New February 2010: Rescreening, a ten-minute music video remake of the installation version of String Quartet No.2 (Canon in Beta), shown in London in January 2010.

An installation version of String Quartet No.2 (Canon in Beta) for loudspeakers, video projector, DVD, and laptop computer with live sound synthesis, 2005-2008. First exhibited in this form at RMIT Project Space, Melbourne, in June 2008, as part of the Redrawing exhibition. Toured to CAST, Hobart, in September 2008, with an additional performance video and extended audio mix.

More photos of the exhibition are available on Flickr.

In 2008 I was invited by Fiona Macdonald to participate in the group exhibition Redrawing, first shown at RMIT's Project Space gallery.

Redrawing brings together five artists who construct forms of repetition in their practices. These repetitions are variously acts of reclassification, reiteration, translation, mediation and amplification. Drawing on a relation to an existing work, these re-productions use this relation to re-propose the model on which they draw.

Because String Quartet No.2 (Canon in Beta) originated as an attempt to emulate Phill Niblock, it seemed like an appropriate work to include in the exhibition. The Spare Room, a small, separate room inside Project Space designed for video work, seemed like the natural location for my work in the show. This way the work had an immersive environment of its own, and could still interact with the other artists' work in the main room by being clearly audible through out the space - and in the building foyer, too. I was assured the other artists didn't mind this.

A revised version of the piece was composed in Ross Bencina's program AudioMulch. This must be the fifth time I've recomposed the String Quartet, producing a different type of atmosphere for each one, and each time making it a little more stable and efficient. In particular, this version was required to produce subtle shifts in a sound that (at first hearing) was unvarying, without any user input.

The room had two speakers set into the ceiling, so it was relatively simple to set up the work without an excess of intrusive equipment. The speakers don't have a great sound quality and are getting a bit clapped-out, but the loud, consistent sound of the work helped to disguise these defects.

Niblock typically presents his music accompanied by videos he has made, so I thought it was only appropriate to add a video component to the work for exhibition purposes. Fiona Macdonald kindly made me a video of a blank, white screen, which played on a continuous loop in the room while my cheap Malaysian laptop performed the music. This way the installation further emphasised the structural connection to Niblock's work, and its substantial differences.

Visitors familiar with Niblock's music commented that my piece isn't nearly loud or grating enough. That's partly because it was pretty much as loud as those speakers in the ceiling could go but as I said, I knew that my piece would inevitably end up sounding different to a Niblock piece, even when imitating him as closely as I could. I've never determined a specific loudness for the piece, in any case.

This was the first installation I've done where I didn't have to provide all the material, equipment, logistics, and labour myself - thanks to the curator and gallery staff of two.


In addition to the installation, a live performance of the "concert version" of String Quartet No.2 was given as part of the exhibition. Like the 2007 gig in Paris, this was a half-hour long performance, but this time it was played through loudspeakers instead of headphones.

Exhibition details

Redrawing, RMIT Project Space, Melbourne, 6 June - 27 June 2008. Curated by Fiona Macdonald. Featuring works by Bronwyn Clark-Coolee, Ben. Harper, Fiona Macdonald, Thérèse Mastroiacovo, Spiros Panigirakis.

Between renovation and negation, Redrawing is a practice-in-progress. Using contingency as both structure and technology, each artist working in Redrawing produces change in the meaning of the system in which their model originates, by the addition of their own dependency. Redrawing asks whether there can be any sustainable meaning for the artwork.

Twin video installation at CAST, Hobart

The Redrawing show moved to CAST (Contemporary Art Space Tasmania) in Hobart in September 2008.

Here, some small changes were made to the works shown in the exhibition, and in the way they were exhibited. String Quartet No.2 was exhibited in a slightly different set-up, with the addition of a second video in the same room.

This was a video of my live performance of the piece in Melbourne. While the large video installation could be heard playing through loudspeakers in the room, the smaller video could be listened to through headphones, playing a similar, yet different version of the composition - adding a further layer of duplication and imitation to the work. More pictures can be found on Flickr.

Exhibition details

Redrawing, CAST (Contemporary Art Space Tasmania), Hobart, 19 September - 12 October 2008. Curated by Fiona Macdonald. Featuring works by Bronwyn Clark-Coolee, Ben. Harper, Fiona Macdonald, Thérèse Mastroiacovo, Spiros Panigirakis.

Rescreening: String Quartet No.2 (Canon in Beta)

When I was asked to play String Quartet No.2 in London in January 2010, I was also asked if I had a copy of the installation video to go with it. Even though I didnít, I said yes, figuring that (a) it surely couldnít be that hard to make a video of flat, solid white and (b) however bad it turned out it couldnít be worse than having some random VJ doodling crap all over the wall behind you while youíre trying to play some music. As it turned out, (b) the lovely people at Music Orbit donít pull that gratuitous VJ shit, and (a) about as time consuming and frustrating as I thought it might be.

Thereís a video button on my little digital camera, which Iíd never switched on before. I balanced the camera on a stool, pointed it at a flat white panel on a door, and let it roll. Youíd think thereíd be nothing simpler, but it took a few goes and some playing around with the settings before I got something slightly acceptable. The gloomy English skies of January didnít help much either, and I got 10 minutes of fairly solid grey. I played this back on my computer and made a handheld video of the screen. After too much time messing about with the movie editor software that came free with the laptop I got the final product, a soft grey that complements the muted monchromaticism of the music.

As the resulting video is a remake of a pre-existing work (originally made for an exhibition about remakes), and is itself a video of a video, the title Rescreening seemed apt. The 10-minute duration of the Vibe Bar performance makes it an ideal fit for YouTube, where you can play it to your heartís content.

Ben.Harper, 2008, 2010.