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Sound and Fury: Inside the Installation of ‘The Refusal of Time’

For his latest installation, The Refusal of Time, artist William Kentridge fuses sculpture with digital video and multilayered soundscapes. The viewer stands within the artwork, surrounded by five video screens covering three walls, as well as a sculpture of a man holding a big megaphone, and a giant, wooden, audibly breathing elephant in the middle of the room. On the screens, separate but interwoven program material is accompanied by a multichannel music and sound score. The soundtrack includes music composed by Philip Miller, as well as spoken word, including Kentridge’s own voice projected from the megaphone, and, of course, the elephant’s breathing.

Engineer/sound designer Gavan Eckhart is responsible for configuring the sound elements of the installation. He chose the PreSonus AudioBox 1818VSL as the central audio hub. A four-channel bed of music is sent, via four of the AudioBox 1818VSL’s outputs, to four JBL Eon powered monitors. On top of this mix is Kentridge’s spoken-word soundscape. Here, Eckhart had to find a creative way to achieve just the right metallic, low-fi sound. “The megaphones are a big component of the whole piece,” he says. “I came up with the idea to just grab some car speakers and mount them in tin cones on tripods and see if it worked. Fortunately it did. That low-quality rattle and hum those cones produce is actually part of the beauty of the piece.”