The Staalplaat Sound System is a sound art, installation and performance collaborative group, sound activists with a Dadaist motor creating intimate installations from everyday electronic objects.
Geert-Jan Hobijn, founder of the Staalplaat label, experimental and avant-garde stalwart of the music scene since the 80s, initiated the project. From the Netherlands, he has been the organizer of countless performances and exhibitions focusing on sound art, experimental techno, avant and experimental music in Holland and abroad.
After 20 years of pushing the creative possibilities of working with Staalplaat the sound organization, Hobijn decided it was time to break free and start creating his own work instead of just presenting the work of others. So, in 2000, Staalplaat Sound System appeared with its unique mix of striped down pop-art and techno intervention.
Hobijn is joined on many of the Staalplaat Soundsystem projects by Carsten Stabenow (GER), co-founder of the German Media Art festival, Garage (Stralsund), and has been curator and organiser for many media and sound art festivals and other events in the past. Carlo Crovato, who works as a solo artist under the pseudonym plastic-electric, is often involved in the projects as well.
Their works can be read as a reaction against technology-worship apparent in so much current media art, they veer away from high tech and toward the prosaic, their materials of choice, consumer electronics, are a positive avowal of the everyday. At the heart of the works is a low-tech philosophy, in contrast to much media art; it is not the technique that is central to the work, but the ideas behind it. “We don’t hate computers, but we want our work to be transparent”.
The works by Staalplaat Soundsystem are brilliant in their simplicity and their beguiling transformation of spaces into immersive sound environments. The environment is the main catalyst for the final form the work will take. Some of the highlights since the project’s inception have been: Sweet Sissy and the Ballroom Hiss
starring 12 floor polishers; Avantilator
a composition for one hundred electric office fans in Helsinki; Floating Islands
, a large sound/light installation created for the opening of the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Berlin, collaborating with Erwin Stache to create a floating orchestra composed of fifty vacuum cleaners, plastic bottles and lights; and Sale Away
made for the EMAF, a democratic piece that viewers to ‘play’ a complex mechanical orchestra by using their mobile phones.
Another outstanding show was entitled “A Composition For 60 Vacuum Cleaners", first commissioned for an old hospital and later developed into “The Flaming Vacuum Cleaners,” which combined a volatile symphony of 100 vacuum cleaners, 6 flamethrowers, 120 kg propane gas, 50 hair dryers, sirens and 400 toy flutes at a remodeled gas company.
Staalplaat Soundsystem have also released a series of sound works on their home label, the most well known being the Yokomono Locked Grooves
series. A Cageian endeavour focused on Helsinki and its environmental sounds comprised of a compilation of found-sound loops and contributions from artists including Mika Vainio, Blixa Bargeld, Jason Forrest
and Merzbow on locked groove vinyl.
The works of Staalplaat Soundsystem have appeared in international festivals, museums, galleries and events like Avanto (Helsinki), Mutek (Montreal), Sonar (Barcelona), Skif (St. Petersburg), CEMC (Beijing), European Media Art Festival (Osnabrueck), Transmediale (Berlin), Ars Electronica (Linz), Kunsthalle (Kiel), Museum Weserburg (Bremen) and ZKM (Karlsruhe).
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