Janek Schaefer b. 1970
Vacant Space
Sound is constantly present, whether we are there or not. Using location recordings and panoramic photographs collected in a series of empty interiors around the world, the installation reveals and celebrates their life without us present.

The installation is never the same twice, and deliberately embraces the context of the generic white gallery by 'amplifying the void'. On entering, the gallery appears silent. Panoramic projections of unoccupied spaces merge and slide across the wall. Plugging headphones directly into the projection wall reveals random layers of amplified location recordings that influence the scrolling visuals in different ways. Three spaces are heard at once in an ever-changing composition, endlessly creating new places. There are still the occasional audible signs of people, but they are either outside of the room or just passing through - highlighting their absence. Sound travels around corners and through windows. Sound activates space, and space is essential for soundwaves to live out their lives.

Vacant Space develops some of my early thoughts on the relationship between sound and image, and how that helps define architectural space. Every place has its own character which is hugely influenced by its individual soundscape, which is continuous, even without us there, just like when the tree falls in the forest, it still disperses physical sound waves !

The audio aspect of the project was initially inspired by my experience of travelling abroad to perform concerts. I usually end up sitting in various types of spaces & locations very late at night when the world had gone to sleep - listening to the qualities of each specific space and the sounds beyond it, just out of view. I started to record these situations which then slowly resulted in this sound reactive installation. The three soundtracks control the brightness, the speed and the merging of the two images on display in continuously changing relationships.

The images were inspired by some freelance work I did several years ago for a new company called Ehouse.co.uk. They were the first people in the UK to create online 'Virtual Tours' of property for sale. These are 360-degree panoramic scrolling images inside a huge variety of architectural spaces photographed without any people inside. They kindly granted me access to their enormous archive of fascinating spaces of every kind. To these I added my own collection of interior photographs that I collected over the past two years on my own travels far and wide - Thank you to everyone who invited me out the door

Imperfections lend character to the world, so forget 'noise cancelling headphones' because this is a study for noise amplifying headphones, where you can hear the edges of time. A typical cycle of the installation lasts for over an hour.

Janek Schaefer in UbuWeb Sound