Pottery has often been associated with memory, and archives. The myth of archaeoacoustics, the possibility to uncover sounds inadvertently recorded onto ancient pottery has appeared in much science fiction and was advocated to scientific possibility by Richard G. Woodbridge III around 1960. This myth plays upon our intimate bound with pottery and its central role in all social occasions over millenniums.
Woodbridge would eventually find an outlet for his paper, in Proceedings of the IEEE, Vol. 57(8), August 1969, pp.1465-6.
Recovering sound from pottery was suggested by Richard Woodbridge in "Acoustic Recordings from Antiquity", Proceedings of the I.E.E.E. 1969, pp. 1465-6). Years later, similar experiments were made in Gothenburg, Sweden, by archeology professor Paul Åström and acoustics professor Mendel Kleiner (see The Brittle Sound of Ceramics - Can Vases Speak? by Mendel Kleiner and Paul Åström, Archeology and Natural Science, vol. 1, 1993, pp. 66-72, Göteborg: Scandinavian Archaeometry Center, Jonsered, ISSN: 1104-3121).
“Tell me a secret, tell me a wish or a regret. What do you long for? Could everything be different?”
Tassophonics explores the possible connections between spoken voice and porcelain. It forms part of a larger enquiry into the relationship between object and meaning, the act of associating a meaning to an object and the ability of that object to continue to hold on to this meaning over time. Will verbalising a wish and placing it into a physical object, change our relationship with the wish and its underlying desire or fear? How will it affect our relationship with the object itself? Will manipulation of the object in turn constitute an conceptual manipulation of the wish?
Why the cup? A cup is made for holding something, a liquid or a handful of seeds. It holds a long cultural association with the unknown, though its use as potential receptacle of drinks and potions and ultimately a canvas for forecasting futures and fortunes, through the reading of coffee and tea leaves. Traditionally the cup is handmade, valuable and fragile. Cups are constantly touched and handled, poured into, held, drunk from, washed, dried and stacked. As a result they break, we cut ourselves on their sharp edges, we sweep the floor for shards. In many cultures the breaking of cups signify social change.
The objective of Tassophonics is to devise a ritual for associating meaning in the form of a whispered wish or regret to a porcelain receptacle. As such the project will run in three stages:
Performative ritual: Devising a performative ritual for using a phonograph to cut messages into everyday plastic cups. Will the value of the object matter? What is changed if you crush the cup in your hand?
Material exploration: Enquiry into the possibility of cutting sound files into unfired porcelain or clay. How will the process of drying, firing, glazing and re-firing affect our ability to cut phonograph sound and retrieve the sound using pick-up needles?
Anthropological experience: Each participant is invited to consider a personal wish or regret and to cut it as a whisper onto a porcelain cup. The ridges left behind by the phonograph serve as ornament on the cup but remain a secret. A stranger may drink from it not knowing what was whispered into it, only that something was said. We will use anthropological enquiry to explore the emotional value of such a secret being made both visible and real but still unreadable. Such a cup could hold a curse or a declaration of love. How does this change its value? How does it affect the relationships involved? Participants are interviewed before, during and after their experience of making their piece of tassophonics.
“Can you fill a cup with your longing?”