Witness (2000, susan hiller)
audio-sculpture; 350 loudspeakers, 10 cd players, amplifiers, wiring, lights, etc. Witness is an audio work about seeing; In Witness relationships between the visionary and the visualised are mediated by sound. First presented May-June 2000 at The Chapel, 92, Golborne Rd, London (Artangel projects).
“I am a security guard on the Central Pier in Blackpool. I want to keep my job, so I will not give out my name…”
“My name is Jan Pienaar, I am 45 and I farm in Coligny, near Bloemfontein. I know people will dismiss this as rubbish and will think I’m crazy, but I have to let everyone know about what I saw…”
“Call me Anders. On Saturday 23 March 1974, I left a local celebration and decided to walk home, about 5 km away. I had had a few glasses but was still sober. It was a starry, moonlit night…”
“My name is Credo Mutwa. There are things that fly through the night that you call UFOs…”
People see strange things. Lights in the sky, mysterious phenomena, visions and visitations – things they can’t explain but know they saw.
Susan Hiller has been collecting stories of these sightings for years – some of them prosaic and descriptive, like legal testimony, others visionary and marvelling. All of them are facts.
Located in a disused Baptist chapel off Portobello Road in West London, Witness was a major work about seeing and believing. As you entered the chapel you were faced with a low murmur, a multitude of different voices – male, female, young, old – all speaking at different volumes and in several different languages.
They emanated from a mass of circular loudspeakers, hung at varying heights from the chapel ceiling. As you moved from speaker to speaker, you were party to individual eyewitness accounts of UFO sightings. Some were mere glimpses – a flash of metal in the sky, a mysterious disc on a photograph – but there were also closer encounters: visions and voices, abductions and time-distortions.
Inviting us to explore the area where rational systems of explaining things no longer seem to hold, Witness gave a quietly unsettling new form to Hiller’s ongoing fascination with the paranormal.