Seth Cluett ‘Tracing Moving Circles’

Whether the mark of a drawn line, the chemical imprint of light on paper, or the gathering of sound through a microphone, the mimetic act of recording – of entering traces of the world into the index of cultural and personal memory – is not itself memory, but a catalyst for imagination. Like a procession of raindrops carving away at the roof or a stream impressing itself on a stone, the persistence of recorded objects seems to strive towards permanence, both claiming and eroding space and etching a form of script on the mind. 

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[3 drawings/three recordings, headphone playback. Commissioned by Re(Sound) at the Hunt Gallery, Webster University, St. Louis, Missouri, USA, curated by Dana Turkovic and Adam Watkins.]

tracing moving circles, is a series of works that addresses the idea of indexing or archiving the objects created by sound and movement. The different iterations in the series variously treat the territory at the intersection of acting, listening, seeing, and thinking. The notion of tracing an object in motion expresses the futility inherent in the act of recording, of fixing something that is ephemeral and potentially ineffable.   In the territory between original action and recorded artifact is an object that exists in the mind, and tracing moving circles is an attempt to understand the nature of these transitory objects.

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[Glass, performance.]

In glass and 100 circles for the head, listening and action become vehicles for exploring attention. glass [link] is an unprocessed recording that documents the sound of circular motions made by moving a piece of glass in each hand against two pieces of glass placed flat on a table. The piece is finished when I cannot physically continue the action, allowing my exhaustion to create variations in an otherwise simple act. Similarly, 100 circles for the head, a wall-mounted set of drawings and an accompanying headphone-based sound recording, documents the acoustic trace of drawing 100 circles in three different ways: 100 single circles, 50 x 2 circles, and 25 x 4 circles). The work is presented over headphones to an audience that is able to look at the same drawings from which the recordings are made. In each of these works, the limited movement required by drawing, tracing, moving, or marking circles attempts to focus the observation of sound on a limited set of actions. While these actions create the condition for listening experienced by myself as a performer, the relationship between the action and the sound is altered for the audience. My listening while making the drawings functions as both an act of reception in the moment well as a force with a causal effect on my physical movements, prompting the action to strengthen or falter as my attention shifts. The audience sees the gross gesture of the physical action while hearing the shift in minute movements, drawing attention not to causality (because the gesture appears unchanged) but to the seeming incompatibility of two opposed modalities: seeing and hearing in a gestalt perceptual scene.

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[Tracing moving circles (100 circles for the mind), paper, charcoal, endless loop tape, pins, Commissioned by Menu for Murmur at the Chapman Gallery, curated by Ben Gwilliam and Helmut Lemke.]

Tracing moving circles (100 circles for the mind) is an instructional score for gallery preparation and exhibition treating the relationship between action and recorded trace as evidence of solitary work. A single preparator receives a set of instructions asking that they use a three-minute endless loop cassette with a dictaphone to record the sound of drawing one hundred circles on one hundred small pieces of paper over a period of time not to exceed the duration of the tape. The tape is then cut into one hundred equal pieces and pinned next to the drawings that they document in the gallery. The audience sees the instructions, the charcoal used to draw the circles, and the empty cassette housing alongside the drawings and tape-loops. In this work, for the audience as well as the preparator, listening is an act of evocation, an unrecoverable process that is set in motion by the artifacts seen by the audience while serving as a visual reminder of an acoustic event for the person who rendered them.

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[Tracing moving circles (neighborhood memory), US Geological Survey Map, endless loop tape, pins, Commissioned by Non-Cochlear Sound at Diapason Gallery, curated by Seth Kim-Cohen]

The most recent work in the series, tracing moving circles (neighborhood memory), is a wall-mounted gallery work that explores the complex of experiences inherent to the everyday act of walking as a form of recorded information translated into an act of viewing. In this work, each of three preparators follow instructions asking that they circle a block in the neighborhood of the gallery thirty-three times. With a dictaphone recording to a three-minute endless loop cassette, they are instructed to listen continuously, while making recordings at regular intervals based on cycles of counted numbers. When they are finished with these actions, they listen back to the fragmented recording of their experience, unspool the cassette and wrap the tape around pins pushed into the corner of the block where they walked. From the dialectic of an irretrievable action (the reader being aware that the work caused the worker to have listened) and an unplayable recording (the tape both marking the path and itself holding a form of listening), memory becomes suspended in the space of imagination, intangible but retrievable through the process of assemblage undertaken by the viewer/reader.

This series is an attempt to unravel the knots that bind memory to the self, to explore ways of erasing, neutralizing, and smoothing out the striations created by documentary media as they write both across and against thought. What elements might be held on to – included in the archive of memory – and what might be written by someone else’s hand, indexed without intention and before understanding?

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[Tracing moving circles (neighborhood memory), US Geological Survey Map, endless loop tape, pins, Commissioned by Non-Cochlear Sound at Diapason Gallery, curated by Seth Kim-Cohen]

Audio download: Seth Cluett – Tracing moving circles 
100 circles for the head, a wall-mounted set of drawings and an accompanying headphone-based sound recording, documents the acoustic trace of drawing 100 circles in three different ways: 100 single circles, 50 x 2 circles, and 25 x 4 circles.
100 circles for the head [04.13, mp3]
glass is a performance work produced as an unprocessed studio recording. The recording documents the sound of circular motions made by moving a piece of glass in each hand against two pieces of glass placed flat on a table. The performance is finished when it is no longer physically possible to continue the action, allowing exhaustion to create variations in an otherwise steady simple sound-producing motion.
Glass Performance  [19.48, mp3]