The Listening Station I
DVD on monitor
Dur: 6m 43s [looped]

click on image to view video

This work was shot on location at the British army communications installation at the summit of Black Mountain, located on the edge of west Belfast. The footage represents some of the very last moving images made of this site as it was, prior to its partial and ongoing disassembly. The site remains ‘active’ in that while the British army has relocated, the few remaining transmitters are still functioning. Enquiries made to the Ministry of Defence, by Jason Mills of The Vacuum, as to the nature of transmissions sent or received at this site remain classified under security regulations.

The Listening Station explores the partial and ongoing decommissioning of this site, through the psychic history of its recent past.  The site was initially put into service during the Cold War and has subsequently figured as a totemic sentinel of Britain’s political and military surveillance of Belfast, being visible from nearly anywhere in the city on its strategic vantage point. The facility is currently being dismantled after the land was sold to the National Trust for environmental conservation in 2005.

The work explores the site as an active agency and its current, ongoing devolution to a former, ‘neutral’ existence. Specific references to both time and decoding are an aspect of the synchronization that forms a structural crux of the work. This is activated through references to the ‘number stations’, ongoing yet implicitly synonymous with espionage of the Cold War period.

The work aims to negotiate the conditions of surveillance, contrasting the exterior panoptic visual profile of the facility against the enclosed and internalized activities of the listener. A dynamic is established between the viewer and the audio, whereby listening, as much as looking, is marked as an activity of production and creates an unstable space where the process of synchronization is in continual formation.

The work employs a version of voice-off as voice-over; the voice of the transmission being positioned as something beyond the visible nature of the site yet implicitly engaged with the apparatus represented within the work.