Thin Air

Thin Air installed at LJMU
Thin Air installed at University of Sunderland
Thin Air accompanying booklet
Thin Air accompanying booklet
Thin Air photographs exhibited at University of Sunderland

Thin Air – The Psycho-Vocalic Discoveries of Alan Smithson

by Dr Annette Gomperts

Four channel sound installation for lecture theatre (with projected photographs and accompanying booklet of lecture notes), 60 mins, 2009.

Belgian architectural historian Dr Annette Gomperts and her collaborator Paul Rooney have produced Thin Air: part academic lecture, part science-fiction story. Thin Air highlights the legacy of 1970s Leeds Polytechnic student Alan Smithson, who claimed that ‘voices’ he had recorded in the Polytechnic’s H Building were sonic manifestations of memories that had been somehow preserved in the electromagnetic ether of it’s rooms through a process which he called ‘site-anamnesis’. Smithson also asserted that the particularly radical and eventful — and ultimately tragic — history of the building had contributed to it’s facility for preserving and recalling the charged moments of remembrance. Thanks to Ron Crowcroft, Sonia Beck and Phill Harding. Commissioned by Sound and Music, Leeds Metropolitan University and MAAP.

Smithson’s recordings appear on the Alan Smithson and Annette Gomperts album Interference Zone on Owd Scrat Records


James Charnley (Creative Licence book). 2015 book referencing the work.

Neil Copper (The List magazine). 1/8/2013 article referencing the work.

Ben (Toys and Techniques blog). 9/9/2010 review of the booklet.

Julian Cowley (The Wire magazine). Jan. 2010 interview referencing the work.

“Rooney’s skilfully crafted narrative left the audience in a limbo where distinctions between history and fantasy dissolved into an acoustic resonance, as elusive as those improbable ghostly taped voices. Thin Air was sound art at its least routine, imagination performing a ventriloquist’s act, speaking out of the haunted past in a borrowed voice.” Julian Cowley (The Wire magazine). Dec. 2009 review of the work.

Abi Bliss (Frieze magazine online). 22/10/2009 review of the work.