Eoghan McTigue, 'Taking Place', CIRCA Magazine, Winter 1999

[...] Mark Orange's soundwork interviews refer directly to the mechanisms by which sites are constructed, both physically and perceptually. They work like a kind of audio two-way glass, in which we can apprehend numerous aspects of a building simultaneously while, at the same time, being able to figure ourselves and others in terms of those representations. Adopting the customary format of a standard radio documentary, the audio element is a montage of established documentary formats, interviews, newspaper reports, baseline soundtrack etc. His interviews nudge an interviewee, usually the architect responsible, through a given building, drawing out his views and intentions. Within the interviews there seems to be a genuine aspiration for a half-decent exchange, Orange offering his own views and opinions as much as facilitating the architect's patter. The discussions range from the purely topographical (the use of materials, the facades, walkways and vistas) to the aspirational (the aims and achievements) to what is represented in a broader context (how these buildings have shaped and influenced people's experiences). Toor O' Fable, Pearce Institute, Glasgow, and Interview with Victor Robinson, Belfast Waterfront Hall, both 1997, are typical. Both consist of a CD soundwork played through a portable radio and placed alongside a free-standing photograph, a stretched facade shot of the former Lyceum Cinema in Govan, Glasgow, and a fashion photograph of a model perched, splay-legged, on a bench in the Waterfront Hall respectively. Both sound works take us on a guided tour that starts on the outside and leads us through the space, ending up in each of the buildings' core auditoriums.

In Toor O'Fable the soundtrack starts off as dramatically as the building's facade: the booming pomp of an unacknowledged voice recounts an early newspaper report of the impressive and ceremonious experience of walking through the main entrance of the former cinema. This is intercut with a local architect's genuine and heartfelt streetside analysis of the façade's current state of disrepair, and an elderly discussion group's attempts to grapple with their own fast-fading memories of characters and films they remember from the cinema's heyday. Three alternating perspectives take us through the building's various stages. Here the site is not defined as a precondition, rather it is generated through the work; the cinema comes back into being as a site through these multifarious and contingent articulations. At the same time the illusion of an unmediated encounter, implied by the 'actuality' of the narrative segments, is undermined both by experiencing so many subject positions within the same frame of reference, and because the mimicking of documentary style dramatises 'verité' as a combination of representations that are bound to their own codes and conventions.

Interview with Victor Robinson gives less away. An interview with the building's architect is offset against a soundtrack by David Holmes. The dialogue is a one-dimensional monologue from the architect who never quite manages to raise his game above the purely technical and presentational. From the fine civic sentiments of the outset, connecting the "roundness" of the building to its "public" duty, through its vistas and walkways and on to Robinson's account of the imperceptible "cocoon" of air conditioning that surrounds each individual member of the audience in the core auditorium, we get a sense of the ever-decreasing circles of civic space envisaged by the building's detailing and the concomitant spiralling aspirations for community interaction. However, even if the building is slightly over-determined structurally, it is nevertheless presented as 'open' and unprogrammed—there is an implicit invitation to "be part of what's going on in the building"8. In keeping with this spirit of optimism, the photograph, a reference to that genre of fashion photography that uses architecture as a backdrop, is used here by Orange as "a way of trying out the buiIding"9. This is an invitation that is reflected back to us in the model's image. Her pose extends a mirror image of our own posture, sitting on the seating provided, tilting our heads, ears straining to catch the fragmented monologue. The importance of the mirror in this context is not to reflect the subject's image back to the subject but, as Henri Lefebvre would put it, to extend "a repetition" of the subject, "immanent to the body into space"10. In both pieces the combined elements of each installation reflect aspects of 'the site' back to us and facilitate our self-projection into the spaces represented. This creates a degree of self-awareness as we decide when and with which image we should identify. However, instead of arriving at some transparent consciousness, we come to acknowledge the contingency of our own perceptions. Our identification with one or other of these representations only points to our will to identify and not to some underlying truth. More so: we see ourselves as a constituent element of the representation we decide to go with. [...]

Excerpted from an article by Eoghan McTigue first published in CIRCA 90, Winter 1999. Full text here.