I am Sitting in a Vault (2017)

I am Sitting a Vault was a site-specific sound art performance, which took place on 12 August 2017 in a disused bank vault in East Belfast, as part of the Eastside Arts Festival.

The performance was based on the influential work, I am Sitting in a Room (1969/1970) by Alvin Lucier and Mary Lucier, in which a performer narrates text alone in a room, which is recorded and then played back into the room over several iterations. With each iteration of playback and (re)recording, the sound of performer’s voice is slowly transformed into an articulation of the resonant frequencies of the room, revealing the inherent sonic architecture of the performance space.

Using the unique setting of a bank vault, I am Sitting in a Vault sought to highlight how the hidden processes of positive feedback systems are used to shape our modern society. Present in the ideology of the free market, to the mechanics of social media algorithms, feedback systems encourage and afford the accumulation of excessive amounts of wealth and private data. As a result of these processes, power is increasingly handed over to a privileged few who can shape society to their own ends. By manifesting this process of positive feedback as a durational sound work, I am Sitting in a Vault invited a public audience to reflect on how veiled and hidden forces can influence our socioeconomic world and the present hierarchies within it.

For the performance on the night, Constance Keane recited the spoken world text from inside the closed bank vault. The sound inside the bank vault was then played out into the reception area of the bank, to the audience. A live CCTV feed from inside the vault was also displayed on CRT monitors in the reception area, which also presented a positive feedback loop of their own image as the piece progressed, taking influence from Mary Lucier’s visual aspect of the work. Local artist Richard Baille facilitated this visual component.

The event was covered by the Art Show on BBC Radio Ulster. You can listen to this segment here.

All content © Christopher Steenson 2020