Gift Exchange



Private project

2015 - 16





In 2015 each member of the group gave the other two members a gift. On 23 January 2016 we met to present our artistic responses to these objects.

  Stefan Gec - GSW Gift Exchange 2016 - video still  

Andrew gave Stefan a lens unit from a large aerial reconnaissance camera (probably from the 1950s or 60s); Louise gave a 1962 45rpm record entitled 'Conquest of Space: Historical and documentary record of the first manned space-orbit flight by Major Yuri Gagarin'


Stefan made a video work, with audio, in which he presented an investigation of his gift objects.


For this, the record had been placed on a rotating turntable in the normal way, although with the lens unit added on top, off centre to the turntable spindle. Videoed in close-up, the concentric lines of the smoothly rotating record are periodically sliced across by the metal and glass arcs of the off-centre lens. The result is like a detail-view of a DIY orrery, devised to show not the Solar System, but a collection of quasi-celestial objects left spinning in the wake of twentieth-century technological progress.


In the video, Stefan (unseen) probes both the grooves of the record and the surfaces of the lens unit with a home-made acoustic stylus (a plastic cup and a pin), whilst creating and manipulating electro-acoustic feedback using the volume control of a video monitor connected to the camera. Snippets from the documentary narrative of Gagarin are heard, barely: the obscuring veil is one of obvious technological inadequacy, but it is suggestive, too, of a disconnect due to the changing nuances of shared culture.


Stefan Gec - video still, 2016. GSW Gift Exchange project, 2015-16.


Stefan gave Andrew a pair of small metal prongs, designed to slide and be locked at different positions along a bar, forming a measuring gauge; Louise gave a set of three, even smaller draughtsman's compasses in a case.

Andrew's first idea - to use his gift objects to gauge distances or sizes in an anti-scientific way - was soon abandoned.

Handling the objects repeatedly, Andrew became interested in how severely limited they all were as sound generators. Each was then dismantled, where possible down to the level of single pieces of metal. Studio recordings were made, as forensically as possible, yielding a bank of object-related voices. Additionally, certain qualities of the gift objects (their number; their relatedness to the radius, circumference and diameter of a circle; their hardness and sharpness) were incorporated into the following compositional rules:

1. Sounds will go around (as if the room is being probed by tiny devices)

2. There will be an interplay of twos and threes
3. Small things shall not be made to seem large, but they may be multiplied

4. The pitch of the source recordings will not be altered
5. There will be no striving to make any object sound like something it is not.

All the objects, and all the rules, were used to make a quadraphonic sound work: Inscriber Rings.

Andrew Stones - Inscriber Rings 2016 - 4-channel audio timeline


Andrew Stones - Inscriber Rings 2016. Section of 4-channel audio timeline.


Louise K Wilson - GSW Gift Exchange 2016 - process image

Stefan gave Louise two small weights (cast metal discs); Andrew gave a cheap 1980s cassette recorder with built-in microphone, and one empty cassette tape.

Louise began by investigating the material potentialities of the two metal weights: for instance, by trying to record the audible effects of encasing them in ice, and thawing them out. She was dissatisfied with the results, but working with the tape recorder put her in mind of her archive of interviews, recorded on her travels as an artist.

Louise made the lateral step of revisiting her archive to create an audio piece that would refer to the drive to collect and record. The work juxtaposes a recording of herself as a child, eagerly interviewing members of her own family with her first tape recorder, with interviews carried out much later: with an IBM scientist; and with cultural theorist Paul Virilio in a noisy café.

Listening with the discarded metal weights and abject-looking cassette recorder between us on the table, we discussed the ramifications of being driven to seek insights from those perceived as exemplars; and the impetus that technology can lend to even the most naive inquiries.


Louise K Wilson

Process image 2016. GSW Gift Exchange project, 2015-16.










All content copyright © the artists and authors

Main text: A.S. 2016