In Relocation, Yann Novak explores the multitude of emotional states experienced during and after the relocation of one’s life. Utilizing his unique technique of transforming a simple environmental recording into something emotional and visceral, Novak creates three installations, each using a different step of the moving process as a point of departure. In all three works, Novak alters the timbre of the recordings but not the length. By doing so he let the subtly changing character of the original recordings dictate how the pieces will unfold. The pieces are spared formal compositional interjection from the artist and allowed to exist in the limbo between documentation and composition.
Relocation.Catalog contains the essay “Striation, Erosion, Deformation, Recollection: The Erased Field Recordings of Yann Novak” by Christopher DeLaurenti which takes a look into the work and process of Yann Novak and draws some interesting comparisons. Included with the catalog is Relocation.Edits, a CD containing abridged versions of the sound works associated with each of the installations in the Relocation exhibition. The catalog also includes preparation and installation photos of Novak’s previous works.
Apparently Novak’s Relocation exhibit coincided with a recent personal relocation from Seattle to Los Angeles—though the show itself ironically ended up being presented in Seattle. A booklet-and-CD-R release, Relocation.Catalog includes Relocation.Edits, three abridged versions of the soundtracks Novak created for the installations in the Relocation exhibition with two fifteen-minute settings framing a slightly shorter one. Notwithstanding the tall catalog booklet accompanying the release that contains exhibition photos and Christopher DeLaurenti’s essay, Striation, Erosion, Deformation, Recollection: The Erased Field Recordings of Yann Novak, the release’s major drawing card is the CD-R’s audio documents.
DeLaurenti’s text begins with a discussion of Robert Rauschenberg’s Erased de Kooning Drawing(1953), which involved Rauschenberg literally erasing a fairly well-developed work-in-progress by the Abstract Expressionist. Rauschenberg spent a month erasing the drawing until the sheet, almost purified of marks and lines, revealed that a new work had replaced the old. The historical anecdote offers a natural segue way and neat parallel to Novak’s handling of the material on Relocation.Edits. The erasure here involves Novak effacing field recordings using digital processing, with the sound artist aiming to retain vestiges of the originating field recording while also neutering it of a too-defining and ultimately too-limiting character. While wanting to remain true to the location and time of the recording, he also wants to render it more abstract so as to liberate it from its specific context and allow the listener to experience the final piece as an aural Rorschach. In Relocation.Vacant.Edit, a softly swirling and persistent pool of medium-to-high pitches is punctuated by microsound accents. Relocation.Mobile.Edit is, during its first half, hyperactive by comparison, with metallic filaments massing into a dub-like cloudstorm; after fading to silence, the softly clangorous flow again re-asserts itself aggressively untilt eh ten-minute piece ends. Surging waves of traffic-like sounds roll across long tendrils of synthetic, organ-like tones during Relocation.Dislocation.Edit, with the activity level at as high a pitch as the second. Though Novak’s obviously aware of the locations whose erasure and transformation ultimately lead to the three settings as presented, nothing remains in the resultant works that would enable anyone else to pinpoint their geographical origins, de-contextualized abstraction in this case being the artist’s fully-realized goal.