m+k::the pink of stealth


the pink of stealth is a work for the internet and surround sound dvd. it was commissioned by the new york african film festival and electronic arts intermix. the website for this work is no longer active. the dvd is available through electronic arts intermix and a two-channel mix of the audio is available on mendi + keith’s album crosstalk on bridge records. below are m + k's notes on the piece.

the formal concerns in this text-sound piece grew out of our engagement with sound art, academic computer music, and popular film. in this work we tell the story as much through text as through artificially created rooms for the voice, surround positioning, and enhanced speech melody. many of the non-vocal sounds in the piece are created from high-resolution recordings and processing of two mbiras (used in our prelude to the hunt), a fox whistle (used to lure a fox in the hunt), and recordings of foxes themselves used in the 5.1 mix. the audio for this piece was produced at 48khz/24 bit resolution. the hypertext pages are designed to mirror the narrative leaps and vocal spatialization in the sound piece. the online game "foxhunt" is styled after early home video game systems.

we have long been interested in relationships between language, color, and social position. in the pink of stealth we have traced the narrative possibilities of the color pink. pink is a way of accessing ideas around health, wealth, race, gender, and sexuality. we chose to abstract and recombine pink narratives from two popular films in which the color operates along these lines. in the first, six degrees of separation (1993), a pink shirt appears as a symbol of class and race migration, sexual transgression, and successful subterfuge. in the second, pretty in pink (1986), many pink articles of clothing represent a kind of social skin that levels class difference and sanctions certain kinds of inter-caste desire. our interest in the way the different ideas collected in the color pink get read against each other or misread in a blurry context has led us to the language of fox-hunting.

the phrase "in the pink" (also used in the form "in the pink of health") comes from the english foxhunting culture of the 18th century. at that time, thomas pink was the favored fashion designer of the aristocracy and fashionable hunters were said to be "in the pink" that is, in thomas pink's (red) hunting jackets. though thomas pink stores are still around, his name does not register in popular culture as it did a couple of centuries ago. however, the language around his fashions and other values of the time continue to pervade our speech. we use this project to think about the associative properties of language and the way that a word or concept from one context can carry along the values of another context. in the pink of stealth, we tell a story about two characters who attempt to hide something about their identities through different forms of "passing" and whose distinctive qualities are in some way related to pinkness. we fill these stories with other language from foxhunting (such as "brush-off" and "stop the earth") in order to liken these characters to foxes. we created this piece in the midst of british parliament's 2003 debates on the fate of foxes and foxhunting in england.