Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘art’ Category

I recently completed a tour of N-E America, the U.K. and Europe investigating sound installations. During my trip I discovered the Klankenbos Sound Forest in North Belgium (near the town of Neerpelt). I was asked to write a blog about my experiences. There are a number of audio recordings and images, as well as text.

http://www.klankatlas.eu/blog/dreaming-of-urban-sound-parks/

P1020175

Houses of Sound (installation by Pierre Berthet)

Read Full Post »

I was a participating sound artist at the May 2015 Aural Lighthouses symposium in Santorini, Greece. As the brochure explains:

Curated by Ileana Drinovan-Nomikos, the event hosts artists and scholars from around the world including Greece, United States, India,United Kingdom, Australia, Germany and Italy. Sound artists and atmospheric scientists are brought together to evoke the emotional, affective and visceral responses of sound and frequency, and their effect beyond what scientifically manifests in graphs and images. The symposium explores human aural performance and how we make and create disaster sounds to seem natural and to fade into a perceived inaudibility. The works further explore the oscillation between apprehensive, stressed, distressed and relaxed listening, and so the difference between dread and the beauty of disaster listening.

My contribution was a four-channel immersive sound work, constructed from sonic materials that were part of my 2012 City of Melbourne public art work, Revoicing the Striated Soundscape. Unfortunately I couldn’t attend the conference but I was lucky enough to receive this feedback from the symposium co-coordinator, Ljubi Matic.

Rupture was played publicly starting from Tuesday May 19th, 2015 through Saturday May 23rd, 2015, every day for at least 4 afternoon and early evening hours. A separate room, approximately 4×4 meters large, was dedicated to the piece. Santozeum is a conglomerate of rooms of different sizes on several floors, so the audience could ramble around the space walking in and out during the pieces and taking in different sound events at their leisure. In the room where Rupture was listened to, there were 4 paintings on the walls, copies of the wall paintings of Akrotiri (an ancient site on Santorini). The speakers were located on the ground, in the 4 corners of the room. The audience was not seated (as I think you had originally suggested) because we thought that chairs would make the space too cramped. However, some listeners felt inclined to sit down while listening, on the ground and next to the speakers, and then rotate their position during their listening session. This rotation could and did happen quite quickly as the speakers were not too far from each other. The room, smaller than what is a typical gallery space, thus, I think, brought a special sensitivity to auditors’ 4-way movements. Those among the listeners who did not have the chance to read the info found in the brochure had not been informed about the type and provenance of the sounds you had created and used for the installation. Upon learning that, some came for the second time. An audience member told me he felt listening to Rupture transported him above the ground, to a flight of sorts, that is, flights of different kinds, some more or less comfortable, others evoking situations of fleeing and mobilization for war. Another one compared the listening experience to a “slow-motion of gigantic waves” with “abrupt abysses of silence (ruptures?) gaping from the oceanic expanse.” A third one was struck by the “compulsiveness” she sensed in the sounds of machinic origins as well as in her urge to stay put in the room and listen to them. The presence of ancient human and animal figures on the wall paintings gave a special twist to the experience at those moments where your composition brought breaths, sighs and strange (gutural?) sounds to the fore. It almost felt like anthropomorphic auricular traces were being uncovered from the strata of our machinic past, or like some kind of otherworldly communication was under way. Santorini, after all, is all about multifarious geological layers. Must be same for Melbourne and thank you for making us become aware of that.

I was also sent some photographs of the exhibition. Fascinating to consider Melbourne’s laneway sounds finding a home in the island of Santorini! photo 1photo 15photo 9photo 6

Read Full Post »

What is the sound of heavy industry, machinery and metal? Has it a detectable “atmosphere”, a taste, a sensuality? Urban noise is often loathed, and there is good reason for this considering its ubiquity, and dominating effects. And yet, inside noise, there is something tantalizingly alive. I think of urban noise as in its infant phase; a neglected child yet to find its true potential. Or a formless material without a maker to provide it with diverse expressions. Luigi Russolo, John Cage,  Christina Kubisch and Max Neuhaus are four well-known composers/artists who brought to urban sound a musical sensibility; that is, treating urban noise with a musician’s respect.

day full container

Note the four speakers on the two containers. On the right container you can see one of the transducers in the center that was used to vibrate the container. Lengths of neon can be seen on both containers.

