On Screen Review

Rahma Kkazam, The Wire, no. 270, July 1, 2006

The movement of the wind across fields of tall grass has always fascinated Canadian sound artist Steve Heimbecker. It creates wavelike patterns that resemble each other, but are never quite the same — an illusion of repetition, as he likes to call it. Illusions abound in the four video and surround-sound pieces brought together on this double DVD-V. In these elaborate portraits of rural and urban environments, mundane places and sounds bathe in a magical, timeless aura, taking on new meanings and a new lease of life.

Each track recreates a complex spatiotemporal environment extending over considerable distances, thanks to Heimbecker’s trademark mapping system: he identifies the location’s geographical centre, traces a huge imaginary circle around it and then selects eight equidistant locations on its circumference corresponding to the cardinal points. Audio recordings are made at the eight sites, which are also filmed by video cameras. These onsite recordings introduce a live element into Heimbecker’s mapping system. On the most compelling track, Songs of Place: Springwater, video images of rural expanses flash across horizontal bands of varying widths, evoking an endless journey through remote countryside. Accompanied by a dense, hypnotic tapestry of sound, made up of bird calls, rustling, hisses, wind-like sounds and enigmatic tinkles, these images create an impression of floating in a timeless limbo. Although Songs of Place: Vancouver works less well — the images of a bustling city flitting across four narrow vertical bands are reminiscent of a travelogue more than anything else — Songs of Place: Halifax more than makes up for it. Each of its eight juxtaposed images depicts an incessant flow of cars, suggesting the passing of time. As one car takes the place of another, they create an impression of perpetual motion. The illusion of repetition, as Heimbecker would say.

… an impression of perpetual motion.