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Helen Mirra and Ernst Karel at Audiorama

Time: 4-8 pm, Thursday 1 September 2011
Place: NOTE! Audiorama, Sluppskulsvägen 30, Skeppsholmen, Stockholm
Helen Mirra is currently a grant holder at Iaspis. Together with Ernst Karel, she will present Swiss Mountain Transport Systems, multi-channel version at Audiorama. The audio composition has been specifically adapted for Audiorama’s unique 21-speaker system. It is constructed of unprocessed, long-take location recordings and percussion. The piece is 68 minutes, and will be repeated through the scheduled time period; the listening room may be entered at any time.

Swiss Mountain Transport Systems, multi-channel version
Ernst Karel and Helen Mirra
In 2008, while Helen Mirra was living in Basel, Switzerland, on a year-long artist residency, her practice shifted into walking, and making work through this walking. While in residence this summer with Iaspis, she has been walking in and around Stockholm, for example in the Tyresta National Park, and making prints along the way. In Switzerland, walking meant hiking on mountain trails, and getting to the trails meant travelling from Basel not only by train but usually by some form of transportation specific to mountainous regions: gondolas, funiculars, and chairlifts, collectively known as Bergbahnen, or mountain transport systems.
When Mirra’s partner, musician and audio recordist Ernst Karel, joined her for the summer and fall, during the first hike they took together, they were struck by the sounds of these machines in the cultural and geographical context of rural Switzerland. Mirra plotted out the geological and geographic regions of Switzerland in which she wanted to walk, and Karel cross-referenced this with information about where particularly interesting Bergbahnen could be found.

Over the course of frequent walks in the mountains in different parts of Switzerland, Karel recorded the various transport systems which are specific to mountainous terrain -- gondolas, funiculars, and chairlifts -- of different types, of different vintages, and accessing different elevations.  The careful recordings, made from within these mostly enclosed mobile environments, reveal quasi-harmonic mechanical drones, intermittent irregular percussiveness, and transient acoustic glimpses of a vast surrounding landscape inhabited by humans and other animals.
The project builds on a performance that Mirra and Karel gave in January 2009 at Taka Ishii Gallery, in Kyoto, Japan, in the context of Mirra’s exhibition, Case study: Swiss bird houses. For that live performance, Mirra played drums with Karel doing a live mix of unprocessed recordings of the mountain transport systems. To make this multi-channel version, Mirra subsequently recorded the percussion parts in the studio using multiple microphones in multiple configurations. The minimal percussion activates and modifies the contours of the listening space, as it contrasts with, complements, interrupts, and augments the sounds of transport.

This piece was presented in an 8-channel version at Diapason Gallery, New York, in January 2011, and is scheduled to be presented at KW Institute for Contemporary Art in Berlin, in November 2011, in conjunction with an exhibition of Mirra’s which she is completing while a guest of Iaspis.  The date of this presentation at Audiorama on 1 September 2011 also coincides with the release of Karel’s stereo CD containing only the transport recordings, also unprocessed and unmanipulated, with each track corresponding simply to a particular journey.  The CD Swiss Mountain Transport Systems, is being released on Gruenrekorder, a German recording label that specializes in works based on location recordings.

For further information please contact Iaspis project coordinator Jonatan Habib Engqvist,

Updated: 2011-08-18 Tell a friend

Mirra och Karel 
Image: Helen Mirra / Ernst Karel

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