Ubi Sunt – Flora Yin-Wong

19 Aug 2020

We revisit an audio commission by Flora Yin-Wong for this week's PAUSE, a mid-week moment to connect with an artist's work in full. Made in collaboration with visual artist Go Watanabe, the work examines the recall of memory in our technological age.

Ubi Sunt is an audio work by Flora Yin-Wong, commissioned by Somerset House Studios. It uses hundreds of accumulated iPhone recordings, allowing the artist to forge new connections between fractured memories, alternate worlds and intangible spaces.

The sound pieces abruptly jump between, cut up and stitch over six years of recordings captured in known and unknown locations - unlabelled and often lost sources. The connection between memory, emotion, and recorded moments accumulated on a phone is something that everyone could have their own version of. Hundreds of these snippets represent connections between the recall of memories, alternate worlds and spaces intangible, yet can be connected to across physical spaces.

In collaboration with artist Go Watanabe, the series is accompanied by a film that adopts the underlying themes through camera work. The scene slowly moves horizontally from left to right, mimicking the movement of playing cassette tapes, or driving a car. Household objects are placed as if they are constructing a town. The objects were developed submerged in natural light from a window, but for this piece, the shade remains on the surfaces in a new space of absolute darkness. The remaining shadows act as memories carried from the past, emerging as ghosts.

Varying from the sound of deep crunching snow in a forest in Hokkaido and Turkish EDM on the car radio, to the rush of a reservoir in rural Wales, Buddhist monks chanting in Hangzhou, K-Pop in a teen clothing store in Seoul, and old vocal recordings - these audio fragments shift from the highly personal and nostalgic, to the extremely banal, or contrived and obnoxious, momentarily placed together.



The audio is split into five sections, in the following order: Terrene, Remains, Argot, Orison and Apparatus. Below are details of each audio sample.

Terrene: 'of, or like earth', focuses on the physicality of land and air. 

Dungeness, UK: wind, gravel, Hokkaido, Japan: crows in the mountain, snow, Polyrrhenia ruins, Crete: aquaduct at night, Ubud, Bali: running stream, insects in rice paddy fields, Budapest, Hungary: tunnel, Chicago: subway, Unknown, Hong Kong: construction in distance, Belgium: car warehouse, Unknown: thunderstorm, snow. 

Remains: focuses on fragments of memories, friends, voices.

Unknown - Berlin?; Unknown; Car radio - South London; club, Hong Kong; club, Greece; car radio, UK; Paris, France; car factory, Belgium; gallery, Paris, Sai Wan, Hong Kong; store, Seoul, South Korea; car journey, Hong Kong; London; Chicago; Tokyo supermarket, Japan; taxi, Hong Kong; traffic, Bali; Billie Piper, Unknown; escalators district, Hong Kong; tunnel, London; Camden gig; gallery, Paris; Soundcheck - unknown; Turkish wedding, London.

Argot: focuses on language and the way mankind communicates through voice and mainstream culture.

Early south-east Asian music; kecak performance at sunset, Uluwatu, Indonesia; record played in Hong Kong; car radio, UK; man in the street with a boombox, London; Mark Leckey interview; extreme spin class, London; Harrods video; wedding; club, unknown; family in Hong Kong; TV channel, hotel in New York; Unknown; Gig, unknown; car radio, Mariah Carey; gym class; bar, Mayfair; HXE in club; something outside the window; radio in Indonesian taxi; restaurant, China; store, Hong Kong; Unknown; gallery, last London; girl in car at 6am in Vienna on the way back to the venue (sorry).

Orison: focuses on the efficacy of prayer and pilgrimage.

Kecak performance, Indonesia; instrument recordings; gamelan from a banjar in the street, Bali; monks in Cantonese, Po Lin monastery; Chinese temple, unknown; Unknown - Tokyo; chants, Sha Tin; prayer, unknown; yangqin recordings; gong recording, Tirta Empul water temple ceremony; unknown; Bali airport; train journey - unknown; monk on car radio, Martyrria, Crete; gong recordings.

Apparatus: focuses on equipment, methods and original recordings since used in tracks.

Ceremony at temple starting, Ubud; machine? - unknown; instrument recording in Rotterdam; playing the organ; yangqin recording; unknown machine, Arctic; Unknown; Unknown; playing the piano, London; Greek wedding, Thessaloniki; crickets at night, Canada; running water, unknown; organ; fire safety training; unknown; kemence recording; vocal recording - unknown; exhibition; violin sampling; radio set in a gallery; gallery, Tokyo; violin recorded at home, wind chimes on a mountain on Teshima Island.