Virginie Otth | Photographe

Protocol2/ The Sabine equation

Kunsthalle Lucerne

Juillet 2013

Helvetic Centre (London) presents:

in the Kunsthalle of Lucerne in July 2013

Virginie Otth (CH)

Seth Ayyaz (UK)

With the participation of Yann Haeberlin

"To illustrate this I have taken photographs of the actual sound and its echoes passing through a model of the theatre by a modification of what may be called the Toeppler-Boys-Foley method of photographing air disturbances. The details of the present investigation will be explained in another paper. It is sufficient here to say that the method consists essentially of taking off the sides of the model, and, as the sound is passing through it, illuminating it instantaneously by the light from a very fine and somewhat distant electric spark. After passing through the model the light falls on a photographic plate placed at a little distance on the other side. The light is refracted by the sound-waves, which thus act practically as their own lens in producing the photographs." - Wallace Clement Sabine, Collected papers on acoustics, 1922

Wallace Clement Sabine (1868 - 1919) was a physicist in Harvard whose pioneer work on sound reverberations has been a crucial contribution to the scientific recognition of architectural acoustics. He was involved in various experiments in relation with the propagation of sounds waves in theaters and auditoriums and put together an equation that is still in use for anticipating the reverberation of acoustic events. This mathematical question works mainly as an excuse for presenting an overshadowed aspect of Sabine's legacy, namely his groundbreaking use of photographic productions.

By using a technique commonly referred to as Schlieren Methode, he managed to fix the light refracted by sound waves emitted in models of theaters. Once materialised on these documents, it was possible to isolate and classify the effects of acoustic events in a given space. He was able to transform the fluctuation of acoustic flux into tools of knowledge. By marking their distinct features on photographic plates, aural phenomenon left their archaic consonances for entering the modern regime of visuality. To this effect, Wallace Clement Sabine’s representations allow to surface the interferences, reverberations, echoes and other vibrations embedded into photographs. Thanks to their mere presence, these ghostly silhouettes are also an attempt to poetically recharge photography at a time when it seems to have unveiled all its mysteries for want of being overexposed. Through this dialogue initiated between Virginie Otth (photography) and Seth Ayyaz (sound installation), Protocol #2 : The Sabine Equation follows the lines of equivalence between aural and visual perceptions.

Joël Vacheron