In Phibsboro, a Pair of Artists Delves into the Media’s Stray Signals

It’s the launch of All Times Now Nothing’s first album, Tears Voyuer, at The Hut and groups of audience members are between chatting and glancing at an old tube television at the front of the room.

Composed of Alfred Brooks and Clíona Ní Laoi, All Times Now Nothing is an audio-visual art project that takes attendees to their live shows on a journey into the stray signals of broadcast and online media.

“We’re trying to make a live collage, basically,” says Brooks, via Google Hangouts, of the show. “Between the stuff we’ve made before and the stuff that’s coming out live.”

At the launch, Brooks and Ní Laoi sit on the ground upstairs in Phibsboro’s The Hut, coils of wires spread out in front of them, as well as laptops, various types of foot pedals and a sampler, and test their gear before kicking off.

The small tube television on the table behind them shows Marian Keyes being interviewed by Ryan Tubridy. It’s hooked up to the array of gadgets that sprawl in front of the duo while white sheets are draped in front and behind them to catch projections.

“It’s just taking all this information from all these different times and putting it into one kind of performance, I suppose, but kind of consolidating it into a new type of meaning,” says Ní Laoi.

Hauntological Dreams

All Times Now Nothing came together when Ní Laoi was living in Berlin and working with Brooks.

They realised they’d a shared interest in Mark Fisher – a writer known for popularising the concept of hauntology, which is central to the work of All Times Now Nothing.

“It’s the theory of excavating all you can from times that you never lived in,” says Brooks. The aim is to try and create new meanings.

And both Brooks and Ní Laoi realised that their art work – Brooks as a musician and composer, Ní Laoi as a multimedia artist with a particular interest in using archaic technology – was using archival footage in similar ways.

They were both incorporating old VHS. “We were both so surprised that we were both doing that,” says Ní Laoi.

They began jamming together with VHS, bringing different elements of their work together – and thus All Times Now Nothing was born.

A typical All Times Now Nothing show incorporates a live recording of the television fed through Ní Laoi’s webcam, and Brooks using his sampler to regurgitate particularly apt lines that may appear in advertisements, chat shows, domestic dramas, teleshopping channels – whatever might appear at that specific moment.

The performance at The Hut is no different.

Live Performance

Images flicker on the television as Ní Laoi flicks through the channels, one image faltering for a moment before being substituted for another.

Tubridy interviewing Keyes. Beautiful bodies on Love Island. Graham Norton clapping. A nondescript domestic drama.

Ní Laoi holds a webcam to the television like a doctor using a stethoscope to examine a patient. On the projection sheets above them, black stripes move rhythmically over the face of Keyes.

The TV’s two-pronged aerial falls to the ground and the image of The Late Late Show is blurred into zigzag terrestrial waves that Ní Laoi further incorporates into the visuals.

Meanwhile Brooks is going back and forth between sampler, pedals, and laptop.

An ad for hair-care brand Pantene is being manipulated. The line “You’re in control” is being fed through the sampler, reverberating back through the room.

Over Google Hangouts later, Brooks says that although much of the show is improvisational, a response to what is happening live, they also have stores on their laptops of previously sampled material, as well as a collection of text taken from YouTube comments ready to enter into Google Translate in order for them to be spoken within the show.

“We’ve got it all there in files so when we’re doing the thing live, it gives us a chance to respond to what’s happening,” says Brooks. “There’ll be a line on the TV that’s mildly existential and I’ll sample it.”

Over the sample of “You’re in control”, Ní Laoi makes her way back to the laptop and a haunting robotic voice makes its way into the performance, repeating “I’m mesmerised.” A few laughs break out in the audience.

“Sometimes you uncover the subliminal messages in advertising,” says Ní Laoi, when manipulating the ads that appear on TV and putting them in a new context.

It’s all apart of the hypermediated landscape that we exist in every day, says Brooks, and something that they try to subvert within their work.

Tears Voyuer

Emerging out of the live show came Tears Voyuer, a mesmeric meditation incorporating samples archived during the live shows and jams.

“I remember lying in bed on a Sunday afternoon staring out the window and listening to what they’d sent me,” says Dean McGrath, who runs the label wherethetimegoes, which released Tears Voyuer, via email.

“I dunno but everything there and then, whatever it was, it just blew me away,” says McGrath. “I actually got quite emotional listening to it. “

He thought it should be a record, he says. “That was it, I knew it was the right thing to do, and we went from there and made it happen.”

The music on Tears Voyuer is quite a contrast to the hyperactive world of TV advertisements and YouTube comments.

Instead of schizophrenic samples drawn from the full range of sampling potential that All Times Nothing Now have at their disposal, it’s an ambient journey into the sounds, signals and images that we interact with on an almost constant basis in everyday life.

“You kind of fall into this void with it,” says Ní Laoi, describing the album. “Kind of like how telly does,” she says laughing, her laptop screen reflecting on her glasses.

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Sean Finnan: Sean Finnan is a freelance journalist. You can reach him at [email protected]

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