Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller // Alter Bahnhof Video Walk

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Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller // Alter Bahnhof Video Walk

Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller // Alter Bahnhof Video Walk

A new walk excerpt has been released on Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller’s website,, that blows my mind in a number of ways.

Just to give a really general introduction to their work, sound as a producer and function of space is key. The walks in particular, set up a specific experience within a space (often a historic place). Here sound functions as a hollow presence: traces of bodies and action remain but they are bodiless. It’s a space charged with absence that is entered by walkers / listeners / viewers.

For me, this new walk adds several layers to the awareness of absence.

One of the things that strikes me most here is the function of the frames: the iPod at once frames a past experience of the place and displaces+takes-place as a second experience. One three-layered experience would be available to us if we were actually in the train station, following along ourselves—another exists following the trajectory of the video from my desk, within the frame of my computer screen. I think we’d also have to consider the train station itself a framed / framing layer and once we do that, each moment which has taken place within the station becomes an additional layer.

My favorite moment of all of this is where Miller is standing on the main platform filming Cardiff in a white coat walking towards the train. Not only does one train depart before the other, but at that point I realized that the hand holding the iPod was Miller’s hand rather than Cardiff’s. The narrating voice had obscured, for me, any masculine characteristics of the hand—thinking I knew who was guiding me I realize my assumption at the end of the clip. Suddenly, the extent of time’s overlapping hits me again, as intensely as when the video on the iPod switches to Cardiff leafing through the book displayed in the “trolley thing” (3:39). The doubled soundtracks of the station (3:00), in addition to the way you can tell that both Cardiff’s voice and the old man’s voice that tells a story about the sound of bombs falling was imported from another space (not recorded in the train station)…

The following is the description of the project from Cardiff and Miller’s website:

The Alter Bahnhof Video Walk was designed for the old train station in Kassel, Germany as part of dOCUMENTA (13). Participants are able to borrow an iPod and headphones from a check-out booth. They are then directed by Cardiff and Miller through the station. An alternate world opens up where reality and fiction meld in a disturbing and uncanny way that has been referred to as “physical cinema”. The participants watch things unfold on the small screen but feel the presence of those events deeply because of being situated in the exact location where the footage was shot. As they follow the moving images (and try to frame them as if they were the camera operator) a strange confusion of realities occurs. In this confusion, the past and present conflate and Cardiff and Miller guide us through a meditation on memory and reveal the poignant moments of being alive and present.

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