Small portion of EMF ICU video
This is a video work that explores sounds that exist outside of the range of human hearing but which still have a physical and psychological effect on us. It was created by recording the ‘unheard’ or imperceptible sounds emitted from the flotilla of life-supporting machinery that surround patients in intensive care. Clive Parkinson describes the installation of this work at The Tate thus:
[This] is one of the more challenging pieces McEwan has produced and seeing it shared here in an exhibition space doesn’t rob it of its potency. This piece of work offers a long-shot of McEwan moving slowly around a neonatal intensive care bed where an infant, I’d guess a month old, is connected to an array of medical devices via its mouth and nose and tubes which disappear disconcertingly under its blanket. Its hair is dark and damp, face invisible to the camera. It is quite motionless and for the time that he moves around the bed, the EMF microphone hovering just above all surfaces, the camera only sees the artist, who appears to conduct this wild garage of electrical sound.
The only other entry into the frame is a nurse whose hand, adjusting some unknown dial, unwittingly contributes to this spontaneous improvised work. But what you see in this 7-minute film is quite different to the original footage which, now cropped, has removed the anonymous infant because of clear ethical sensitivities. In his notes for the exhibition, McEwan provides us with an oblique reference to the invisible trauma that infant might experience through his listing of the chemicals being delivered through the tangles of wires and tubes: