Eimer Birkbeck's Instantanes (Vladimir) at The Lost Soul and Stranger Service Station

Art The old Barber Shop on School Lane in Liverpool, now Lost Soul and Stranger Service Station art venue is currently (for another couple of days at least) hosting the latest sound installation by Eimer Birkbeck, a sound artist who’s previous seen her work heard at the Cornerhouse in Manchester and throughout the rest of the world. She attempts to document soundscapes and reproduce them in a gallery setting, and these two works, Vladimir is part of what she calls her Instantanes series (a web search doesn’t reveal other instances - I’d be intrigued to know what they are).

The space is split into two areas, sectioned off with cotton curtain. On the right we hear the taxi ride through an early morning blizzard of someone called Dimitri and in the other (where I used to get my hair cut) the midday bells from the ancient convent of Suzdal cry out. Both play at the same time, and the chimes intermingle with the rev of the engines; standing in front of the information table in the middle of the shop its not hard to imagine that you’re chasing through the streets past the church, especially with the natural bustle of Liverpool bleeding in from outside.

If the idea brings to mind Janet Cardiff’s Forty Part Motet in which that number of speakers are arranged about the white cube producing some Tallis polyphony or even a home cinema system, the execution is rather more rustic. The walls and floorboards of each room are filled with home made speakers cobbled together from found Russian wood and antique loudspeakers bought second hand which means that the resulting noise changes depending on where the listener is standing, which certainly works better with the hopeful beating of the bells.

One final technical note: both installations stopped just as I entered and as the invigilator lifted up the black wooden box at the heart of the work, I was amazed to discover an old Sony Playstation lying on top of an amplifier with a remote control converter sticking out of the front. Apparently they’re in widespread use in just this kind of art, because the sound chip inside is more flexible than that of an ordinary cd player and superior even to the later PS models. Which also meant I was able to hear the old Sony start-up jingle in greater clarity than ever before.

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