11/02/2013 — 13/04/2013

Mike Marshall


Mike Marshall, Vacuum, 2013

‘Vacuum’ is the second of three sound installations by Mike Marshall commissioned by the Grundy Art Gallery and devised for the particular architecture of the Gallery’s rotunda space. This second installation takes as its starting point the simple act of leafing through a book of visual images – ‘A Concise History of Photography’ by Helmut and Alison Gernsheim, published by Thames and Hudson in 1965.


It begins with the sound of the book being flicked through, the pages rippling as they fold over, then pages being slowly and deliberately turned along with the sounds of finger tips rustling against the grain of the paper. At first these sounds seem close and intimate, seemingly magnified by the recording apparatus, over time they build up, layering upon one another until a sound akin to wind in the trees emerges.

The images in the book are from a pre-digital era when photography involved slower processes of the action of light upon receptive chemical surfaces. These carefully composed images, each one its own little frame of space time, were then selected and studiously ordered , and so from a diffuse whole world of possible events and images arises this precise compendium of images, this concise history.


If every sound in the world could be heard at once then perhaps what we would hear would be a hissing white noise similar to the sound of static on a radio or television. Similarly, diffuse sounds such as wind in trees, waves in the sea or sandpaper across a surface, are also composed of myriad smaller sounds, each hidden inside the other, and these sounds cannot be separated out without irrevocably changing.


This sound installation involves a reversal of the activities of selection and order which characterise the both the book and the images it contains. As if too much to remember or take in, these careful images become merely superficially browsed and at the same time rendered non-visual by a digital process of recording and composition. Transposed into sound in this way, the book, and its images from the past, become expanded outwards into a larger and less defined space - effectively ‘thrown to the wind’ like the dissolving of a memory or thought that is on its way to becoming forgotten.

The remaining sound installation will be exhibited at Grundy from 22 April – 22 June 2013.

Vacuum is supported using public funding by Arts Council England.