The vectors sound and architecture are central to the work by Mark Bain. Using experimental technologies he searches for new ways in artistic production. More concretely he designed a system by which he 'can listen to buildings', a device that acoustically transcribes the movement of noise through materials and structures. With set-ups of dozens of seismological sensors he collects micro-vibrations that occur on buildings which he subsequently translates into sound.
From February 2006, 'Power Plays' diligently went in search of a detached house that Bain could demolish using vibrations and sound waves. Partly thanks to requests in the media -both Radio 1, De Morgen, Het Belang Van Limburg and Het Laatste Nieuws enthusiastically took up the project 'Power Plays' found an empty house in Genk on the Hasseltweg, at the crossroads with the Landwaartslaan. In the restaurant and residence of the former reception hall K. Palace Bain installed vibrating generators, seismological sensors, microphones and a network of loudspeakers and electronics to have the building tear and to be able to strengthen those sounds.
'Soundhouse' was an experiment, in the literal sense. Bain had after all destroyed parts of wall for example or presented his destructive techniques in a museum space (respectively in 2004 'Musee D'art Moderne de la Ville De Paris, and in 1999 - De Appel, Amsterdam). However he had never attempted a real house. Moreover he doubted whether his equipment would be able to make short shrift with the robust K. Palace.
On 13 May 2006 it was clear they were not: after just over an hour Bain's four vibration motors had burned out and the former residence/restaurant was skillfully demolished by a bulldozer. Bain's 'Soundhouse' was not a failure however. His theatrical action stood for a shared experience that called for reflection.
* On 13 May over 2000 viewers visited the Hasseltweg to take part in 'Soundhouse'. The former K. Palace was situated on the Hasseltweg, the main axis between Hasselt and Genk. This 'car-shopping boulevard' or 'road shop' is a place where medium to large businesses have positioned themselves as retailers by selling directly to consumers travelling by car. The Hasseltweg has traffic and parking problems, difficulties with the quality of living and problems with the location of the shops. The administrations (city, province) had been formulating a plan for over ten years. That was implemented in 2006, with the demolition of various buildings. K. Palace was the first in the series and the performance of 'Soundhouse' ensured a resurgence of the discussion on this issue.
Indirectly Bain's 'Soundhouse' called for a reflection on the term a house - and the concept of home. The attempt to demolish a residence raised questions about how we as Flemings, Belgians, Europeans and westerners give shape to the public space in relation to our living patterns. Why do we continue to reorganise ourselves, why to demolish and rebuild? But also: what does it mean to have a house or a home? And what about those who do not have it?
Bain's action was an ultimate and went in one direction: it flirted with the end and contained a power struggle - the swansong of a house was orchestrated by the artist. But 'Soundhouse' also announced the beginning of something new, more specifically
the redesign of a busy main road and a revised division of land, a new shared patrimony.
A debate with the artist, Ive Stevenheydens (curator of 'Power Plays'), Wim Dries (Councillor of the city of Genk), Willy Miermans (director of the Institute for Traffic Science University of Hasselt) and Tom Vleugels (Engineer from the Department of Roads and Traffic Limburg) followed about that - and other - considerations on 13 May after the performance. The evening was concluded with a party in the former cafe 't Branske, opposite the former reception hall K. Palace. During the weeks that followed the former cafe was also demolished.
Perhaps Sound house is more comparable to a rock concert e.g. in aspects present in both the location (the house that was both the scene and the performer), the set-up (cabling, loudspeakers on both sides of the house), the context (the energy of it, but also a wink to bands that destroy their guitars) and the sound (noise, rustling, tearing and cracking).
Mark Bain (1966) was born in Seattle. He graduated with a master in visual studies from the Massachusetts Institute for Technology (Cambridge, US) and studied at the Amsterdam Rijksakademie. Currently he is living and working
in Amsterdam. He previously realised built-in (sound) installations on location for the museum tower of the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen (2004, Rotterdam), for the inner courtyard of the town hall of Cologne (2004) and for the former National Administrative Centre in Brussels (2004). He has amongst others exhibited in the MACBA (Barcelona), Schirn Kunsthalle (Frankfurt) ad the Centre Georges Pompidou (Paris). In addition to expressive sound works, Bain also works as a musician amongst others in the Mutant Data Orchestra.