From the 22nd-24th January 2015, a team of artists including Fiona Hillary, Shanti Sumartojo, Eliot Palmer and myself were invited to produce a three-day atmosphere as part of Dagmara Gieysztor’s 3 month artist residency on the Maribyrnong River in Footscray. The shipping containers were located adjacent to a heavy freight rail bridge, which crossed the river to reach a giant container loading bay. Industrial soundscape 101!

Left image: The container storage yards on the other side of the river by night. Right image: A view of the train bridge running over the river toward the container storage yards. Containers are at the bottom of the hill to the left.

Left image: The container storage yards on the other side of the river by night.
Right image: A view of the train bridge running over the river toward the container storage yards. Containers are at the bottom of the hill to the left.

In response Eliot Palmer, who is a sound-artist, rigged up two transducers, one on each container, to vibrate the containers’ architecture. We closed up one of the containers and placed two shotgun microphones inside. The mics picked up the internal resonance of one of the containers which we threw out of four speakers sitting on the roof of the two containers. Included with these feedback sounds were various transformed industrial recordings I had made on site, industrial soundscape designs from my previous installations including Revoicing the Striated Soundscape and Subterranean Voices, and the use of rapid-tempo sequencing through a Korg synthesiser to further “suspend” the vibrations. Fiona Hillary and Shanti Sumartojo created a visual feast with neon lights and data projectors accentuating the multi-coloured and linear arrangement of the containers across the river. (For further description of the visual creations see this link).

The containers by night. At this point the atmosphere becomes surreal as both real and ghost trains pass, and neon glows in the dark.

The containers by night. At this point the atmosphere becomes surreal as both real trains and ghost trains pass, and neon glows in the dark.

Listening to the sound recording, which is live and unedited (besides a few cut and pastes to minimize length) gives a sense of the augmented atmosphere. The soundscape, which can be heard below includes the familiar sounds of trucks and trains aside the continuous drones and snores of vibrating containers, and the other-worldly calls of alien industrialism.

The soundcloud link below includes a silhouette of the four artists basking in the nightlight of the neon.

 

Read Full Post »

hiddensounds has emerged (submerged actually) to present a new work thanks to the curators of Liquid Architecture. I’m inhabiting a cavernous underground bunker beneath Federation Square known as the Trench. The Trench was once destined to be a service area for federation square but has since become a haunt for artists intoxicated by its strange presences – sonically and visually. It is a long cuboid concrete room that sits astride platform 13 (the Sandringham line) and houses an intestinal array of piping transporting sewerage cooking oil and other gastronomical delights.

Recording in the Trench

Recording in the Trench

I have entered the space with an eight speaker sound system and have spent time investigating the site to understand its sonic ecology and the extraordinary dynamic range delimited by the blast of train horns at one end and the delicate drippings of concealed pipings at the other. The aim is to create a short lived transformed listening experience for those who descend to the trench with me at the end of the month on Saturday or Sunday.

Testing in the Trench

Testing in the Trench

In some ways the work presents a real challenge as the Trench is already a fascinating listening experience. One can spend 20 minutes in the Trench (which is the allocated audience time for the performance)  and become intrigued by its unusual sonic ecology in its natural form. But of course I intend to transform this sonic ecology using the method of introducing transformed site specific sounds in the space. Similar to my air-conditioning work Revoicing the Striated Soundscape I hope to create a sonic environment that at once merges the real with the surreal for an altered listening experience, which contrasts the constructed listening experience of a concert.

Rivers & James help with Speaker Placement

Rivers & James help with Speaker Placement

It would be great if you could make it down and experience Subterranean Voices, a soundwork for the sonic ecology of the Trench. See the Liquid Architecture website for more details, and for the incredible array of interesting works on offer. Liquid Architecture have a facebook page and a Twitter page.

Read Full Post »

A meaningful life, is to create. Simple. Nietzsche suggested something similar when he wrote that the world was a dream of the Gods, and the highest act of human nature is to mimic the Gods by dreaming new world’s ourselves. So what is it to create? This is of course a personal question. It is not just an artist that creates, anybody who makes something creates. The life of children and 9-5 work is a template for creating in so far as the basics can be met – “I have created children, I create something of use everyday”. (Though Nietzsche would be horrified by the correlating of the quotidian with the creative!). To be creative is to bring something new into existence – physical or mental.

