What is What

Collaboration with Denise Hawrysio

Frise Künstlerhaus, Hamburg, Germany, 2013


John Wynne


What is What




This work combines my first 'serious' piece of tape music with a video made by Denise Hawrysio for a collaborative installation we developed in Bangkok in the year 2000. The installation in Thailand, entitled Grasping and Clinging, was inspired by a text by Buddhadasa Bhikkhu which deals our sensual attachment to transient objects and desires.  Hawrysio made a series of videos depicting various unachievable or pointless tasks such as combing your hair in the wind, stacking unstable objects or, in this case, trying to hold something that will inevitably melt away.

I chose to work with this video because it relates to the other work I was showing in Frise Gallery, Cold Atlantic, and its use of feedback, which Nic Collins has described as 'the zen-like amplification of nothing’. When I found a copy of my untitled early tape piece made in San Francisco in 1983, I was delighted to discover that it was very close to the the same length as the video, roughly 36 minutes. Both sound and video consisted of a single unedited take: they seemed made for each other. 

The sound piece makes use of a plastic keyboard I found on the street, customised and recorded onto ¼” magnetic tape using a classic Nagra reel-to-reel recorder.


What is What



When I brought the gallery's large video monitor into the space and began to unpack it from the box, I was immediately reminded of the ubiquitous images of people carrying televisions during the looting that took place in London in 2011 (see below). The box seemed to symbolise a nearly universal contemporary object of desire. So I stopped unpacking it, wired it up and decided the installation was complete.