( THINK_001CD ) MARK LALIBERTE “Pillow Scenes Soundworks”
BLOW UP Magazine Issue N.29, October 2000 / Review by Nicola Catalano
(Translated from Italian text:) “Pillow Scenes Soundworks 1996 – 1999”, faithful sound catalogue of the homonymous installation based on sound collages and b/w photos supported by Thames Art Gallery, is the promising CD debut of the multimedia artist Mark Laliberte. In the sleep portraits of this 29 years old guy, images of sleeping faces aiming at giving emphasis to body postures, we find the seeds of body-art and the influence of Wien Aktionists as well as that of artists such as Dieter Appelt, Joel-Peter Witkin and Cindy Sherman, and the suffocating assemblages of pure sound-art, uneasiness of industrial nature, risky concretism that give them sound turn out to be resolutely cool and free from embarassing ties, although they obey to a long historical tradition of ars acustica. In the end the work of Laliberte, call it mysterious, abstract, wandering, enigmatic, difficult to decode, leave here and there some moments of breath which take the form of twisted and lapidary expressionist songs (?!) like “Furnace (Dada Chemical, 1970)” and “Summer Heat (A Moment of Sadness)”; disquieting noir cadenzas like “Trace Stain (Exploding Back Room)”; and simple but effective pro-plagiarist cuttings such as “Comatone (In My Dream Machine)”. Vote: 8 out of 10
RUE MORGUE Issue N.17, October 2000
“Pillow Scenes Soundworks 1996-1999” (Thinkbox): Mark Laliberte is a multimedia artist and has been performing his project Pillow Scenes for four years now. The show involves a series of photographs depicting various sleeping models, each accompanied by a unique recording emanating from a pillow located at floor level. The photos are eerie to say the least, concentrating on dark shadows, the surreal, and often, the grotesque. Yet for the concern of this review section, Laliberte’s collection of soundscapes are bizarre and disturbingly haunting: 24 tracks of whispering repetition, ranging from noise to sampling and sometimes, even music. Laliberte’s CD won’t be played on your car stereo, but then again, it wasn’t meant to be. Definitely for the fringe culture, Pillow Scenes is reactionary art against the mainstream, voluntarily joining the ranks of comic books, horror movies and punk music as a new historical artifact of the bizarre. -AL (rated four and a half out of five skulls)
BROKEN PENCIL Issue N.15, Spring 2001 / Review by Hal Niedzviecki
The twenty-four audio experiments on this CD span a three year period. They originally were conceived to be heard in an art gallery accompanying different photographs which Windsor based artist Laliberte calls “sleep portraits.” In the gallery, the viewer puts their head on a pillow in front of the picture to hear the related track. On the CD, the pictures are absent (a portion of them are included in the 28-page booklet) and the sound creations evoke a less distinct din of murmured interchanges and haunted atmospherics. The bedroom scenes are like the taut, prolonged moments from a movie, as opposed to seperate narratives. Still, Laliberte’s ability to evoke a scene simply through sound is stunning. At times, his project seems almost too successful: put this CD on, turn the lights off, close your eyes, put your head on your pillow, and you’ll wonder where the hell you’ve got to.
INCURSION (Online) / Review by Richard di Santo
Mark Laliberte is a multimedia artist and a founding member of Thinkbox, a media arts collective in Windsor, Canada. Released last year, Pillowscenes documents the audio component to Laliberte’s continuing audiovisual project of the same name, which has been in continuous development since 1996. In its current manifestation, subtitled “Labyrinth”, a series of grim photographs of male and female models posed in a state of sleep is accompanied by short sound compositions played through speakers embedded on pillows at floor level. “Sleep” doesn’t seem to be an accurate term to use here; it looks more like death than sleep. These nightmarish images suggest the morbidity of snapshots from bizarre and surreal murder scenes. The CD comes packaged with a descriptive essay by Lorenzo Buj and a selection of images from the series. The compositions are dark atmospheres and sound collages with sinister, brooding moods. This dark mood in the music matches well the morbidity in the photographs. Samples, feedback, voices, breathing, distant music, a few melodic movements but mostly abstract sounds fill these 24 pieces, ranging from 9 seconds to just over 7 minutes in length (the entire CD runs for over 70 minutes).
Repetitions in the samples, whether it’s a phrase from a news story, a frightened whisper or a sinister growl, make for an uneasy listening experience, and I doubt whether Laliberte would be apologetic for the unease his pieces cause. Rather, this is probably the effect he’s going for, and as such I couldn’t conjure much enthusiasm for this project as a whole. Although there were a few moments where the sound collages were more successful, managing to pique my interest, I found the dominating sounds, mood and subject matter to be too oppressive and morbid for my interests. Perhaps these compositions work better in a more formal installation setting, but on their own the sound collages seem to lack direction, moving rather in circles than in a straight line. Challenging and relentlessly dark, Pillowscenes proves to be a grim and uneasy experience; a dark world where there is neither hope, nor light nor air to breathe.
