Director’s Statement

About a year ago Peter invited me to cross Australia’s empty centre with him. I was immediately fascinated. We would cover most of the Stuart Highway. From the red south to the tropical north. He took his sound equipment, I took my camera. The seeds of Quies were sown.
The trip was a continuation for Peter, the next chapter in a much longer auditory search. A search for silence as phenomenon, as empty space in which sound happens. The no man’s land between two sounds. The time it takes to get from one note to the next. And every variation in that ‘nothingness’ changes the story, and rewrites the melody.

“I do know that silence does not exist. Or that if it does, it cannot be recorded. Or that if it could be recorded, it cannot be played back and re-experienced in the same way”, Peter said before we left. He had already collected an impressive amount of recordings by that point. All carefully and meticulously labelled, like a scientist. Audio snapshots. First in and around Sydney’s CBD, but then further and further away from civilization, expanding exponentially towards the barren no man’s land in Australia’s centre. A logical next step.

So far Peter had done his field recordings alone. I had kept track of his first trip to the centre through photos and a blog he’d set up. But now that I was physically in the same place, the entire process gained a new dimension. I could observe him undisturbed. Not just as an onlooker, but as a veritable Peeping Tom. I saw the artist’s search for silence become a story in front of my eyes.

The portrait of Peter is an essential part of Quies. His failure – fragile and vulnerable – is a repose in a world where only ends and results count. Like no other he’s exemplary of the latent desire of our time to escape ‘the desert of the real’. Civilization withers away, layer by layer. What remains is emptiness and quiet.

The moment the last house has disappeared in the rear view mirror, the desert absorbs you. A red impression, endlessly resetting its short term memory. The landscape becomes a character in Quies. It imposes a cyclic structure, a loop of sand and stone that slowly changes color, hardly noticed by the naked eye and the camera. Time takes its own sweet time here. Forever. Seconds become minutes, minutes become hours.

This big vastness bears no neutral gaze. It expects respect, and claims the sublime. In the footsteps of Edmund Burke, “silence and stillness encapsulate the sublime”. It’s no surprise that Peter ended up here. His absurd quest demands emptiness, and the total erasure of all that is. And by choosing for this vast expanse, he only amplifies his failure. This sublime landscape confronts him with his own limits. The artist meets himself. Transcendental without god.

Sound’s zero degree stirs the imagination. Every auditory detail becomes amplified. Noise gains shape and suddenly the inaudible is surprisingly layered. In Quies we want to promote silence to soundtrack. From an abstract soundscape, slowly passing by, and occasionally superseding the image and taking center stage, to a latent yet more narrative soundscape that is part of the doubt and uncertainty the artist experiences. The microphone is both antenna of an inner life, and neutral sensor scanning the environment. Civilization reverberates long after it has vanished from sight.

Actual silence is disorienting and frightening. All familiar beacons have disappeared and we continue, groping and fumbling in the dark. The spectator pricks up his ears and becomes active listener. The smallest disturbances become meaningful and widen the view. Steadily we construct a fresh auditory map of what was, is and will be.

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