sound installation, wood, polycarbonate roof panels
A missing roof is reconstructed. The sound of falling water from a nearby river is amplified in real time. An urgent gap between past and present is sealed.
The vestiges of an abandoned water mill stand alone in the countryside. A large portion of its roof has caved in, while a portion of its waterside façade has collapsed as well. What walls remain, enclose a space of loose bricks and overgrown weeds.
Alongside this area, a white construction rests at an awkward angle between the ground and the building. From certain perspectives this pointed construction resembles a roof, appearing to have “slid” off the mill’s superstructure. From other perspectives the construction appears to be a shed, composed of wooden beams and thick, rippled polyester sheets. Upon entering the construction, one notices that it stands against the mill’s outer wall, creating a slanted, transient compartment. Two shattered windows from the mill’s original façade complete the compartments “interior” and enable the viewer to peer “outside” into the overgrown area within the ruins. Mounted speakers inside the compartment play intermitted real-time recordings of the nearby watercourse, which is also acoustically audible by listening through the open windows.
The construction’s outer appearance clearly mimics the building’s missing roof. Though constructed of new materials, its inelegant position against the decaying façade grants it the posture of having been “cast off” or “discarded” by the wear and tear of time. When comparing the crumbling condition of the original building with the fresh pseudo-roof structure, one witnesses an illogical, mismatched architectural relationship. As if the mill itself had conjured an incongruent concept of its initial design. One realises that despite the picturesque setting surrounding the water mill and its odd, prosthetic annex, these two modules will never fit together. The existence of the second roof conveys an ineffable and nonetheless abortive attempt to replace something gone astray. It poetically discloses that memories decompose along with their host and that the ability to recall or even facsimile a condition lost in time produces only a peripheral synthesis.
Unlike the open panoramic aspects of the work’s exterior, the installation’s sealed compartment takes the viewer “inside” a paradoxical loft of reversed points of view. When gazing through the shattered windows, one looks out into what was once part of the water mill’s main workspace, now overtaken by wild vegetation. While this one-time interior is exposed to the elements, the viewer moves about inside a sheltered room that stands outdoors. Though invisible from inside the constructed compartment, one hears the sound of falling water coming from the mill’s far side. These peaceful acoustics linger in the distance through the open windows, continuing their steady course, unaffected by the passing of time. When this sound is occasionally amplified by speakers inside the compartment, it creates yet another artificial mirroring. The viewer is thus enveloped within three simultaneous reflections of the abandoned water mill: an imitated reflection of its attic, a parallel reflection of its ground floor area and the ambient reflection of its small river.
With her installation, Split-Second, Heidi Voet formulates a multipart equation that both magnifies and diminishes the effects time dictates upon man’s devices. The physical distance separating the new construction and the old mill is at some points indistinguishable, though they stand several decades apart in purpose and function. Moment by moment, the ethereal pressure of time has slowly pushed in the building’s roof, though it took only a split-second for the actual collapse to occur, a split-second stretched into continuance by the water’s endless flow. The construction next to the ruin becomes a remote exoskeleton haunted by the things taken away in time, allowing one to “look back” into the present and hear the ever-present echo of the current moment.