Returnable Empties (Vuoto a rendere)


Returnable Empties, invisible sound installation in the wood, 2012

This project has been conceived and realized for the Portali dello Scompiglio award, in the Tenuta dello Scompiglio, Lucca: the aim of the call was to realize an outdoor installation dealing with the concept of passage between different spaces and areas of the Tenuta.

The project is based on the poem Conversation with a Stone by Wislawa Szymborska. The idea of the self confronting the external world is the essence of the poem. The speaker of the poem repeatedly knocks on a stone’s door trying to enter it, but the stone repeatedly and resolutely refuses: the borders of the “other” have to be respected, and so its radical alterity, rejecting the dominant and imperialist culture that invade other cultures under the guise of seeking knowledge and truth.

The work consists of a sound installation, totally invisible, situated opposite one of the natural portals of the property. When the visitor passes through the portal they will hear repeated tapping. The sequence they will hear will be random in duration and rhythm, but also in the type of sound. In the woods, waiting and without apparent reason, one hears tapping. Who is it? Where is it coming from? What does it mean? What threshold does it indicate? The sound is like the simplest and yet most enigmatic action. By its very nature and in particular the sound selected, on the threshold of perception, it can be heard only if one pays attention, remains on the edge of presence and absence, an invitation to stay on the threshold and hear more and their differences. An invitation not to think of the space as a void to be conquered by a colonialist that cancels out the other, but to listen to that vibration that resonates in the void (returnable).

Technical Specification of the Project

A passive infrared sensor (PIR) detects motion and activates the open source microcontroller Arduino, that generates a random sequence of knocking sound tracks, connected to an amplifier and two loud- speakers. A solar panel provides the electric supply.