Review: Flaming Pines – Tiny Portraits

all togetherThe act of inhabiting place is fixed. Irrefutable. On the homepage of the Tiny Portraits website (programmed by Iranian artist Arash Akbari), each contribution is represented by a little red dot upon an interactive 3D globe. One shows the exact co-ordinates of Shikinejima Island in southern Japan. Another pinpoints Nguyễn Thái Học Street in Vietnam. They wink at me like tracking beacons, broadcasting their location with satellite-assisted conviction. Place is a certainty.

Yet the act of articulating place is not fixed. As soon as I click on one of these dots, they melt into a slosh of personal experience, creative interpretation, time and (mis)-translation. The portrait by Siavash Amini – which captures a quiet park in Tehran between the hours of 4am and 7am – shows how the wooze of the night curdles into the echo of birdsong, with synthesiser drones running through the mix like a stream of pleasant, cushioning lethargy. The objects of listening become softer and sweeter when the mind is relaxed into thoughts of imminent sleep, or when those objects are familiar friends that reside upon the circular path of a pleasant daily routine. The place exists, but as bubbles and droplets of colour and scent; materials manipulated by the mind that interprets them.

Elsewhere, Zenjungle recalls a slogan on the walls of Kalliga Square in his childhood home of Athens: “My Childhood Is My Only Homeland”. His piece lingers upon piano arpeggiations and brass drones, as a flugelhorn spouts upward like reflected sunlight. To what extent am I hearing place as an arrangement of buildings, pathways and atmosphere? How much “place” actually survives as Zenjungle replays the same motif over and over again through minute adjustments in distortion and volume, the memory turning increasingly faint in the sandpaper hands of time?

In my favourite piece of the set, Yuco’s loops and synth harmonies bob between the sporadic bump of soft beats, while a field recording of crashing waves sets the whole scene at a tranquil harbour, with boats and buoys brushing eachother as they ride the undulation of water. Yuco doesn’t explain how his piece of music evokes his chosen location of Shikinejima in Tokyo. I’m left to speculate. A landscape emerges in my head, reading like a hallucinatory adaption of its origin, like a building built upon the blueprints of a misheard whisper.