Olivia Block

Olivia Block

Olivia Block website


I invite you to listen episode 1 (out of 3 total) of my podcast, featuring materials from my microcassette collections. Most of the original edits and pauses are left in the podcast audio, except for interventions to keep people on the tapes anonymous. There are no interviews or written text accompaniments.

Dictaphones and microcassette recorders were often used as private spoken journals, rather than for playing music (as with larger cassette tapes). I find the vocal cadences and arbitrary edits inadvertently dramatic and poetic. The conversations are perfectly human, demonstrating earnest efforts at communication and understanding between people or within a single individual.

As a social objects, the recordings give a sense of domestic American life in the last part of the 20th century. The recordings were (it seems) intended to be private (or at least limited to a small number of listeners), contrasting the current style of staged persona-type photos and recordings presented on social media platforms. 

This inquiry into microcassette tapes (and 35mm slides) has become, in part, a meditation on the idea of obsolescence.  I am interested in looking through the lens of obsolete technologies (like microcassette recorders/Dictaphones, for instance), to examine a particular time period (1960's-2000) in America when a "culture of obsolescence" had become the model for industrial design in consumer products. 

This model of design created a culture of waste. As an artist, I feel hesitant to add new materials (for Art's sake) to this legacy of waste. Here, I am utilizing older objects,  looking backwards from the current moment in America, which is in the process of becoming obsolete in terms of socio-political power, itself becoming a type of waste. 

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