日本語

Sylvain Flanagan is a French born artist living in Brooklyn, New York. He grew up in France and graduated from a telecommunications engineering school where he majored in business. He worked in Paris as an economist in image and audio telecommunications industry before moving to New York.

A photographer at first, he stopped printing images about 15 years ago and focussed on slide shows - diaporamas. These were silent or sometimes accompanied by improvising musicians.

Until this day in 2000 when he decided that the piece he intended to show that night needed to have a sound made by himself. After buying a cheap tape recorder and microphone, he recorded a vocal improvisation on the sequence of 30 or so black and white slides. The first take was exhausting but seemed to be something that would work. There was no second take, neither was there any cut or edit in the sound. He titled the piece "There".

This developed into a practice: improvising vocal sounds onto still visuals - slides and combining the two into synchronized projections. Sylvain purchased dissolve units to synchronize slide projectors and sound. The dissolve units can command 3 projectors each and they can be daisy chained. Most of these slide and sound pieces are for 3 projectors (triptych of screens) or sometimes for up to 9 projectors.

In parallel to that, Sylvain progressively started to make sounds, music pieces that would stand on their own without visuals. Having no musical background at all, he centered the compositions around his own vocal recordings, layering them over and over. He also later began to sample his recordings and play them with a Midi keyboard, adding layers of a different nature to his compositions.

In consequence, the articulation between visuals and sound evolved since the sounds could exist before being associated to anything. For these pieces where the sound was first, Sylvain found himself simplifying the series of slides, sometimes using only a unique slide for a whole piece.

He then also started to includes lights in his pieces, whether with or without slides. He found an easy way to synchronize sound, slide projectors and lights together and to record these pieces into files that can be played identically and of course be looped in installations settings.

Looking back at the evolution of his work and vocabulary, Sylvain says:

“I believe that our understanding of the language of sound associated with visuals is still very rudimentary and mostly reduced to the moving image and sound together. Even there we lack the existence of the grammar books we use to study the written and spoken languages...

... it was ten years ago that I started improvising vocal sounds to photographs because I thought that, despite their stillness, they had a potential for sound and music. I explored the possibilities of unlikely but meaningful meetings between vocals and a picture.

... open the boundaries of associations between sounds, images, lights and space in creating pieces, environments that are mesmerizing and beautiful, vertiginous and peaceful. They have to do with our origins and our deepest secrets.

... richly layered sounds alternate with minimal notes and silences. Blank screens, lights and landscapes fade in and out at different paces along with the music.

... evolution of a vocabulary. First the photographs, then silent slide projections, then the slide projections with vocal sounds, then the making of sounds and musical pieces, then the addition of lights, the simplification of my visuals...

... stills and lights seem to me often closer to our real life experiences (these moments that imprint on our retina without us noticing) than moving image media.


 

Click here for Sylvain Flanagan’s list of exhibits

Contact: sylvain.flanagan@gmail.com

Interview in Zing Magazine