The soporific of the everyday is dangerous as it can seem like one is creating and yet one is repeating the same action. Recognition of this (conscious or otherwise) leads to depression, glumness . I need look no further than the faces of peak hour traffic to know this. Equally those that escape work and are free to do nothing are equally depressed and glum. I think of the tattslotto winners! So it is the act of creating that keeps the self buoyant and alive. Why? Existence, all of it, all ways, is in the act of creating. It is as if all existence strives to create the new. Death is only a necessity to make way for the new. Death is the glorious departure of a manifestation of newness. Death is a gracious departure to make room for the new. To create the new – seems to be a fixture of existence. So if existence is the newness of the Gods’ dreamings, then we, the product of their dreams, create, to align our actions with the meaning of our own creation.

Aligning creation with success – now there’s a problem. A problem with humanism, the great philosophical charade in which God is put to death and replaced with a new God – the God of humanism: we are now God! Jealous little Gods who scramble over one another to be the greatest God – the God who creates best, loudest, most audaciously, the most narcissistic. So are we witnessing the death of humanism (hopefully not humanity!). What will it be replaced with? Hopefully something other than ourselves, against which we can measure ourselves. To measure ourselves against ourselves is to turn in on our selves, to destroy one another as we compare our selves to one another – that we are truly the new: my child is cleverer than yours, my artwork is more compelling than yours, my body is sexier than yours..! At least when there were Gods, we could compare ourselves to something outside ourselves.

Escaping success, means escaping comparison with the other human. To instead compare ones creative output with some other drive or destination, or hope, or non-human otherness. How to reach this state? Intangible as it is… I keep creating. And comparing myself to others: can’t help it, still a humanist, hoping for the death of humanism, to make way for the new… the other.

Read Full Post »

Revoicing the Striated Soundscape is a sound installation commissioned by the City of Melbourne (COM) as part of the 2012 Public Art Program. Public information provided by COM regarding the artwork can be found here. An article focusing on Public Art in Melbourne in the Age Newspaper wrote extensively about Revoicing the Striated Soundscape. I also want to throw in a couple of extra points using my blog, for those who are planning on checking out the installation.

Installation site: unnamed laneway behind RMIT bookshop, Little Latrobe St.

I am calling this an invisible installation, as the four air-conditioning units bolted to the wall are easily mistaken for permanent features that house actual air conditioners. It is the intention for this impression to emerge, as it reflects the everyday experience of urban dwellers who pass a multitude of air-conditioners everyday. The visual aspect of these machines are ignored as much as the consistent drones of these machines are blocked out. It is only when the unusual sounds emitted by these four machines are perceived that the air-conditioning units come into focus. I have seen people looking for the sound source, sometimes refusing to believe that it could come from the air-conditioners. As such the artwork plays with perceptions of the everyday.

All the sounds are recorded in the laneway itself. So the installation knits into the existing soundscape such that the border between installation and soundscape is uncertain. The sounds have been composed using a multi-speaker system so sounds at times move through the space from one side of the laneway to the other. If you do go down stand in the centre of the four air-cons. This is the “sweet spot” to perceive maximum movement. Also standing under each individual air-con can be an interesting aural shift as you will receive the direct sound from the accompanying speaker.

This is a work that requires some time and immersive listening to appreciate. In fact multiple visits are ideal. It was designed so that people who walk through the space daily will get a slightly different experience each time. There are eight compositions totaling 90 minutes played on a permanent loop, though the loop is random; that is all eight compositions play before the loop starts again, but each loop will play the compositions in a different order. Some compositions are quite jarring such as the sounds of bins being dragged around, or doors opening and closing. Others are immersive, referencing wind and water sounds. Some others are rhythmic with sounds fully processed or just raw air-con sounds dancing around the space. So if you have the time, a full loop is best! The installation is active seven days a week from 10am – 10pm, and will be in place till late November.

Read Full Post »

I  met some artists recently – quite by chance – and engaged with them in a discussion about a movie by Arthur Lipsett called 21-87. The film itself is not

Arthur Lipsett - just playing around?

