Ghosts In the Machine
Paranormal-Themed Film POP Kicks Off with Spooky EVP Installations
In recent years, a number of horror concepts have been disgraced (looking at you, Twilight vampires and hunky werewolves) or overplayed (even zombie fans will agree, we’ve seen a little too much of the undead at this point).
This year’s Film POP has decided to take the spooky approach for their theme, but has ditched the washed-up clichés in favour of legitimately spine-tingling subjects—like the bone-chilling whispers of the dead through electronic voice phenomenon.
Voices From Beyond: The EVP Project is the opening presentation for Film POP this year, featuring installations by 10 Canadian female media artists that approach the idea of EVP.
For those not familiar, EVPs are unexplainable sounds that come through radio transmissions, video static, white noise or other types of electronic frequencies that resemble speech—possibly spirits or beings from other dimensions communicating in our realm.
Or, if you’re a sceptic, they’re coincidental interferences mixed with wishful listening. But where’s the fun in that?
One of the artists commissioned for Voices From Beyond is Erin Sexton, a multimedia artist who’s been working with sound improvisation and circuitry for 10 years in Montreal. She says she was thrilled to get in on the ghoulish fun for the project.
“It’s funny, when we had our first meeting Kier-La [the curator] was like, ‘Basically I just want to get a bunch of witchy women together and do a super cool, freaky project,’” Sexton says.
Sexton’s installation will be like the film equivalent of a house of mirrors—she used an electromagnetic amplifier to record the frequencies in the specific POP headquarters room where her work will be shown, along with audio and video.
Her installation will make viewers do a double-take as they realize what they’re watching is actually the very room they are standing in, from the past.
“I want to give the viewer a disorienting experience, reflecting on self-similarity in nature: a room in a room in a room, thinking about how a fractal functions,” Sexton said.
Through her extensive work with electromagnetic amplifiers and utilizing other circuitry, Sexton says she’s come across unexplained sounds through the airwaves, making the hair on the back of her neck stand on end.
“It’s a very interesting experience: you’re alone in your studio and all of a sudden you’re just hearing something, and it’s literally a physical wave that’s moving through the circuit that you’re touching,” Sexton said, adding that such sounds don’t have the signature of a digitally encoded frequency from a police scanner or XM radio.
“Who knows, maybe it’s a bunch of frequencies interfering that somehow sounds like the voice of some interdimensional alien,” she laughed.
Another artist commissioned for the project is Ruby Attwood, a Montreal-based musician and performance artist, and member of Yamantaka // Sonic Titan. Attwood produced a single-channel experimental film for her piece, using music from bandmate Alaska B as the soundtrack.
The film is an “atmospheric presentation” about a woman who has a glimpse into her future, and whose personality splits in two as a result. Rather than focusing on plot, however, Attwood concentrated her efforts on creating an eerie mood, utilizing “dead time” in her piece.
“I was really inspired by this recent interview with Hayao Miyazaki,” Attwood said, referring to a master Japanese animator who recently retired from the trade at the age of 72.
“He talks about this concept of ‘maa.’ It’s an element in film that a lot of filmmakers don’t use. It’s the moments that don’t drive the plot forward, but they show an atmosphere or emotional quality of the characters, and it draws you into the story without advancing the plot,” Attwood explained.
“It’s akin to silence or space in a linear composition. So I was really inspired by that and this film is really just that,” she continued.
“There’s no plot—only this moment, the kind of moment you have when you see a glimpse of your future, and you feel yourself aging.”
But the experimental film is only half of Attwood’s endeavours—she’ll also be hosting a radio-hacking workshop with an esteemed ghost-hunter to show POP-goers how to try to contact the great-beyond on their own. Those who want to try will have to use an analog radio though—Attwood says digital radios are not conducive to traversing planes of existence.
“Exclusively, all the radios that can be hacked in this way are analog, and people don’t use those anymore,” Attwood said.
Perhaps it’s best that digital frequencies from smartphones can’t be hijacked by ghouls, ghosts or goblins—that would be a most unpleasant 3G.
Canadian Horror Story
The POP headquarters floor where the 10 installations for Voices From Beyond are being displayed will be a hair-raising experience in itself, “decked out in creepiness” in true haunted house style.
But for those less prone to things POP-ing out at you, have no fear. While the exhibition will be a little unsettling, it’s not something you’ll have nightmares about in the weeks following the show.
“The artists are working on the more subtle, psychological side of horror and things that are creepy and can’t be explained, rather than a gore-fest,” Sexton said, mentioning that Voices From Beyond will even be fine for kids.
Since the 10 artists were commissioned to come up with their own installations separately, none of the artists know what the full show will be like, each knowing only their own pieces.
Sexton says she’s looking forward to seeing how other artists approached EVP and getting her scare on.
“I’m really excited,” she said. “I think it’s going to be an excellent show.”
Voices From Beyond: The EVP Project // Sept. 25 to Sept. 29 // POP Headquarters (3450 St. Urbain St.) // 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. // Free admission