Feedback Chambers / Installation / The Great Escape Festival Sydney / Easter 2007

show n tell (7)

Image: Spooky Mens Choir with sound artist Dan Conway


The Feedback Chambers was a suite of rooms that documented and immersed the observer within a shifting multi-media installation over a three-day period within ‘The Great Escape Festival’. In it’s third year, the festival was a major music + arts event with 10,000 participants, situated within the Newington Armoury in Sydney. As Arts Manager, Lynda Roberts (Public Assembly) was responsible for the curation and delivery of a diverse arts program – working alongside the Mixed Industry (Mi5) festival and production team, which included curators, artists and installation assistants.




The Feedback Chambers drew on the building’s military past as an armament store and it’s contemporary usage as a festival site, relating it back to a broader social and contemporary context – the war in Iraq, which was underway during the time of the festival. The project also offered Lynda a chance to shift focus from the larger scale of the festival to the production of single venue, acting as both curator at a conceptual / spatial level and as an artist / co-collaborator.





Working in collaboration with Ceri Hann (Public Assembly), Chamber One worked with a dual reading of the site through the use of photography. Utilising images taken by audience members from the festival Kodak Photography Gallery and historic images from the Newington Armoury archive, strobe slide-projectors were installed in the chamber, housed within modified armament cases.




Within the dark space, the randomly strobed images were triggered by sound. This referenced staging techniques used within the festival context as well as the disorientation created during military conflict. Both current and the historical images were overlaid for a split second, playing with the idea of flash bulb memory.



The Feedback ‘Sound Chamber’ was an immersive, resonating environment created for five sound artists from FBi Radio Sunday Night at the Movies program. Each artist was invited to develop and perform site responsive works each evening during the festival.


Sound chamber


This room provided Lynda an opportunity to develop a creative armature, in this case, spatial conditions for sound artists to creatively respond to. The armature entailed the use of a smoke hazer, extending the reference used in the Photography Chamber of the festival / military context and a series of programmable lights that slowly scanned the space and the audience.


Through this process, artists were able to transform the space and engage with the audience in ways far beyond what was initially thought possible from a curatorial perspective. Sound producer, Dan Conway invited The Spooky Men’s Choir, who had been performing at the festival, to work collaboratively on a series of acopella works. These were presented live and looped in the space. The resultant performance was a highly charged moment:


“to me the magic felt in that chamber was a combination of history, place, simplicity, technology and architecture. In a room built before electricity, one minute, sound artists would be circuit bending, tweaking, twisting, distorting through mixers and faders; the next, the stripping back of sound to the simplest form. The vocals of a male choir in perfect harmony taking me back. I wondered if those who built and worked in this chamber over a hundred years ago ever marvelled at the acoustics and the beauty of the place and for a minute I imagined them signing.” audience feedback




As curator and artist within this space, Lynda was able to investigate ways to engage with the festival participant on an empathetic and intimate way – as both an observer of other artists work and as a performer creating new sound works with Ceri Hann – reading and responding to a room and it’s occupants in real-time. This might entail the enmeshing of audio from the festival security radios or the looping of field recordings and vox pops from the site earlier in the day.


The audio from this chamber was re-broadcast through FBi Radio Sunday Night at the Movies. The broadcast was received within the chamber via radios and re-incorporated into the final sound performance as a live and final feedback loop.


Project Collaborators: Brett Marix, Nick Mariette, Somaya Langley, Imogen Semmler, Dan Conway, The Spooky Mens Choir. Producer: Clare Holland. Mi5: Brandon Saul, Sharon Longridge, Steve Griffiths.