Visual Arts: What the camera didn't hear
WILLIAM FURLONG IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM LONDON
Saturday 30 January 1999
The images, taken in the late Twenties and early Thirties, are of a group of Wandervogel, a German youth movement, and were printed up from a box of glass plate negatives which Furlong came across in a German market. Each photograph has been given an incongruous sound caption, such as "The Sounds of Footsteps in the City" or "The Sounds of the City at Night", all of which have been recorded and thrown together in an accompanying soundtrack which bounces around the gallery walls.
Eight speakers gang together to emit a cacophony. Bells peal out from one speaker to be echoed from another: a train passes; restaurant chatter burbles away in the corner; birds chirrup; a siren wails; someone coughs; silence descends; or is that the sound of an empty room? A bee begins to buzz, first from one speaker and then several, and suddenly the air is filled with invisible bees. The cocktail of disparate sounds conjures up a clash of associated images and leaves the head spinning.
In "An Imagery of Absence", Furlong has chosen familiar sounds to both the Twenties and Thirties and now, as a means of linking the past with the present. "The sounds I recorded are those that surround us all the time in the way that ambient sounds do. They are the sort of sounds that would have been around then and pull the images into the present. It is all about what happened next with these images and people."
The photographs are clearly the work of an amateur photographer, at times out of focus or sporting a wayward finger over part of the lens, but the end results are atmospheric and an evocative historical record of the German youth movement in the inter-war years. The activities of the great outdoors are presented in a romantic light: this is an idyllic pastoral existence where everybody is at one with the land - a visual aesthetic which artists were later encouraged to reproduce under the Third Reich.
Youth groups were numerous and popular in Germany between the wars, but all of them were eventually channelled into the Hitler Youth movement in 1939, when membership of that group was made compulsory. And while the peacetime pictures shown here capture an innocent enjoyment of outdoor life, it is impossible for them not to call to mind future events.
And on leaving the gallery, head still reeling from the barrage of discordant sounds and images, the Second World War British Spitfire and German Focke- Wulf suspended from the roof of the Imperial War Museum, appear more than a little apt.
William Furlong `An Imagery of Absence', the Imperial War Museum, Lambeth Road, London SE1 (0171-416 5000), until 28 February. Entrance to the museum, pounds 5 (adults)
Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Marijuana use by teenagers does not result in a lower IQ or worse exam results, study finds
- 2 Watch what happened when food critics were unknowingly served McDonald's
- 3 Jimmy Carr's controversial Oscar Pistorius joke goes too far at the Q Awards
- 4 Australian café owner sparks debate after saying 'No' to having unruly children on premises
- 5 NHS staff banned from drinking tea or coffee on the job because it looks like they're not working hard enough
MOBO Awards 2014: Jess Glynne hits back at 'ridiculous' criticism of nominated white artists
American Horror Story season 4, Fox - review: Silly, sensational and sensitive
The Apprentice 2014: Nurun Ahmed and Lindsay Booth fired in double elimination
MOBO Awards 2014: Sam Smith sweeps the board with four gongs
The Apprentice, episode 3 - review: Lord Sugar hacks away at the deadwood with double elimination
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991' with most Brits wanting to stay 'in'
Thousands with degenerative conditions classified as 'fit to work in future' – despite no possibility of improvement
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters