Pillowsongs (1997 – 2001)

Pillowsongs is a sound installation exploring sleep and rest as a space for listening. Recordings mastered on eight different compact discs were mixed into speakers embedded inside pillows on beds installed throughout a darkened exhibition space, lit only dim blue light-bulbs.
Listeners hear these sounds by resting their heads on the pillows – resulting in a very intimate and ‘inside your head’ listening experience. The soundtracks combined field recordings, electronic drones, voices and short-wave radio transmissions. The programming of the CD tracks changed from day to day.

The slowly reconfiguring sound textures, dark lighting, and restful means by which the audiences engage with the work, engage listeners in a highly intimate, and hypnotic hypnogogic listening experience. Listeners often reported a high degree of uncertainty as to which sounds where coming from the pillows, and which sounds had emanated from outside the gallery space. Falling asleep can be an appropriate way of interacting with this work, given our ability to perceive sounds whilst in certain stages of sleep.

 

Exhibition Dates

Northern Centre for Contemporary Art (a.k.a. 24HR Art)
Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia
2000

Salamanca Arts Centre
Side Space Gallery
Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
January 16 – 30, 1997

Gallery 4A
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
1999

Credits

George Khut: Installation concept and sound design

In his sound installation Pillow Songs Poonkhin Khut has created an environment that seems strangely disconnected from the outside world… A violet light-bulb hangs over an unadorned bed, staining the white cotton sheets an iridescent blue. Somewhere a dog barks. Warily negotiating the shadows one becomes aware of other beds which are vaguely reminiscent of dormitories, cheap hotel rooms or convent cells. In the darkness the beds evoke a sense of familiar intimacy and the plain sheets reveal a sensuality which belies their ascetic frugality. Sounds emerge from the pillows like memories made manifest or half-forgotten dreams exposed and rendered audible.

Lying on the rough cotton sheets the inevitable association of light illuminating the darkness to traditional representations of transcendence is thwarted. Instead an overwhelming sense of the temporality of life marked only by fleeting sensations, thoughts and lingering memories is evoked. Implicitly the long hoarded pillows, vestiges of the artist’s past refer to the passage of time and the materiality of the body’s seeping flesh. These ideas are intensified by the physicality of the muffled vibrations of the sound transmitted through the pillows and the gradual awareness of the residues harboured in the crumpled linen of those who have visited the installation before. A strangely intimate and disquieting proximity revealed by the lingering scent of strangers, a stray golden hair and a damp smear on the pillow.

Review by Mary Knights, Artlink magazine, Vol. 18, No. 2, 1998