by Sandra Kazlauskaite
Documentation: Joseph Redman
Once a narrow territory, now, the scholarly field of sound is extending beyond its disciplinary boundaries; its traces can be increasingly found within the academic fields of media archeology, politics, aesthetics, science, and others. Aurality, as a connecting inter-disciplinary agent, brings voices, bodies, notions of power and resistance, questions of art and forms of reception, into a lively debate – one that not only offers alternative methods and conceptualization approaches, but also introduces new forms of knowledge. Sound can no longer be overlooked, it is ubiquitous in the most literate sense – whether through media, technology, or noisy soundscapes, sound surrounds us at all times. Thus, it is important to acknowledge, discuss and challenge the ever-increasing presence of sound, as its leaky and pervasive nature has been continuously spreading through a wide range of scholarly disciplines.
CHASE ‘Sonics’ workshop, held at Goldsmiths, University of London on Tuesday 12th May, did just that. It explored how the ongoing “sonification” of the personal, private and social, could be theorized through practice. Throughout the day, speakers, including Dr. Nirmal Puwar, artist and researcher Dr. Susan Schuppli, and artist Robert Curgenven presented their art projects with an aim to showcase the challenges of dealing with sonics in a research environment. The workshop was held at St. James Hatcham Church, in parallel with a major sound art exhibition and events programme ‘Sound | Place’, organized by PhD students from the Media and Communications department, and curated by CHASE scholar Sandra Kazlauskaite and PhD Candidate Tom Tlalim.
The morning session welcomed an inter-disciplinary artist, also the Acting Director & Senior Lecturer in the Centre for Research Architecture, Dr. Susan Schuppli, who presented two sonic research projects: ‘Mineralia’ and ‘Magnetic Remainder: An Archive of Discarded Conversations and Messages Left-on-Tape’.
‘Mineralia’ – an ongoing sonics project, developed by MA students, studying at the Centre for Research Architecture, Goldsmiths. ‘Mineralia’ is an audio guide - an alternative audio accompaniment to the Natural History Museum’s mineral collection. It provides a substitute audio guide to the one offered by the museum: the visitors are encouraged to follow the specifically composed audio pieces (ranging from documentary-style works to more abstract compositions) when exploring the collection. As a result, a more intimate acoustic experience when engaging with the collection is initiated. For more information about the project, and how to download the audio works, visit: http://mineralia.co. To find out more about Dr. Susan Schuppli’s work, visit: http://susanschuppli.com/
Dr Nirmal Puwar, Sociology Department, Goldsmiths, University of London, presented a research project ‘Noise of the Past’ – an AHRC funded, methods lab initiative. As Dr. Puwar explains, the core aim of the presentation was to layer ‘current ways of contesting the linkage of war, memory, and nation making through post-colonial bodies and ambivalences of allegiance. It senses creative productive possibilities for inviting a different occupation of space, one that allows for an altered imagination of how we hear and experience hitherto erased pasts, in the context of the move to encounter difference from within post-imperial nations today.’ As a part of the ‘Noise of the Past’ initiative, two commissions were produced: ‘Unravelling (2008 ,17min), written and directed by Kuldip Powar, and ‘Post-Colonial War Requiem (2008), a composition created by Francis Silkstone, performed with moving musicians. For more information: http://www.gold.ac.uk/methods-lab/ / http://www.gold.ac.uk/methods-lab/pastevents/noiseofthepast/
For a background publication see:
N. Puwar + S. Sharma (co-eds, 2011) Special Issue: Noise of the Past: Sensing the Post-Colonial, The Senses and Society, Volume 6, Number 3. More information
During the lunch, participants were introduced to ‘Sound | Place’ exhibition. Organized and curated by practice-based PhD students from the Media and Communications department, the inter-disciplinary sound art group exhibition aimed to explore the invasive nature of sound in relation to the notion of space and place. 12 selected artists (PhD researchers and research staff) from various departments, including Art, Computing, Media and Communications, Visual Cultures, and Music, were challenged to question and re-consider the immediate architectures of the space, and discuss how sound can be exhibited in a shared environment. The resulting installations, films, sound sculptures, music, performances and textual presentations showcased the rich diversity of artistic and sonic research across departments at Goldsmiths. Together, the works questioned how space and place, as physical containers, as well as philosophical and political constructs, contribute to the formation and to the experience of knowledge. Selected artists were: Wayne Binitie, Alexander Bridgen, Ryann Donnelly, Ryo Ikeshiro, Sandra Ka, Helene Kazan, Hardi Kurda, Roberto Mozzachiodi, Kuldip Powar, Emily Rosamond, Susan Schuppli.
For documentation, programme and further information about ‘Sound | Place’, visit: http://soundplaceexhibition.co.uk/
The keynote speaker of the day, Australian born composer and sound artist Robert Curgenven, explored the theme of ‘intimacies’ in relation to his art practice. Robert’s understanding of sonic ‘intimacy’ lies within the site-specific boundaries of a perceptual experience. Whilst his work draws on the physicality of sound, and how it affects the body as well as our perception of space and time, this way inevitably aiming towards an intimate experience between a listener and a sound source, its effects and levels of immersion, also depend on the site-specificity of surroundings, such as architecture, and a more abstract notion of sound space (whether it is technological, social or private). Robert presented one of his major art projects ‘They tore the earth and, like a scar, it swallowed them’, that comprises of field recordings and video footage collated over 30 locations across Australia between 1999-2010. The artwork explores the complexity and starkness of the vast Australian sonic and visual landscapes. As Curgenven writes: “As the embodiment of a rogue outpost of empire, the settler colonialists’ blind enactment of will and violence against and into the arid interior of their new land serves as the manifestation of a mortal struggle. This story is not about a battle well-fought in a hard and unforgiving land, nor the romanticisation of ghost towns and their spectral remains. Whether the settlers’ myopic conquest be a dogged attempt that ends within the span of one short life or a hard-won, yet momentary, triumph to last a few generations, the result is much the same. It is as if the conviction in their misapprehension of the “willful, lavish land” is turned once again upon them, as the ravaging frontier consumes and erases the ruins of these battles, leaving little to tell bar a scar where the drama played out in the wretched shadow of true desolation.” (www.recordedfields.net)
To find out more about the project and Robert Curgenven’s work, visit the following links:
They tore the earth… documentation: http://www.recordedfields.net/records/rfe_02/ / https://vimeo.com/114122030
Robert Curgenven’s website: http://www.recordedfields.net/
The ‘Sonics’ workshop provided a much needed debate and insight into sound-as-research. A lot of interesting questions were raised, as well as fruitful insights provided. This encourages us, as researchers-through-practice, to utilize and think about and through sound when approaching our topics.