Janet Cardiff & George Bures Miller: Pandemonium

Tip tap tip tap. Is that the sound of dripping or is it someone in a cell tapping a code on the wall? Now there are many more tapping sounds. Far and near. Loud and soft. Now someone is banging on a bed, now a cupboard. Now the hall is filled with a cacophony of beats, working their way back and forth, a pandemonium of percussion.

Using the existing elements in the prison cells, Cardiff and Miller will produce a percussive site work that is rhythmic and musical at some points and at other times pure sound as if a multitude of people or ghosts have inhabited the hall.

This project has been supported by a grant from the Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiative, a program funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts, and administered by The University of the Arts, Philadelphia. This project also supported by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the LEF Foundation, and the Pew Fellowship in the Arts.

Click here for "Sound and Documentary in Cardiff and Miller's Pandemonium," a digital companion to Cecilia Wichmann's master's thesis in the Department of Art History and Archaeology at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller, composing Pandemonium in Eastern State Penitentiary’s Cellblock Seven. May 2, 2005. Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller, May 12, 2005, making the final adjustments to the piece in the hour before the public opening. Inside one of the 120 cells of Pandemonium, a beater responds to the impulses sent by the central computer that drives the piece. Cardiff and Miller have built a keyboard that allows them to impact toilets, pipes, light fixtures other elements in the abandoned prison. The keyboard is pressure sensitive, allowing the artists to control the volume of each note in their percussive work. Back to the cellblock: George and Carlo in Cellblock Seven. George and Carlo in the off-site workshop. Carlo Crovato assembling the first of the machines that will tap the walls, pipes, and furnature in Cellblock Seven. George Bures Miller splicing cable for the prototype. The first completed prototype. Laser-cut steel holds a solenoid and drum stick in place. Early work on Pandemonium took place in Berlin. George, Carlo and Richard spent their first few days arranging for shipping of the early mechanics of the piece, and tracking down materials to be purchased in the United States. Eastern State’s impressive façade is visible outside the windows. George Bures Miller (front) Carlo Crovato (in red) and Richard Harrod installing Pandemonium in Cellblock Seven. The cellblock — perhaps the most grand architectural space inside the penitentiary--has never been open to the public before. The team is installing 16,000 feet of cable (more than three miles) in the cellblock. It can be seen here in the upper left corner of the photo. George Bures Miller walks the cellblock to begin estimating the distance of cable required.