Micha Seidenberg - Snake Oil (excerpt) - neo
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Snake Oil (excerpt)

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Interdisciplinary, Multimedia
5 tracks

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Added on 10 February 2023


Snake Oil is a video work of Valentina Pini for which I created the soundtrack. It is the first of several works created in collaboration with her. The sound is fully synthesized with a self-built instrument. Both, the development of the instrument as well as the compositional practice on which I started to reflect during the artistic research for this composition had a profound influence on my work.

Valentina Pini developed her work while she was in South Africa for an artistic residency. There she came in contact with Sangomas, the traditional healers from South Africa. "They employ a specific set of fetishes (tokens such as shells, stones, coins, bones, dominos, dices …) to diagnose the causes of the patient’s ailment. This ritual, more commonly known as throwing bones, consist in throwing this sacred set as a way to reach out to the spirit world and ask advice, before recommending an appropriate muti—a traditional medicine based on plants, animal or mineral extracts. Each of these objects is endowed with a distinct significance which, in configuration with the position of the other thrown «bones», will allow the healer to interpret otherworldly messages. Snake Oil shows the functional ambiguity of these tokens beyond their explicit nature—an effect reinforced by the close up filming that somewhat hinders the identification of the individual pieces." (Valentina Pini)

I started to interest myself in the phenomenon of throwing bones or more generally in the setup clairvoyants use to get their answers. It is a particularly universal act because humans do it worldwide, and there are many materials used to create a setup for the ritual (coffee, bones, tee, wood, etc.). What fascinates me is that the visual structure made of bones, coffee or whatever material the visionary uses is aleatoric but I, as “clairvoyant”, act on it as a conscious and intentional interpreter. Following this reflection, my composition transforms metaphorically the act of throwing bones. As an interpreter, the composer acts, reads and deciphers the structures inherited from the “thrown” set and the visual narrative configuration of the video.

Year of creation
Valentina Pini
video, video installation, sound synthesis, valentina pini, soundtrack

Credits and thanks

Video: Valentina Pini, (valentinapini.ch)
Camera: Loris Ciresa
Premiere: Snake Oil, Dienstgebäude, Zürich, 2019
Short Technical Description: video HD, projection (variable dimension), 6’23’’ (loop), 2 channel sound
Label: https://zamzamrec.bandcamp.com/album/replicare

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