or a clock, reinforcing the consideration of time passing.

the positioning of the bowls:

The bowls are positioned in several stations across the length of a spiral. To me this looks like marker points or interruptions across an otherwise fluid movement (the line of the spiral). Perhaps that’s representative of human life, briefly interacting with time, which continues on in their absence. The bowls also look like small round shapes orbiting around the centre of the spiral.

the positioning of the spectator:

The spectator is positioned around the installation, close enough to hear it and be affected by it but still distant from it, still watching rather than controlling the situation. But there is opportunity should a person chose to be part of the performance to exercise some control over the outcome of the piece. Could this be a reflection on our attitudes and interaction with time, sometimes hating it’s constraints and sometimes moving with a sense of purpose despite it’s boundaries.


Short Interpretation of the piece (257 words):

In the performance piece Longplayer at the Roundhouse in 2009, Finer made use of an arrangement of singing bowls to produce sounds which cause us to reflect on the notion of time. The playing of the bowls produces a resonant sound that gradually dissipates over time, reminding us of the brevity of human life, a strong start and frail finish.

The positioning of the bowls, at several stations across the length of a spiral, provides a visual interruption to an otherwise fluid line. The interruption of the length of the spiral could represent human life interacting with time. Man is present for a limited time on the earth, whilst time appears never-ending like the circle, and we cannot discern the end from the beginning.

The sense of interacting with something vast and beyond our comprehension is enhanced by the length of the piece. Finer began the piece in December 1999, and intends for it to continue until 2999, a millennium, ensuring no human will able to hear the piece beginning to end. The effect is a strange mirroring of our existence, we only get to be present for a part of journey of time not the length of it. Which leads to my final comment on the performance of the piece, the piece is ‘played’ by computers and occasionally human performers. If humans decided not to continue interacting with the piece, the artists’ vision would be completed by computers. Which brings to mind various theories about humanity being outlasted or out performed by computers and artificial intelligence.

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