Brooke Ferguson & Erika Scott (Scott Ferguson)
"Two Souls Speakers"
Text by Danny Ford
This writer has always had a problem with the name ‘Etch-A-Sketch’.
Given even the most cursory peek behind the curtain, there is no way that the name is an accurate representation of the device, designed by the French electrical technician André Cassagnes in the middle of the last century, and its mode of operation. One of the most significant characteristics of the ‘Etch-A-Sketch’ is that the user is, in fact, invited to ‘Etch-Innumerable-Sketches’. Static charge holds very fine aluminium powder to the underside of the gadget’s face, creating the off-white drawing surface that is inscribed by a metal stylus, scraping the powder away and exposing the darkness inside the case. Shaking the device re-coats the drawing surface, ready for new interactions in perpetuum.
Depending on the goal of the user, the toy can be immensely challenging. Curved lines require significant coordination
and the line produced is inherently unbroken, entailing careful planning. Additionally, errors are unable to be erased without eliminating the full image. These challenges are of course the source of much of the enjoyment for the user. Brooke Ferguson’s drawing practice employs strategies of chance and risk, establishing at times parameters of challenge in the construction of a composition. This is contrasted directly with the consideration and attentiveness apparent in the work’s production, making for an engaging interplay between relinquishment and reservation of control.
Like a user agitating Cassagnes’ invention, Erika Scott shakes up material, resulting in a surface that is somehow both full of matter and simultaneously a void. These works repurpose photographs of domestic settings without clear inhabitants. As presented it is difficult to discern, but one can imagine the photographer of each selecting and framing specific subjects, only to have them erased by Scott, leaving only their intentional or unintentional contexts for recombination.
Together the two artists have produced a series of vinyl records, physical documents of their collaborative sound work as Scott Ferguson – Scott’s spoken word accompanies Ferguson’s performance using GarageBand software instruments. Some measure of ink has been spilled regarding the use of Apple’s GarageBand as a creative tool. While other digital audio workstations also afford the possibility to record, mix and master tracks at home, often these software packages adopt the language and workflow of the traditional studio. This can be seen as a barrier to entry for those outside of this specialist field. Given that this is a field historically dominated by males, some have identified the software package as initiating a powerful expansion of access to musical production – in a 2015 Pitchfork article the musician Sadie Dupuis posited that GarageBand “introduced a whole lot more people of all genders to an array of options for home recording and self-producing (while) an overwhelming majority of engineers in studios are still male”.This was reaffirmed in the same article by Dee Dee of Dum Dum Girls, who said that the “feminist implication of GarageBand definitely encouraged a lot of my female friends to explore something that had previously seemed out of reach”.
Before it was the ‘Etch-A-Sketch’, the toy was called ‘L’Écran Magique’, or, ‘the Magic Screen’. If there can be said to be any genuine magic to the device, it is in the division between the observable properties of the object and the hidden physics inside – the user is given just two dials and visual feedback on the screen, imagination needs to be used to fill in the cognitive gap. The individual and collaborative practices of Ferguson and Scott similarly challenge audiences to map real objects to experiences that are not necessarily visible, consistent or easy to understand.
-Danny Ford, May 2016.
1) Tavana, A. (2015, September 30). Democracy of Sound: Is GarageBand Good for Music? Retrieved from Pitchfork.
2) ibid .