At the centre of Kristof Georgen’s installation Leerstand is a disused kitchen with its acoustic aura of residual machine noises, of pots, plates and glasses. In this multi-channel noise-sound-composition of found acoustic fragments—in the course of which a blow struck upon a big, empty pan can produce a sound resembling that made by a Balinese gong—the sound is introduced into the space by loudspeakers, some of them visible, others cunningly concealed. The now obsolete instruments of cooking amount to an ideal field of alien noises, recorded as an intimate process of the mysterious, as phantomlike acoustic traces. The noises break through the onerous silence of the empty space that is no longer in use, invading it as if detached from the physical vehicles by which they were once triggered in the same space. The spectral acoustic search for immaterial traces finds its correspondence in the optical elements of the installation. Out of a monitor’s flickering grey picture flash glimpses of a searching movement through the kitchen, recorded by hand camera. The movement creates an optical trace whose physical references are not shown to the visitor. Plates—coated with forensic finger-printing powder—remain in the kitchen as if left over from the criminal investigation. The gusts of steam rising from the oven are a trace, but no longer the essence, of the baking that once took place inside it. Even if the aforementioned components match each other and the walk through the space becomes an impressive experience of installation combined with acoustic composition, Kristof Georgen does without narration, relying instead of the visual-acoustic »pitch«—referring, ambiguously, both to that of the emotions and of the resonance bodies.
It is no coincidence that this method of proceeding recalls a masterpiece of the horror film. Robert Wise’s The Haunting of 1963 tells of a house possessed by ghosts. In contrast to the high-end special effects of latter-day Hollywood cinema, Robert Wise produces an uncanny atmosphere by separating noise from its optical representation. In Kristof Georgen’s Leerstand too, the extraneous noises and tones are no longer assigned to their source and remain »uncanny« in the Freudian sense of the »das Unheimliche« that defines dread as the idea of something able neither to be located nor categorised.
Viewed in this context, the documented kitchen noises are elements compelled to return, although this procedure is not discernible as an action carried out. Elements that originally belonged to a whole return to a space as foreign intrusions on the acoustic plane, and by doing so invade— likewise in a sculptural sense—from outside to inside.
The technique of loop-controlled insertion of sounds puts the acoustic events into the state of a repeated continuum, in this way forming a large-scale refrain. In his sound installation refrain I (Bühne) made for the Friedrichsbau in Bühl in 2008, Kristof Georgen returns to the loop concept. In line with the musical term »refrain«, the installation tackles the dialogical principle met with in everyday life in the form of fan choruses from soccer stadiums, enthusiastic audiences singing along at pop and rock concerts, and the rituals of applause in the cultural and political contexts. By singing along and clapping, the listener or viewer takes part in the collectively experienced event as an acoustic actor, co-shaper and controller who reacts and repeats in the sense of a refrain. The relationship of crowds and individual is articulated as an important relational phenomenon of the modern era.
Thus, on the one hand we encounter the individual as an actor of the political or cultural stage and representation, and on the other hand we see the individual’s confrontation with the anonymous masses. The dialogue between stage and auditorium takes place over the ritual of encouragement and approval that surges from below to above in the form of applause or voting. In either case, it is the work of the hand: persuasive gesticulation as a performance, shown in the video film of refrain I (Bühne), the clapping of hands as voting in the acoustic context, played over the external loudspeakers of the installation. The visual and acoustic elements collated and composed along these lines make clear Kristof Georgen’s mode of proceeding: the compilation of materials not merely in a space, but also for the space and its context. The multifunctional nature of the exhibition space (Friedrichsbau Bühl) as a concert hall, assembly room of the local council or place of performance for folk culture here too leads us directly to the theme of refrain as a form of dialogue between individual and masses, and became a trigger for the realisation of the work. Replayed in the closed space of the exhibition, the sounds recorded in exterior locations (stadium, concert) connect the exterior with the interior. In this way, the Friedrichsbau takes effect as a place of public discourse on the external arena of communal space, and the same holds true for the resounding acoustic phenomena of collective events such as rock concerts and soccer matches.