Hell Is Empty is an audio visual installaton and performance piece that uses modern alchemical means to attempt to transmute the basest material possible into gold. Taking as its source the basest raw cultural material available – in this case the content, code and graphics of the lowest-common-denominator / alt-right spawning / ignorance-promoting / intolerance-supporting news website Breitbart.com – the piece uses all the constituent parts of the site to break it down into something more palatable.
The php code of the site was scraped and converted into raw data to generate audio information; numbers from within the code were assigned to midi information to create musical patterns; articles from the site are read dispassionately before being broken down into something akin to glossolalia (speaking in tongues), which some consider to be the true treasure of the Templars, a true universal language; and finally, the visual imagery of the site is broken down during browsing using an algorithm taking data from the code of the site itself.
During the performance, data is taken live from the site itself and manipualted in real time, whilst light sensitive cameras use the light and motion of the dedgenerating video – and the participants and audience’s own movements – to control and generate further audio.
About the Artist
Ruaridh Law is a sound artist and musician based in Paisley, Scotland. Over 20 years he has performed in groups, in collaborations and solo across a wide range of festivals, arts spaces, venues and clubs as performer, improviser, DJ and artist. Latterly his interests have been in sound art, especially involving psychogeography and esoteric interests. He has been comissioned for new work from organisations such as FutureEverything in Manchester, Unconscious Archives in London, FIBER and Incubate in Amsterdam and the Anthony Burgess Foundation for their William Burroughs at 100 event. He has a strong working relationship with Scotland’s Sanctuary, for whom he is currently producing a large-scale outdoor work combining sound walk, improvised performance and experimental storytelling alongside Eleanor Thomson and Dave Donnelly which will take place at the end of September 2017 in the Forest of Galloway. He runs the Broken20 multimedia label with Donnelly, which has been releasing experimental music, DVD, cassette and mixed media works over 6 years and 40+ releases.
[Forthcoming chrome-cassette release on V I S:
Difficult times call for difficult measures.
What is the point of an artist in dark moral times? Is art an impotent affectation or can artists use their work to reflect and magnify bigger concerns for the scrutiny of an audience?
Over two sides of tape, two artists take very different approaches to how to respond to a fluid, uncertain time. Not political, but motivated instead by an existential moral absence at the heart of events; one reaches introspectively, the other at the broader canvas.
SPR’s helplessness and frustration at reality being bent to the will of those with their hands on the controls of perception pushes outwards as an overwhelming, out-of-control amalgam of tiny layers; the truth being the sum of many untrue parts, a congruence of facets each being seen by others as a dark reflection of their own prejudices, a mirrored facade reflecting self-evident truths and withheld bias erupting in a tumult of uncertainty; lancing the boil of the unreliable narrators. And on the flip, TVO literally tries to spin gold from the basest raw materials possible; in this case, a week’s worth of output from the alt-right news website Breitbart.com, with all the constituent parts of his piece emanating in one form or another from the site, be it the raw code, image files, hidden audio files or the text itself. Can something so irretrievably riddled with venom and falsehood be alchemically redeemed, and in doing so shine a penetrating light on the existence of such widely consumed falsehood?
Whether dark mirror or golden light, to say nothing is to passively accept everything; to say something – to reflect something – is to be a voice, however small, in defiance]