‘Stop Look Listen’, FOUND, (Ziggy Campbell, Kev Sim, Tommy Perman), Peacock Visual Arts, 2005.
Its complex and shifting nature gives the ongoing FOUND project currency within the evolving history of contemporary experimental art, and at the same time, naturally, it points to many antecedents within the history of art and ideas. To fix on any one antecedent is only for the foolish catalogue essayist, so there is one particularly salient precursor to be briefly highlighted here.
Henri Bergson’s Matter and Memory of 1896 had a massive impact on the ways in which artists subsequently attempted to apprehend their world in their respective media. Linked always in our minds to the early 20thC experiments of the Cubists, Bergson’s fundamental tenet applies equally well to what some contemporary commentators continue to call New Media – a branch of art practice to which Tommy Perman, Ziggy Campbell and Kev Sim could be affiliated – if such an affiliation was at all important.
‘Perception’, Bergson wrote, ‘is never a mere contact of the mind with the object present; it is impregnated with memory-images which complete it as they interpret it’. And memory-images are, of course, much more than mere pictures. Sounds, emotions, mistakes, jumbles, repeats, exchanges…contribute to the potency of the memory-image and move us perhaps closer to the ideal concept of pure-memory or pure-recollection or interpretative truth.
As seductive as true objective recollection might be, Perman, Campbell and Sim know the perils of that kind of totality. To escape the trap of patronisingly totalising memory-images on behalf of lucky beholders/listeners, the principle mode of practice for FOUND is open-ended collaboration on the construction of audiovisual-memory-images – a potentially never-ending programme to run parallel to the mere objects of our perception – in order to accumulate shared access points which might allow us in the present or future present to recognise then recall something of our accelerating technosociety.
There is also a strong principle of critique in this project which is undersold if attention rests on formal strategies for the production of the acoustic and the aesthetic. For what FOUND as a social act will not accept is the given nature of many of our audiovosual-memory-images. The critique inherent in FOUND is of Adorno’s type, a throwing of the images and sounds of our contemporary lives intocrisis. FOUND resists seeing and hearing that which is given to be seen and heard.
Bergson gave a lead on this point by castigating associationism, that tendency towards the totalised memory-image. ‘The capital error of associationism,’ he wrote, ‘is that it substitutes for the continuity of becoming, which is the living reality, a discontinuous multiplicity of elements, inert and juxtaposed.’ Similarly, against the atomising of experience into totalised associated fragments, FOUND finds delight, play and perception in the fluidity of an ever-changing audiovisualscape, one which fractures, following the great lessons in hermeneutics of the Cubists, yes, but one which is then reconstituted through collaborative creative action. The inert becomes once again active and interconnected.
Whether it is a street or a building or a billboard that is to be dissected, or a sound that is to be disassembled, the memory-images which follow are more than mere alterations to the sequences of the atomic parts of the given objects; they allow us to see and hear again those symbols of the urban everyday too often simplistically associated with given analogues, and too often coloured by the audiovisual overlays of consumer imperatives. FOUND encourages us to reconvene with the dynamic and uplifting fluidity of our closest environment behind its own image: a re-finding of substantive, moving meanings – a critical ability too valuable to lose.