Julia Eckhardt


On a rainy Saturday afternoon, I travel from Brussels to Ghent to visit an exhibition. I know the two creators but do not know what to expect from their work. At the station, I am warned to make sure to sit by the window to avoid overcrowded trains heading for the coast. This warning is superfluous: the train is not only ultra-long but also almost completely empty.

I had to reserve a ticket at KIOSK in advance because of Corona, and at the occasion I discovered the title of the installation: Sonic Driftwood. And a question was asked in this context, although I can't remember when exactly: "Is listening a creative act?". Intuitively, I am curious about the first of these wordings: what is "sonic driftwood"? Treibholz, drijfhout - what is that anyway? It gives me an association of brackish water, lazily sloshing back and forth close to a shore, of lightly decayed wood, subject to time and circumstances. Driftwood is moved by the water. It is passive, in an unselected company of other things. Together they are in the process of decomposition. I am curious, but also a little apprehensive about the title: isn't almost all sound floating, random, transient, isn't that just inherent to the nature of sound? Seen in this light, the title might turn out to be somewhat gratuitous.

There are now more people getting on the train; muffled voices due to the scattered zither, combined with the persistent but changing frequencies of the train's engine. I leave myself to the drifting of the sounds and my thoughts and fall asleep.

At the entrance of KIOSK, I am informed that a full run through the stretch takes 40 minutes. It is nice to be able to oversee the time, although after 20 minutes it will turn out that the information is not correct - no problem, I'll just stay for the second run through, thankful for the misinformation. I enter, the first thing I see is a water flat, and wonder if there is a leak in the roof. But it soon transpires that there are more, so this is no coincidence. Furthermore, a number of speakers in different directions and some stick-like objects. I try to understand what these are, if they mean anything, or what it would mean if they were not there. The sound is indirect and somewhat muffled, I don't know if I would recognise the sound of driftwood if I didn't know the title - or is it that at all, or am I imagining it? As so often in sound installations, it is not clear what I, the listener, am supposed to do. I step around a bit, then place myself in the middle and after that, change position only twice. Due to the arrangement of the loudspeakers, which project in different directions, the sound is rather immersive anyway, and also mixes with the strong reverberation of the room and sounds from outside. After a while, the sound of the installation takes over and a composition becomes clear, I recognise different sound sources, insects, rain, animals, and so on. However, this becomes less and less important. Instead, I get the impression of a story, or a path that the composition follows, and I am reminded of an installation I once visited by Annea Lockwood, where she follows the river Danube and strings together small sound vignettes which crossed her path.

Gradually, the whole thing takes on a certain shape for me, and I can relax into it. I stop asking myself too many questions, wanting to understand something - why this sound or that, why birds, why a subwoofer - but let myself drift. In the space of KIOSK there is a special acoustic, with a lot of reverb and a constant presence of the outside. Inside and outside are very different, but they make a whole. And now I think it dawns on me what the title refers to: a certain interchangeability or randomness of the sound material with which the composition is made, and which cohabits with the space and the outside, in coincidence with the weather, time, and myself and my state of mind. Still, the found sounds are made into a distinct composition, where decisions have not been made accidentally. And finally, I get the feeling that it is actually me, the driftwood of this installation.