Martin Messier’s installation, SEWING MACHINE ORCHESTRA, invites us to closely observe the choreography of twelve sewing machines orchestrated by computer and amplified by contact microphones.
Like a many-headed metal monster in continual movement, the machines perform with increasing power, flooding the space with a tonality that becomes progressively heavier.
Starting slowly, the rhythm accelerates, generating a cacophonic concert. The installation gradually drives the motors up to top speed, releasing the machines’ full noise potential.
The work is unsettling by the general agitation that emanates from it as the sound composition animating it builds to a crescendo.
Exemplary of precise tool-making, sewing machines play both a personal and collective role in the economy. The objects used here are not industrial. Collected and re-assembled, domestic sewing machines, lined up together and with autonomous action, create an effect of unreality. Ghost objects of another era, they evoke a past transfigured and brought back, de-contextualized,.to the present.
The machines are running on idle. Instead of carrying out their normal, useful roles – making clothes, joining materials together – , in this context, they are unproductive, contradicting their function in the private sphere while still reminding us of their existence as object-tools. In the SEWING MACHINE ORCHESTRA, they are disconnected from their labour-related past and set in a neutral time-space.
The light design, an external but ever-present element, is an important part of the installation. Punctuating the overall choreography, it accentuates the spectral effect of the work and reveals shadows of the past.
« Affranchies de leur finalité fonctionnelle usuelle, les machines, comme enivrées, plongent le spectateur dans une composition sonore aux tonalités presque menaçantes. Une réflexion, peut-être, sur un monde où l’humanité n’aura bientôt plus sa place. » — Antonin Gratien, Virtute.io, 28-02-18
“Thanks to Canadian composer and performer Martin Messier, the acoustic sounds made by these 1940s sewing machines have been orchestrated into a humming, thrumming hymn to the tangential possibilities of everyday objects.” — Mary Brennan, The Herald, 27-03-12
“The resulting clash of mechanical rhythms, flashing lights and the presence of the analog, vintage sewing machines invites a contemplation of the relationship between sound and the objects that make it, a recurring theme in Messier’s work. Multifunctionality is another.” — Benoit Palop, Vice.com, 15-10-13
Concept, programming, light and sound Martin Messier
Technical director during creative process Jean-François Piché