Nocturne is a live durational performance. For this work, Samson Young collected video recordings of night bombings – predominately U.S. attacks on the Middle East, ranging from the Gulf War to ISIS – and edited the found footage into a film, which plays mutely on the TV monitor. As he watches, Young uses household objects and “live foley” techniques to reproduce the sounds of explosions, gunshots and debris as accurately as possible. This work is conceived as a “Sonic Warfare Training Program,” with Young taking on the role of a training combatant; by the end of the day he will know the Aleatoric composition by heart. His “sound effects” are broadcasted on-site via pirate radio frequencies, accessible via FM receivers both within and outside of the gallery.
Divorced from their violent context, the sounds of war are captivating and sonorous, even beautiful. Young locates and draws from past examples of artists’ direct involvement in warfare. Particularly significant to this exhibition was his discovery of the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops, an American World War II tactical unit known colloquially as the “Ghost Army.” Consisting largely of artists – sound technicians, architects, musicians, actors, painters, and set designers – the unit’s primary mission was to conceive and execute deceptions. They employed the likes of fake radio transmissions, recorded combat sounds, and inflatable tanks in order to create the pretense of an active battlefield and mislead enemy forces. The explicit convergence of artistic creativity and actual military strategy is a crucial moment for the artist; the Ghost Army’s activity provides a rough template for the artist’s own practice.