EAR POLLUTION / Review by Mark Teppo
Now here’s a freaky story. A year ago in November, we co-sponsored a little show here in Seattle put on by the Center on Contemporary Art that was called Dusk. It was a collection of art that was meant to capture life after the sun set in this wacky-crazy world of ours. Seeing as how eP was attached to the show, a couple of us made the trek downtown one evening to check it out. It was pretty impressive, but there was one thing that I really got lost in. Two large black and white pictures were hung on the wall and their subjects were sleeping people. Placed beneath these pictures were pillows and resting on the pillow was a single speaker that crackled and hissed and sputtered with a looped soundtrack. It was like we were listening in on the revolving dream of the sleeping face in the picture. Very creepy and very arresting.
Fast-forward to this year and Craig and I are having lunch one day when he hands over a stack of mail. One is an envelope addressed specifically to me and it contains the CD for Pillowscenes. I stare at the CD for a long time and Craig finally asks what has got me so spooked. I admit to him that I never told anyone that, of the pieces in the “Dusk” show, Laliberte’s stuff is the only work that stayed with me. And yet, here is a very full press kit of his work, complete with a jovial letter that starts off with “I’ve been meaning to send you a copy of this CD…”
Remember when I said “creepy and arresting?” Okay, now I’m really starting to get the heebie-jeebies. And the collected material on the CD doesn’t make me sleep any better. Pillowscapes drops you deep into the craniums of its subjects where you get to eavesdrop on the thin soundtracks of their lives, surrounded by the whispered voices of their doubts and fears, the childhood melodies that never quite seem to go away. I felt like I was spying on someone’s dreams when I saw the pictures and the visual accompaniment to these audio tracks does add a very effective layer. “The Number Virus (Red Zone Measurements)” is just a woman’s voice, reciting numbers in either a seductive or a bored professional tone of voice. The portrait is a sleeping woman, nearly plastic in her perfection, and you find there are numbers–tiny digits–tattooed on her body.
The man in “Undertechno (Industry Loop)” has a speaker for a mouth and his voice is modulated and chopped up by technology. The atmospheres that creep around him are like dank miasmas and bolts of unregulated static. “Summer Heat (A Moment of Sadness)” limps along with a dull piano melody, interrupted by a woman’s song and a man’s dry chuckle. The portrait is a woman’s wet face. She’s in the tub, in repose, trying to find some hope in the submerged warmth of the water, but all there is are the noises of her failures during the day.
Listening again to the soundtracks that Laliberte uses with his portraits, I’m again thrown into the minds of these sleepers. But this time, I know what that creepy feeling is: it’s a two-way conduit. I’m in their heads, but they’re in mine as well. And they report back to their master. You just think they’re sleeping, you just mistake their stillness for death. But, really, they’re watching you, watching your reaction, and listening in to your doubts and fears.
image: fan + artist posing with Manifest (Transmitted Ghost Whispers), 1997
ALL MUSIC GUIDE / Review by Ken Taylor
Developed as sound accompaniments for a photography exhibit, “Pillow Scenes Soundworks 1996-1999” is a 74-minute collection of ambient noise-scapes, atonal instrumentation, found sounds, and intercepted telephone conversations. Photographer Mark Laliberte spent the better part of four years photographing subjects in different stages of sleep and recording the surreal sounds that he imagined may occur in their subconscious, thus creating the sounds that now comprise his 2000 release Pillow Scenes Soundworks. In the music’s proper setting, speakers are sewn into pillows and placed at floor level concealing a tape machine that runs the separate soundtrack. A functionless wire extends upward to the wall-mounted photograph to psychologically link the picture and sound. In the room, voices, instruments, and noise overlap as viewers walk from picture to picture while the repetition of sounds merge and collide around them. The phases of sound shift and lock as patterns emerge. Laliberte’s sense of color and composition is masterful and his visual training shines through in the arrangement of these components. Ghastly, animal-like moans blurt from a forest, reminiscent of the Smiths’ “Meat is Murder,” as Laliberte ties human nature to animal nature throughout the recording. Pieces like “News Story” evoke feelings of terror as a news reporter explains the damage done by a fire, while others such as “A Moment of Sadness” bring about complete peacefulness even though the dialogue is flecked with feelings of distrust and hurtfulness. Laliberte paints diverse pictures, from somber and creepy to settled and content. And considering the esoteric nature of the project &mdash a compilation of audio accompaniments for photographs, Pillow Scenes is a brilliantly relaxed and fluid listening experience.
SPLENDID E-ZINE / Review by Eric Cook
Laliberte is a photographer and multimedia artist from Windsor, Ontario, Canada. “Pillow Scenes Soundworks 1996-1999” collects the audio portions of a series of photo and sound installations which used speaker-lined pillows to create a “soundscape as part of a storytelling language”. Primarily sample loop-based, his audio compositions strive for a strong emphasis on juxtapositions, forced contrasts, issues of perception. You hear children’s songs superimposed on ominous beeps and scraping sounds, intentionally banal women’s voices, dark horn loops, some loping jazzy basslines, all building to an appropriately late night art-noir approach. Unfortunately, from the audio alone, it’s difficult to tell which portions of this are intended as commentary and which are to be taken at surface value. There’s obviously a critical eye being cast across some of the subject material, but in some places the music seems to be striving for a straight-faced “dramatic” atmosphere, which muddles the ironic stance to which other sections seem to aspire. Without of the visual elements of these works, you’re left wondering what (and how much) you are missing. In the future, Laliberte’s work would perhaps be better served with a CD-ROM package, the better to incorporate both the visual and the audible.