Tape 342

May 17 – September 7 2014

Tape 342

Hlysnan: On the Notion & Politics of Listening, Casino Luxembourg

At some point during the evening of June 20 1972 a conversation between two men was secretly taped on a SONY TC-800B reel-to-reel voice recorder. An innocuous machine that uses 0.5-mm tape and was set to run at the irregular speed of 15/16 IPS—or half the rate of a standard tape recorder. In keeping with this low-fidelity recording mode, the tiny lavalier microphones that picked up this particular conversation were cheap and poorly distributed throughout the space. The result was a tape of degraded sound quality produced under deficient recording conditions.

Tape 342, as it is officially referred to, is but one of a sprawling archive of approximately 3,700 hours of audio recordings taped surreptitiously by the late American President Richard Nixon over a period of several years. Known as the “Nixon White House Tapes” these recordings detail conversations between the President, his staff, and visitors to the White House and Camp David. Of the many thousands of audiotapes confiscated from the Oval Office, Tape 342 remains by far the most infamous. Not because of the damaging or volatile nature of the information it contains, but precisely because of its absence: a gap in the tape of 18-1/2 minutes. A residual silence that is haunted by the spectre of a man who refused to speak on the grounds that such testimony might be self-incriminatory. In pleading executive privilege Nixon refused to fill in the gap that would return the voice to the machinic silence of the tape and enable the playback of history.

Description: 18-½ minute audio copied from Watergate Tape 342 (courtesy of NARA) and converted into a video file to emphasise the highly energetic nature of the “silent” tape-gap. Presented on a 10″ JVC monitor with a digital media player.