To cite this contribution:
Bale, Robin. ‘Here We Are Again.’ OAR: The Oxford Artistic and Practice Based Research Platform Issue 1 (2017), http://www.oarplatform.com/here-we-are-again/.
The audio piece presented here is a response to a site that I have visited and revisited throughout my doctoral research, a piece of wooded ‘waste ground’ in East London that has, on and off, served as an unofficial tip for many years. It is a syncope, a gap, gasp, or hiccup in the syntax of the city, an elision within the proper sequence of authorised and named locations. It seems fitting to me that this place (like almost all such places) should be full of junk, mirroring as it does the actual status of the site as ‘waste ground’. Rubbish is a strange, untimely, category of matter; persisting in its obsolescence, already finished but not gone. The same can be said for those parcels of land left unutilised by local planners, the vagaries of the market, bankruptcy, or the last war.
The endless, undulating roar of traffic from a motorway slip road and the ‘A’ road it leads to, surround the particular site I deal with here. This ambience created by the minor teleology of multiple simultaneous journeys that posit their destination as emphatically not here, and do so as loudly as possible, is as much an inextricable part of the place as the birdsong. It emphasises that time is out of joint, or at any rate, is going elsewhere.
I have been much preoccupied with the idea, not so frequently touted now as it was in the early 1990s, of the end of history. As utopias go it was a pretty banal one and it’s probably quite telling that even a bar set as low as that could be missed. As it has often been correctly observed since, history didn’t actually end; liberal democracy and capitalism did not reach a symbiotic equilibrium, mutually reinforcing one another in an apotheosis of such conjoined stability and dynamism, that it rendered all other competing systems redundant. I have found a lot of grim humour in imagining, counterfactually, that this destination towards which history was supposedly striving has been achieved, and that this is where we now live – at, or in, the end of history. In trying to envisage what this unachieved and unachievable place would be like, I have been unable to find a better model than the waste ground upon which I build this piece – the word topic is derived from topos (place). The obsolete promise of old futures doesn’t go away any more than waste does; like waste, it can be shovelled away out of sight but it stages periodic returns as a mocking ghost, interrupting current festivities: ‘as I am now, so will you be’.
I have tried to capture this sense of the untimely within the piece. It begins with the word ‘again’, a nonsensical return. I have used considerable amounts of delay, or echo, as both literal audio effect and poetic trope; a set of repetitions and interruptions.
About the author:
Robin Bale is a London-based poet/performer and sound artist. He makes improvised performances utilising verbal and non-verbal vocalisation and musical equipment. He also makes recordings that experiment with aural space and what he calls ‘dub aesthetics’, the creative deployment of studio technology to create sonic landscapes that reflect the fragmented space of urban and exurban environments.