No-sound (Ikkelyd)



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Read the text by Theodor Barth on All-Sound/No-Sound


Ny Musikk (Norwegian section of the International Society for Contemporary Music) asked us to do a purely visual project about sound in public space. For this project we co-operated with Felix Weigand to develop an alphabet that is playing with visual musical references. We used this alphabet to write sound-words in parks in Oslo, Berlin and Amsterdam. The parks provide a stage, a certain structure and rhythm. Just as a musical piece can be performed any number of times, the action was repeated and performed in several different locations.


The photo documentation was shown at the exhibition ‘Ikkelyd/Masselyd’ at Sound of Mu, Oslo, December 2006.




The House was tall and reached up for the sky it was made of steel concrete and glass and nobody had ever seen the top floor.

At night sea birds came flying into the building and fell down on the sidewalk in a circle around the house it always rained.

You have now got an office inside the house they said. I have nevr had an office I have nevr wished I had an office I don’t need an office I don’t even have a job.

They looked at each other with an overbearing smile and said that the door-sign had already been fixed.


Trond Botnen




First: dis-play! I give you end of play. OK? Let me dis-continue: a spectacle of some sort is being summoned (perhaps even a show). A pristine, yet, a sundry form of play. A double play. Had we been talking about being it would have been Shakespeare – or, by now, Derrida. So, I will be forthright and bold with you (if you will be so kind to allow me): double-play is in for design – as double-writing, it has been argued, was in for deconstruction. A different sort of law, or jurisprudence, indeed.

As far as I know, NODE/F+M have never broken the law. But they have been silent about it, or – on the contrary – contoured themselves with decibels in high numbers. NODE has explored different aspects of attracting the law, and has – upon a number of occasions – succeeding in attracting the attention of the police. In the Estonian capital Tallinn, for instance, NODE organised a demonstration with white banners (without slogans): because NODE had deliberately omitted to alert the police and someone (deliberately) drew their attention to the matter; but as the police arrived at the scene they decided that this could not be a demonstration, since the slogans were without content.

A beautiful story about the short-hand of law, and about how people re-play, even as they come uninvited, or they dis-play and a number of other interesting things happen.

In Oslo NODE and Felix Weigand (F+M) were challenged by Ny Musikk (Norw. New Music) to create a musical – or, aural – happening without sound. Again they deliberately failed to ask for permission. The event was organised in silence, after nightfall till the early morning hours, as they proceeded to dis-play a special type of sound-writing, produced specially for this occasion on white and coloured paper, and posted it on poles, trees, benches, garbage cans and fountains in Birkelunden park. Sometimes the letters were composed in such a way that they would form sound-words – on oblong objects that were well-fitted for this purpose: such as benches.

But even as the letters were thus grouped they were never readable to the end before they dissolved into the sound-writing created by NODE/F+M: they simply dis-played. From an external point of view NODE/F+M emulated Francis Picabia, dADA and some formal elements from the Russian Suprematists: sonic artefacts, which, with the designer’s distance – like aerial photographs – are transformed into abstract events. These elements were references to the period between WWI and WWII, and departed from the classical and symmetric architecture of the park itself. Personally, I think that this choice resonated with the historical monuments in the park: for instance, a memorial for the Norwegians who fell in the Spanish Civil War.

From an internal point of view, however, NODE/F+M is closer to Bauhaus. NODE/F+M uses abstraction as a function: after a short journey into the realm of meaning the eyes of the reader return to the form that follows function: which is to create sound... i.e., sound in a moment before sound is created – the track that side-tracks the sound-track. The result is a strange absence of sound: a silence pervasively pregnant with sound. The reader is held back from the sound about to play, and can do little else than linger over the sound-types as such. The types dis-played.

NODE/F+M thereby created an arche-writing for Birkelunden, with the message (fair and square): dis-play! Do not ask – just post’em up, and see what happens in the park. And it happened: they saw it, others too… the sheets were up for a while before they were removed by the gardeners.




This was in the early summer of 2006. Some months later, when autumn fell down on Oslo, NODE started to with mass, movement and immobility for Ny Musikk. An aggregate, a buss, a chauffeur with a considerable record as a driver for high-school proms, and the types (from dis-play) glued unto the bus: this time NODE used coercion rather than function to explore the relation between human beings and the type-material.

They proceeded by letting the loud-speakers draw ruthless quantities of power from the electric aggregate, on the roof of the bus, and play contemporary music, with considerable levels of decibels, at a series of selected spots in the city of Oslo: Blindern, Aker Wharf and Stortorvet to mention a few. Cameraman Kristian Krüger – specialised in documentary film – stalked the journey: he caught the bus, from outside and inside. The type material in close-up from outside, and the typical outlook from inside.

Thus, the bus was established as a vessel – a craft to navigate in the gap between the massive sound pouring out of the loud-speakers, via the aggregate, and the energy enfolded into the type material: re-play. The re-play was evidently an exploration and exploitation of energy aspects rather than form, in relation to function, emerging from the refurbished Bauhaus-principle: form follows matter – matter, equals mass, equals energy… round-about in the urban space of Oslo.

The rections of the public were documented as the little troupe from Ny Musikk and NODE moved around from stop-to-top: either they avoided the noisy sonic environment around the body of the bus, rushed angrily to disconnect the power-aggregate, or approached the bus with interest to discuss the noise-phenomenon, or the music, depending on how the material energy they lugged around – hanger, power-aggregate, amplifier and loudspeakers – was received and perceived. In the end, the police turned up to ask them whether they had the required permission to play loud music.

The driver, who was hired for the occasion, turned out to be a valuable ally as the urban adventure unfolded, and the way the bus involved people and places, eventually acquired a reasonably obvious pattern with clearly recognisable elements. He argued, for instance, that the transportable piece should have free passage and its right to claim a place – in time and in space – wherever the bus would stop.

Re-sounding sound, the sound of mass, the sound of passing popular masses. How to make negativity – absence – manifest? Was the type-material pasted on the bus as potential as the sound was potent? Was it transformed into a haven for passers-by who felt the need to connect the abstract music to something concrete? As silent music the midst of noise creates interesting connections and possibilities between energy and use, situations and actions, opinions and decisions.

Actually, the reactions from the public are uninteresting – pace Walter Benjamin – what is interesting is rather the existence of the public, and to intensify human existence in situations where the encounter with the work happens, and the psychological geography of passers-by becomes manifest, alongside a reflection on dis-play is brought up in broad daylight and actualised: to play or not to play… it is not a question. It is the nature of design to dis-play and re-play.



Theodor Barth






Client: Ny Musikk (Norwegian section of the International Society for Contemporary Music)
Format: A4/A3
Credits: NODE in collaboration with Felix Weigand (F+M)
Photos by Knut Bry (Tinagent), Jan Erik Svendsen and Andreas Meichsner