American interdisciplinary artist and composer Yann Novak returns to 901 Editions with his 4th edition for the label following Blue.Hour (2013), Undefined (with Richard Chartier, 2013), and Liminality (with Fabio Perletta, 2014). His new venture takes the form of a book and CD documenting the history of his series of works Stillness (2010–2017) through essays, photographs, and an audio CD.
Stillness takes its inspiration from the two climates Novak has inhabited: Subtropical in Los Angeles and Oceanic in Seattle. In these works he investigates these climates’ almost static meteorological states and their emotional effect on their inhabitants. Constructed from numerous photographs of the horizon and shortwave radio signal tuned to static in each location, the source material is intended to captures a literal portrait of these climates. These elements are then digitally altered to create an ambiguous abstraction, leaving enough of the source to guide the experience and define the location, but abstract enough to create an immersive environment perfect for contemplation and personal reflection.
The book includes essays by Independent Curator Suzy Halajian and Director of Audience Engagement at The Broad Ed Patuto. In her essay Unbound Time, Halajian explores how these works ask us to question what can an understanding of time look like when it is not measurable, containable, or even expressible? In Patuto’s essay Stillness at The Broad, he expands on why Stillness was chosen as the first artwork to be exhibited in the renowned Los Angeles museum’s massive third floor gallery. To compliment the essays the book includes photographs documenting three iterations of the work, first in London and then twice in Los Angeles. The Audio CD rounds out the edition with abridged versions of the sound elements from Stillness.Subtropical and Stillness.Oceanic, mastered for home listening by Lawrence English.
Due luoghi in cui l’autore ha trascorso parte della sua esistenza: Los Angeles e Seattle. Due mondi a sé, due insiemi d’individui e due diversi climi: subtropicale il primo, oceanico il secondo. Due serie di fotografie dell’orizzonte, scattate in tempi diversi nelle due città, poi rielaborate digitalmente e infine assemblate in forma di video istallazione. Due montaggi sonori di onde corte, capta te nelle due diverse metropoli in base agli strati riflettenti della ionosfera. “Stillness” di Yann Novak è la sintesi di tutto questo, un lavoro composito che nel corso del tempo ha assunto diverse forme e dimensioni: dall’istallazione per singolo videoproiettore, quattro speaker e un computer del 2010, a quella per cinque videoproiettori, otto speaker e quattro computer presentata al The Broad di Los Angeles nel 2015, sino al dittico del 2017 per due stampe digitali su pannelli fonoassorbenti e diffusione stereo in loop. Un percorso ricco di spunti e d’idee, ben sintetizzato dalle immagini e dai testi contenuti in questo curato booklet della 901 Editions a cui è allegato anche un cd, con il soundscape delle istallazioni riproposto in forma di doppia composizione dall’identica durata. Quadri sonori in movimento, che attraverso semplici frequenze e impercettibili variazioni già trasmettono un senso di profonda consapevolezza e di equilibrio, immergendo l’ascoltatore in un flusso omogeneo di luce e suono.
— Massimiliano Busti, Blow Up Magazine #257 (October 2019)
As the sonic component of an audio visual exhibition, Stillness finds the LA-based artist expanding on his long running investigation into widescreen ambience that is the aural equivalent of a Hiroshi Sugimoto seascape.
The album is divided into coastal-related themes: Subtropical and Oceanic, each representing the two climates that Novak has inhabited, Los Angeles and Seattle respectively. Each place has a fairly constant weather state, and the tracks here mirror that fact in their almost-frozen structure. Novak works his sound canvas in slow strokes, the layers moving in ultra-slow motion, but what motion there is plays tricks with the listener’s perceptions.
Both pieces share the same initial conception and construction, with shortwave radios having been tuned into static in each location. This approach reminds me of Stephan Mathieu’s Radioland album which processed similar radio static with wildly long delays, but where Mathieu’s pieces had a lighter, more ethereal quality, Novak’s two tracks here are deeply layered, like multiple horizons stacking on top of each other. It’s this weightier aspect that I find alluring in Novak’s work. Sure, there is an ultimate sense of drift/drone, sometimes with loops reverberating into a chasm of reflection, but there is also an emotional quality present, and Stillness is no exception.
The album’s first half consists of Subtropical, and the humid haze equated with LA hovers above the speakers like a heat mirage. To my ears, it’s the brighter of the two pieces, as if the Californian sunshine and azure skies have insinuated their way into the slightly-shifting particles. Oceanic is somewhat darker, a more overcast shade to its more rigid framework. I like this contrast, one half of the set is bathed in vibrancy while the other is cloaked in monochrome.
Both pieces are extremely abstract and allow the listener to project their own subjective ideas into their meditative spaces. And this is the real beauty of Novak’s career in the sound art world: his music is one that creates a particular headspace, one that opens the senses while simultaneously depriving them of variation, like the mind altering states of consciousness achieved in a floatation tank. This is music to lose your track of time in, to let your mind wander and contemplate in an ambiguous sonic space.
— Darren McClure, Toneshift
Yann Novak‘s back with more 901 Editions after Blue.Hour (2013), Undefined (w/ Richard Chartier) (2013), and Liminality (w/ Fabio Perletta) (2014). Stillness is a multimodal document of the eponymous installation’s history, one deriving inspiration from the two climates Novak has inhabited–subtropical LA, oceanic Seattle. Constructed from numerous photos of the horizon and static-tuned shortwave radio signal in each location, capture of a literal portrait of these climates sought to explore their meteorological states and the emotional effect on their inhabitants, with enough source material left to guide and define, abstracted for digital alteration to create a zone for reflection. Halajian’s Unbound Time explores how the works interrogate our understanding of time, not being measurable, containable, or even expressible; Patuto’s Stillness at The Broad expands on the choice of Stillness as first exhibit in LA museum’s 3rd floor gallery. The book includes photos documenting three iterations, one in London, two in LA. The audio captures abridged versions of sound elements from “Stillness.Subtropical” and “Stillness.Oceanic” mastered by Lawrence English.
— Alan Lockett, Igloo Magazine
American composer and artist Yann Novak returns to 901 Editions with Stillness, his fourth release for the label. It comes in the form of a book and CD, documenting the history of Stillness, a series of works which ran from 2010 to 2017.
Novak has to date inhabited two different states with two opposing climates, despite both running along the West Coast: the subtropical in Los Angeles and the oceanic in Seattle. Stillness lives in between the two, sharing deep contrasts and marrying polar opposites: one drone is clammy, praying for rain, while another will wait patiently for the dispersal and eventual clearance of an overcast sky. Featuring horizon-photographs and shortwave radio signals tuned to static from each location, Novak captures both climates and the relationship of that climate to the local atmosphere. It entangles with the region, no matter where that may be.
Despite cultural differences and fluctuations in temperature, the two areas share something other than the kiss of the sea and a coastal location: they share almost-static meteorological states. The clouds in Seattle refuse to lift, resembling June’s forlorn London sky, while palm trees swelter in a soporific daze just east of Sunset Boulevard. A breeze may come in from Santa Monica, but it isn’t enough to drive away the sizzle of the sun at high noon, and a drifting drone lulls the listener with a prolonged siesta, drooping in the face of ultra-bright sunshine.
The clouds bring depressed feelings – pressing upon the listener, altering emotions and minds. The drone of ‘Oceanic’ is cool enough for a sweater, echoing like a lone foghorn. It comes as quite a shock after the initial suntan, like landing at a rainy Stansted Airport after a two week stay in Ibiza: a super-soaker of a change, a cold shower that erases the tan in an instant.
But let’s not forget one thing – we’re still on the coast. As such, low clouds encase and roll over the listener, replacing the vanilla of a cirrus cloud with the gunmetal grey of ground fog, streaming through the fingers with their ungraspable vapours. The drones are the epitome of stillness: not budging, adamant, and stubborn. Even though the seconds continue to tick, time seems to stop. The climate doesn’t run to a schedule: it only moves on when it moves on. As such, Stillness lives outside of time, moving slower than the slowest of slow motion to the point of never moving at all.
— James Catchpole, Fluid Radio