FOLIO 001 – Josephine Michel & Mika Vainio “Halfway to White”

60pp hardback book + 60 min CD
Bound in a grey linen cover, printed on heavy hi-white paper
There are no digital versions or copies of this release in any format

Track listing:

1. Fade from Black
2. Missing a Border
3. Notes on the Exposures
4. Line of a Curve
5. White Out


Joséphine Michel is a young French Photographer who trained at the Royal College of Art. She has recently been collaborating with the Finnish electro-acoustic composer, Mika Vainio in a cross-disciplinary project, culminating in the recently published book, ‘Halfway to White’. As John Cage would have it, the spaces between the notes are equally as important as the notes themselves in creating the sonic texture of a piece of music. Joséphine Michel processes her photographic images in such a way that many of the recognisable details in their scenes have become virtually bleached out, remaining only as pallid traces and, as a result, many of the details that were formerly incidental or peripheral, take on a new significance. In these images, as heightened voids realign the surrounding forms, reality has, in effect, been re-invented. The ephemera of those scenes, newly empowered, impart, with their fresh new visual textures, a unique suite of visual signals that change the parameters for our visual recognition of those scenes. Through the sampling, processing and filtering of everyday sounds Mika Vainio likewise offers us aural experiences that sit outside those soundscapes that are part of our everyday world. Together Michel and Vainio challenge our often-jaded perceptual habits and patterns, offering a whole new palette of experiences, both visual and aural.

Freelance art critic and curator, Roy Exley interviewed Josephine Michel with regard to her recent work.

Here you can read the full interview with Joséphine Michel with The Photographers Gallery

Brainwashed (USA):

For the inaugural release in their new Folio sub-imprint, Touch has paired Mika Vainio with photographer Joséphine Michel for a joint photography and music project heavily focused on the abstract nature sound and its impact on the other senses and mediums. With heavy use of white exposure on the photographs, and the heavily treated use of white noise on the CD, it culminates in a very strong synthesis of audio and visual.
Compared to his recent albums, Vainio’s audio contributions to this project are more abstract and deconstructed than his busier, often rhythm tinged work. He utilizes expansive passages of silence (white space) amongst blasts of noise and strange frequencies that sound anything but identifiable. “Fade from Black,” for example, features Mika melding the large passages of silence with heavy, almost imperceptibly low frequencies tones and glassy resonations.

At the conclusion of the album, “White Out,” is less rooted in silence but features the same subwoofer destroying bass frequencies. A rising and falling electronic hum from what sounds like processed white noise stays consistent throughout the piece. Towards the end, bits of what sounds like actual melody appear and result in him creating the most traditionally musical sounding piece on the disc.

“Missing a Border” is a noisier excursion, with bits of what almost sounds like a conventional synthesizer heavily processed and demolished. Even though it is one of the more kinetic and noisier pieces, it still never becomes too overwhelming or aggressive, barring the overly shrill ultrasonic bits that sharply cut through. Bleak and moody are the best ways to describe “Notes On the Exposure,” a slowly expanding piece of midrange digital noise that is less of a dominating sound.

It is on “Lines of a Curve” that the sound I most associate with Vainio’s body of work. Sequences of pitch bent clicks and pops scatter about, resulting in the loosest semblance of rhythms. Much of the piece is made up of crackly textures, with buzzing noise and silence blended in, and oddly disorienting Doppler effect heavy passages of sound.
Michel’s photography, sourced from a digital camcorder, may differ in its technological nature from Vainio’s analog instruments, but the presentation complements it perfectly. Natural and man-made structures feature heavily in her work, as do candid photographs of people in industrial spaces. While critiquing photography is not at all my forte, her heavily white-drenched digital stills, with odd color artifacting, and often overlaid with found patterns and textures, look as Vainio’s music sounds.

As the Touch label continues into its fourth decade of activity, Halfway to White is a contrast to its early days. While before the label would issue compilations on cassettes paired with small run magazines, now they are working in the media of high quality digital recordings and beautifully bound, art edition quality books. Vainio’s and Michel’s work compliment each other splendidly on here, and the result is a fully realized collaboration between two distinct and exceptional artists. [Creaig Dunton]

fisheye (France)

MCD (France):

Une nouvelle section pour le label Touch qui lance une série des livres (60 pages) couplé à des CDs (60 minutes) en édi- tion limitée. C’est donc la photographe Joséphine Michel qui inaugure la chose et “voit” ses prises de vues s’enrichir d’une dimension sonore assez ardue (tendance electronic-noise, expérimental et bruitiste) sous l’influence de Mika Vainio. [Laurent Diouf]

Source (Ireland):

In the first release of Touch’s TOUCHFOLIO series of audiovisual publications, French photographer Joséphine Michel and Finnish electroacoustic composer Mika Vainio have collaborated to produce the book and audio Cd, Halfway to White. This work features a juxtaposition between Michel’s digitally captured images and Vainio’s digitally manipulated analogue recordings. Although Vainio is not working with specific location recordings, the images and sound are tied together through shared textures and moods, with the manipulated white noise and reverberant drones of Vainio’s music marrying with the digital visual noise of Michel’s images. Perhaps an apt way to describe the interrelationship between these two pieces is as negotiation. As Michel attests, Vainio’s music inspired her photographs which led, as in a loop, to the creation of the music like an audiovisual oroborus giving itself meaning and wholeness; the mouth devouring the tail in a circulatory process as the sound and image assimilate. [Aimee Mollaghan]

Neural (Italy):

The inception of a new series (“Folio”) of hardcover books is a significant step for Touch, one of the most important “multi/media” UK music labels, with its more than thirty years of history. This first volume is a combined effort by an exceptional couple: photographer Joséphine Michel and celebrated sound artist Mika Vainio (co-founder of the historical Pansonic duo). The collaboration between the two started before this specific work, but here it accomplishes a considerable success and an advanced symbiosis. Michel explores her notion of “sonic photography,” which consists of adjusting the (digital) exposure at the moment of shooting, according to the resonance of the noise-fields in that particular place.
The resulting overexposed photographs reveal an interesting form of sound visualisation. An overview returns a kind of “visual effect,” but the minimal time spent exploring them in detail gives the feeling of a parallel visual experience. Michel defines the effect of Vainio’s music as a “vibratory static.” His analogue sources create fictional natural sounds, and in compositions he uses blasts as well as silence as a sonic “white space,” reflecting the visual elements in the overexposed photographs. The unusual synaesthesia which can follow is sensorially ambiguous and considerably disruptive. Designed by Jon Wozencroft, this audio-visual effort in book + CD form is accomplished in the Touch tradition, embedding an innovative relationship with media in classic and recognisable forms.