8 channel audio installation, metal, take away poster, 22:30 minutes, 2014/2016/2017
A single robotic voice is heard from a large metallic speaker in measured, staccato bursts. Synthesized and genderless, it delivers instructions, admonishments and encouragements: dogma. It is both overlord and oracle.
This Is Before We Disappear From View is a fiction that holds a mirror up to philosophies of discipline and control, and to the ways in which these philosophies can be subverted. The work was first developed for the 19th Biennale of Sydney as the artists’ response to Australia’s mandatory detention of so-called ‘illegal’ asylum seekers, a policy that stages deterrence in the form of offshore prisons of hopelessness and dread.
In our practice, we have an abiding fascination that certain architectural forms act on us in ineffable ways. These architectural forms (the cave, the tunnel, the temple, the hut, the stairwell, the turret, the panopticon) make certain spiritual and secular 'fictions' manifest.
19th Biennale of Sydney: You Imagine What You Desire (2014); Borders, Barriers, Walls, MUMA Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne (2016); and This is a Voice, MAAS Museum of Arts and Applied Sciences, Sydney (2017)
An accompanying poster or wall text provides a list of resources:
Reading List / Sources
Miran Božovič (ed.), ‘Introduction: An Utterly Dark Spot’ in Jeremy Bentham, The Panopticon Writings (1995)
Charles Dickens, ‘Philadelphia and its Solitary Prison’ in American Notes (1842)
Robin Evans, The Fabrication of Virtue: English Prison Architecture 1750-1840 (1982)
Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish (1975)
Michael Ignatieff, A Just Measure of Pain: The Penitentiary in the Industrial Revolution 1750-1850 (1978)
Franz Kafka, In the Penal Colony (1919)
Maider López, ‘User’s Manual’ from Making Ways project (2013)
Karl Marx, ‘The Power of Money’ in Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts (1844)
Nikos Papastergiadis, ‘Confined Abyss: Art in the Dusk of Reason’ in Sonia Leber & David Chesworth: Almost Always Everywhere Apparent (2008)
Anthony Trollope, ‘Port Arthur’ in Australia, P. D. Edwards and R. B. Joyce eds (1968)
Maggie Weidenhofer, Port Arthur: A Place of Misery (1990)
The artists gratefully acknowledge the assistance of the Australia Council.
'The work exists significantly in the realm of the imaginary. In this environ, the ultimate power of the sound work resides in the activated unconscious of the visitor, who must grapple with an overwhelming barrage of sensory stimuli.'
- Juliana Engberg, commissioning curator
‘The challenging spaces of Cockatoo Island traditionally test Biennale artists and curators. Among the highlights here…is the audio work by Leber and Chesworth. This is Before We Disappear from View, 2014, is installed in an old coal bunker, where an antiquated loud speaker transmits an authoritarian voice speaking with poetic obliquity of submission and resistance to penal systems.
- Toni Ross, Artforum, Summer, 2014
‘Alongside the big video is big sound: Rufus Wainwright’s unmistakable voice in Gordon’s Phantom, 2011; Sonia Leber and David Chesworth’s eerie This Is Before We Disappear from View, 2014; the brutal sound track of Ignas Krunglevicius’s excellent Interrogation, 2009; and the remarkable interaction between the sounds of children and geothermal energy in Mikhail Karikis’s Children of Unquiet, 2013–14—to name just a few examples.’
- Anthony Byrt, Artforum, 24 March, 2014
Installation view at 19th Biennale of Sydney, photo credit: Sonia Leber
Installation view at MUMA, photo credit: Sonia Leber, Christian Capurro