LONDON.- Aura Satz premiered a new film and sound installation which centres on the invention of 'frequency hopping', patented in 1941 by Hollywood star Hedy Lamarr and composer George Antheil.
The 'Secret Communication System' enabled radio-controlled guidance of torpedoes by synchronising frequency changes in transmitter and receiver, thus avoiding enemy detection. It drew on Antheil's failed attempt to synchronise 16 pianolas in his 1924 avant-garde masterpiece Ballet Mécanique. It has since become the basis for today's spread-spectrum technology, widely used in wireless telephone and wi-fi technology.
The installation consists of a scrolling screen made from 5 specially commissioned pianola scrolls of Antheils Ballet Mécanique. The screen is in constant motion so that the film creates a complex light play, as the perforated patterns of paper interact and produce patterns on the surrounding walls. In addition, there is a light source behind the screen signalling at infrequent intervals, flattening the film-screen to highlight the materiality of the pianola paper. The film projected onto the scrolling screen is a short extract from Hedy Lamarrs film Come Live with me, which premiered in 1941, the same year she patented her invention. This romantic comedy features the motif of firefly light signals as mating codes, correlating with telegraphy/radio pre-history in heliography lamp signalling and morse code, but equally one of the ways in which their invention suggested the synchronisation of transmitter and receiver. The soundscape is composed of recordings of underwater sounds of submarines and torpedoes from the 1940s, punctuated by the siren sections of Ballet Mécanique.
Auras recent body of works have looked at sound visualisation technologies and the perceptual tension created by the imperfect fit between sound and image, and ways in which this encounter can be a productive questioning of synchronisation in all its cultural, linguistic, political and authoritarian implications.
The installation is one view at the Hayward Gallery.