Stepping out of the late-summer sun into Janet Cardiff and George Bures’ sound installation, The Murder of Crows, is shock to your senses. Beneath the single light source is a gramophone, over which Cardiff’s voice reciting dreams is heard, with seats surrounding it in a semicircle. The dark, cavernous space at Park Avenue Armory feels infinite as 89 speakers pull you in. Cardiff’s voice recounts three dream sequences that are interspersed with unnerving soundscapes until tension is finally released by a sweet lullaby. Like sitting around a story teller, the lit space is a designated safe area while sounds crescendo to frightening intensity and break with clarity around the darkened drill hall.
Cardiff creates a loose narrative as the dreams lead into soundscapes that drive the story forward by powerfully pushing through to the next scene. Visitors experience the violent machinal clanging of a post-industrial chaos following Cardiff’s description of an unknown, flowing blood source and the beautiful operatic chorus singing about a lost leg after a description of the disembodied limb found in an abandoned beach house. The clarity and sensual quality of the sounds heighten unease as the visitor becomes totally absorbed. Exploring the darkened drill hall is welcomed but you cannot know what lurks. Each step away from Cardiff’s voice takes your further into her nightmare.