Telefonia–1291–1991–2021 (2020) is a web platform with comprehensive access to the original material of a three-day telematic performance installation that began simultaneously at three locations on 30 May 1991. Just as the internet was emerging, the Swiss sound artist Andres Bosshard – in conjunction with fellow musicians – developed the idea of a three-dimensional overlapping sound space, where an interaction between soundscapes from three distant places could open up a new dimension of perception of the fundamental spatiality and contextuality of sound.
At 00:00 New York time and 06:00 Swiss time, two groups of eight musicians and performers, one located in the Hall of Science in New York, the other at Kesselschmiede in Winterthur, entered into an acoustic and visual exchange via telephone lines, satellite connections and radio channels. Thanks to the latest technical developments of the time, the artists were able to respond to each other’s performances from virtually the other end of the world and play together with traditional instruments, electronic sound effects and the first digital interfaces. The musicians in Winterthur, set in a sophisticated, interactive light architecture, were also immersed in atmospheric impressions from New York’s Hall of Science and vice versa. At sunrise on the last day, two of the Swiss musicians took their instruments to the mountain summit Säntis, from where their performance was broadcast to New York and Winterthur. The music and performances echoed from the loudspeakers along with the individual acoustics of the three different environments: the bubbling metropolis, the converted industrial setting and the Swiss mountains. Together they formed a soundscape, opening up a new dimension analogous to the advent of the global Internet. The Telefonia-1291-1991-2021 web platform with its comprehensive archive allows viewers to retrospectively explore the performance, which now stands as a harbinger of the digital age as well as its potential for artistic discourse.
A six-hour performance cycle of original archive material lie at the centre of the platform. Six video clips from each of the three coordinates that define the sound space of Telefonia are shown on one channel, with 17 more clips randomly inserted between them in each cycle. These are then overlaid by two further channels, which each play 77 or 58 clips, also in random order. Hence the emotional quality of the architectural sound composition continuously changes, depending on which clips are set in harmony to each other.
Created for the 700th anniversary celebration of the Swiss Confederation in 1291, in the midst of the World Wide Web’s first tentative steps to globalisation in 1991, with the advent of flip phones, SMS and satellite connections, which led to the launch of the platform 30 years later, in 2021. The work opens a perspective view on the pioneering achievements of the moment when a simultaneous and interactive soundscape was sent into orbit. Telefonia embodies sound’s continental expansion, its inseparability from spatial context, as well as being an essential marker of experimental contemporary music.
(Text: Bettina Back)
Independent sound artist, musician and lecturer. Since 2005 artistic lecturer at the Zurich University of the Arts in the Department of Art and Media; head of the department and Sound Study Group since 2016. CTI research project Stadtklang – Klangstadt in collaboration with the Competence Centre Typology & Planning in Architecture (CCTP) at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts. Andres Bosshard is involved in the research project “Reduction of acoustic background pollution in the Limmat valley” on behalf of the Department of Noise Protection and Prevention of the Canton of Zurich. Since 2010, research contracts with Trond Maag from the Federal Office for the Environment Bern and the Cantonal Civil Engineering Office Zurich. 2012 Lecturer at ETH D-ARCH. 2003 Visiting professor at the Academy of Media Arts in Cologne. 1976–80 Studies in musicology and art history at the University of Zurich. 2017 Swiss Music Prize for Sound Architecture.
Publications / Discography / Exhibitions / Works
In 2017, Bosshard developed and produced his project sonicArk – the sound of Aarhus – on occasion of the city’s status as European Capital of Culture. Further large-scale projects include Klangbrücke Donnerbogen, a whispering dome for IBA Hamburg in 2013, Klanghimmel for the 10th anniversary of Museumsquartier in Vienna in 2011 and the sound monument Klangturm Expo 02 Biel in 2002. Since 1995, he has been collaborating with open space planners and architects to create sound architectures in public space. Bosshard started performing with the trio Nachtluft and touring as an experimental musician at international music and sound art festivals in Europe, America, Japan, India in 1980.