the absence of inclination

Image description: Soundcloud player showing an audio wave over a black and white abstract image. In the top left hand corner is a with a play button iwith text next to it that reads “Thembi Soddell: The Absence of Inclination (2013). The track length is 6:31

The Absence of Inclination is a 6-minute composition commissioned for Melbourne Now: Now Hear This at the National Gallery of Victoria in 2013 as a headphone work, and later remounted as a 6-speaker installation for You’ve Got Cucumbers In Your Eyes — an exhibition curated by Anabelle Lacroix for the Gertrude Street Projection Festival at Seventh Gallery, Fitzroy, Melbourne, Australia.

In its iteration at Seventh Gallery, 6-speakers were setup within a small room at the back of the gallery. The room was pitch black, with glow tape on the floor to show audience members where they could move safely through the space in darkness, with them free to walk in, around and out as they pleased — the composition swelling and receding in waves around them.

The piece was in part inspired by this quote from Susana Kaysen’s novel, Girl, Interrupted, which was also displayed with the piece in the gallery:

Insanity comes in two basic varieties: slow and fast.

The predominant quality of the slow form is viscosity.

Experience is thick. Perceptions are thickened and dulled. Time is slow, dripping slowly through the clogged filter of thickened perception. The body temperature is low. The pulse is sluggish. The immune system is half-asleep. The organism is torpid and brackish. Even the reflexes are diminished.

In contrast to viscosity’s cellular coma, velocity endows every platelet and muscle fiber with a mind of its own, a means of knowing and commenting on its own behavior. There is too much perception, and beyond the plethora of perceptions, a plethora of thoughts about the perceptions and about the fact of having perceptions.

Susanna Kaysen, Girl, Interrupted

About The Absence of Inclination:

Computers are meant to be the compelling tool of our age, and Thembi Soddell should then be a high priestess of the digital realm. [They use] a more determined method than Chris [Abrahams], storing and recomposing pre-recorded samples on hard discs as sequences to be played and manipulated live. You know the sounds aren’t synthesised, but they’re hard to pin down.

[Thembi’s] new solo work The Absence of Inclination continues [their] interest in imbuing meaning to ambiguity, starting with multiple voices whispering, overtaken by a shocking wall of noise which gives way to a high pitch sine-tone. All this could be read as sound-as-materiality, but somehow you know [they’re] aiming at surrealism – the sound stands for an experience of mental states.

Jim Denley, Resonate Magazine