Arthur Lipsett – just playing around?

important here (watch it though, it is amazing and an important artifact in experimental film history), but is the catalyst for this blog entry. When asked what the theme of the movie was I commented that I felt in some ways it was an ‘exploration of the superficiality of beauty’. The reply from one of the aforementioned artists was, ‘ Don’t be so thematic’. Now if he had of said dramatic, I would have conceded – I love being dramatic. But thematic? What does that even mean? I presumed it meant I was committing the crime of the post-modern age – looking for a theme, and in an experimental (seemingly random) film no less. Another artist chimed in and echoed the slightly exultant tones of his colleague saying: ‘If I think someone is trying to tell me something in art I have no interest. I want to be given something random that plays with my brain. I want to discover my own reaction.’ (This is a paraphrase, but I think his general theme [ha] is embedded in the quote). OK, I’m being facetious. What he had to say did make sense and I am sure many would agree with him, but I found myself being slightly disturbed by the comment.

a louise bourgeois spider

a louise bourgeois spider

In my opinion Duchamp started the modern thrust of art to deconstruct any importance in art. His famous urinal screams, ‘anything is art’! This attitude was perfected by Andy Warhol who’s prints have all the soul of a can of tomato soup – literally. Generally speaking, in the 20th Century, art sought to attack the lofty pretensions of culture, by removing any significance from art itself. Art became something that anyone could consume, it became public, it refused to align with the elite, it became anything. This is great, important even! Unfortunately art now seems to be in a kind of malaise. It is difficult to find artists who somehow tap into the idea of universals or attempt to find some common ground between humanity in their art. Notable exceptions I can think of are Louise Bourgeois and her extraordinary spiders (an archetypal representation of the mother) and Edvard Munch’s Scream, a universal image of horror in the relationship of modern man and the world (this painting dates at 1893, outside of the the 20th century, but its image seems to be relevant to this post!)

The Scream

The Scream

I am of the opinion that art has an important role to play in life, in two main ways. Firstly, art should be accessible to all. Everyone should practice art in some way. It is good for one’s relationship with the world, and self, to express art. Please see my earlier blog for more on this point. Secondly, artists themselves (as opposed to those who just practice art), can use art to heal, even teach the world (through self-reflection, not didactics!); after all, this is a world in great need of recovery. Now I did not dare mention this to the aforementioned artists. I would have been lashed to their cultural whipping post and had all the flesh from my body removed with their indignant scowls (see, dramatic)! To them art has no meaning. It is a plaything. It is a game for the elite. They own art, they understand art. Others don’t. They share a common language that emphasises meaninglessness. They have no interest in art having a purpose. This attitude was important in the 20th century, so that art could be owned by All rather than just a few. But now those on the front line who achieved this have become the new elite and block potential growth. (This is the way things always happen, and is theorised by Prout in his theories of revolution).

Artists develop their work through exploration. They rarely have a theme in mind. However artist’s, at times, will source universal themes (constructed or not, there are themes!) confronting humanity and help make sense of this in their art. They may even help illuminate alternative ways, on a personal or societal level. I think it is important to be open to this opportunity and not dismiss all art as meaningless, or as just some sort of play – this thinking has had the desired effect in that no one owns art per se, however this attitude has come to own art, so that it has become self-defeating. It is not allowed to transfigure itself and speak to the world. The elite assure this. Lipsett in my opinion has made an important comment about the human condition. By reassembling discarded film fragments from studios he has created a piece that challenges us to reconsider our own implicit priorities, and  asks the question ‘what does it mean to be human?’. I am not saying this was his intention. But I am saying this is the outcome of all great art.

I will finish this blog with an incredible quote by a man considered to be the greatest artist of the 20th century:

“From the moment that art ceases to be food that feeds the best minds, the artist can use his talents to perform all the tricks of the intellectual charlatan. Most people can today no longer expect to receive consolation and exaltation from art. The ‘refined,’ the rich, the professional ‘do-nothings’, the distillers of quintessence desire only the peculiar, the sensational, the eccentric, the scandalous in today’s art. I myself have fed these fellows what they wanted and satisfied these critics with all the ridiculous ideas that have passed through my mind. The less they understood them, the more they admired me.”
Through amusing myself with all these absurd farces, I became celebrated, and very rapidly…Celebrity means sales and consequent affluence. Today, as you know, I am celebrated, I am rich. But when I am alone, I do not have the effrontery to consider myself an artist at all, not in the grand old meaning of the word. I am only a public clown… I have understood my time and have exploited the imbecility, the vanity, the greed of my contemporaries. It is a bitter confession, this confession of mine, more painful than it may seem. But at least and at last it does have the merit of being honest.”
(Pablo Picasso, 1952)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »