Artistic Auteurs

Fallt are a multi-disciplinary publishing house based in Hillsborough

Fallt, based in Hillsborough, Co Antrim was conceived jointly by founding partners W Conrad Rontgen and Christopher Murphy in loose form in the mid-nineties, but began to coalesce formally around the webspace before the turn of the millennium.

Primarily established to explore projects within emerging online and offline spaces, the collective sought particular interest in exploring the overlap between software or soft 'products' like MP3s, PDFs, JPEGs and GIFs and hardware or hard 'products' such as printed objects or CDs.

‘We felt that there was a possibility to blur the lines between established hardware forms and emerging software forms.’ Explains Murphy, co-founder, ‘We established Fallt to explore these opportunities.'

To those uninitiated to the Fallt school of thought, it can be summarised succinctly in its decade old tagline; ‘an independent publishing house specialising in experimental music, fine art, design and criticism (that publishes) well-designed, collectable works in small, but affordable editions.’

The personnel at Fallt has changed somewhat over the years, but the current core team comprises of W Conrad Rontgen and Christopher Murphy; Christian Lange, Curator; and Nicholas Kove, Developer and Curator. All are involved in the day-to-day operations of the label, but more recently responsibility for initiating and realising projects has shifted to Lange and Kove.

All Fallt personnel are employed elsewhere and contribute their spare time to the project, hence the label has recently undergone a two year hiatus.

Fallt and Fehler (Fallt’s design arm) have recently finished a presentation at Sweet Talk, a showcase event for exceptional creative houses working in the island of Ireland. Essentially using it as a platform to inform the general public of their agenda re-launch, it was here that Fallt reported on recently initiated projects as well as design plans for the forthcoming updated website.

Murphy's recent promotion and commitment to the role of Subject Director of the Interactive Multimedia Design (IMD) degree programme at The University Of Ulster, commands most of his time. A typical day begins at 6am where for the next two hours he will prepare lectures, lab sessions and tutorials for students later that day.

However, having finished conducting our interview I discover that today is no typical day. As he puts the finishing touches to an exhibition that opens within 24 hours he’s also juggling design branding for Black Box the new performance space in Belfast which was recently launched at this years Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival. He's also finalising the first draft for 'ISBN' a retrospective book on Fehler works and codes published by Fallt later in 2006.

Fallt works are available worldwide, yet come on difficult to find, limited edition formats. Murphy mentions a score of works and releases that have contributed to Fallt’s notoriety.

2000 saw the release of Assembler, their first commercially pressed CD by Australian artist Pimmon. Published in an edition of 1 000 copies, they viewed it as an opportunity to explore an extension of the CD format by commissioning ongoing online-only extras like mp3's, web-based remixes and graphic scores in PDF format.

The invalidObject Series was the next great success. Established in 2000 as a sublabel of Fällt it released a series of twenty four CD/mp3 releases which featured, among others, Pita, Pimmon, Scanner, Akira Rabelais and Massimo. The success of this project made it into a substantial number of 'best of 2001' play lists and was described in international avant garde publication The Wire as ‘a showcase for the extraordinary range of practical approaches within contemporary electronic music’.

Working largely within the field of electronica, micro sound and new music 35 mm | Design in Miniature drew together work by eight designers/collectives working for a variety of small, independent labels, and showcased some of the music industry's most creative, if overlooked, design of that time.

Invisible Cities, was Fallt’s most recent and sizeable international installation. Twenty artists were invited to contribute a five minute audio work inspired by and utilising the sounds of the cities they inhabit. Their contributions ranged from quiet and contemplative to noisy and frenetic with styles ranging from the pristine digital crackles of Washington DC based artist Richard Chartier to the near-silence of Tokyo based ultra-minimalist Nosei Sakata.

So, building a formidable international reputation through an extensive artist roster (which Chris incidentally puts down to ‘hard work and good fortune’) has led to excellent critical feedback so far. Surely then they must have felt pressurized to sustain that momentum?

‘In a large part, teaching commitments aside, this has been what's held Fallt back for the last two years,’ reasons Chris. ‘We've always been happy with the critical feedback and responses we've had to our works, however, sustaining a relentless release schedule of varied projects in a wide variety of published forms on top of full time teaching commitments was exhausting.'

'I think this is why we've spent the last two years regrouping, reassessing goals and rebuilding. Inviting new members to join, to breathe in new ideas and spread the workload, in particular Christian Lange and Nicholas Kove, have had a huge impact which should be evident soon.’

Although preoccupations with conquering the globe have always taken precedence over work at local grassroots level, Chris is keen to develop upon those few collaborations Fallt have had with a number of local artists, designers and musicians.

‘We've had great support from a variety of sources in Ireland, North and South. Colette Norwood at the British Council and Iain Davidson at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland have both steadfastly supported our work for the last few years.'

'We're starting to collaborate with local artists including Takete, Keith Connolly at Tonic and Glenn Leyburn. We're working hard to publicise ourselves more locally and we're interested in extending collaborations with other local artists, designers and musicians.’

The internet makes targeting niche markets very efficient. Fallt probably couldn't have existed without the internet so Chris has no reservations about pursuing the project, quite the opposite in fact.

‘All of our projects have been heavily downloaded and dispersed via the web which I consider a hugely democratic medium. Making high quality content available, virtually freely, to anyone with access to an internet connection is something we've appreciated being involved in.'

Very soon Fallt be turning its attention toward the sort of improvised, innovative works that have challenged and will continue to challenge our pre-conceived notions of what constitutes art.

‘We do our best to initiate challenging projects within the field of contemporary sonic art. Both the invalidObject Series and Invisible Cities in addition to numerous other sonic arts projects released on Fallt, have been received with widespread critical acclaim and we hope to build on the success of these projects in future.'