Home News | 新闻 Sound Art Curating Conference May 15-17 2014 London

Sound Art Curating Conference May 15-17 2014 London

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May 15-17, 2014

by Goldsmiths, University of London and Courtauld Institute of Art

abstract of panel presentations, original text from http://ocradst.org/soundartcurating/abstracts/



Panel: Exhibition Making, Identity Politics, and the Dirty A-Word of Authenticity: the Case of “Chinese” Sound Art

Moderator: Dr. Samson Young, Assistant Professor, School of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong

Participating Panelists:

Prof. Yao Dajuin, Professor, China Academy of Art, Hangzhou China; Curator, Sound Art China touring exhibition

Wenhua Shi, Assistant Professor, Department of Art and Art History, Colgate University, New York, United States; Co-curator, Sound Art China touring exhibition, New York edition

Dr. Guo Jau-lan, Independent curator, Taipei, Taiwan

Numerous scholars have demonstrated the difficulty of authenticity as a strategic goal in cultural production. David Murphy went as far as rejecting outright all notions of authenticity as flawed, and Regina Bendix calls authenticity “the dirty A-word.” While absolute authenticity is improbable, an overwhelmingly positive celebration of transnational impulses also runs the risk of ignoring the rich contradictions that fuel the act of border crossing in the first place. These contradictions continue to be visible in the many curatorial statements that bear the label of geographical locale, and in the persistent desire to represent nations in cultural spectacles such as the Venice Biennale. Given our unyielding interest in the self and other in cultural productions, does sound art exhibition making offer novel strategies, insights or perspectives? In the face of a contemporary sonic “schizophonia,” which is to say, the post-modern separation of sound from its cultural source, what does it mean to speak of culture in/through sound art exhibition making?

The case of Chinese sound art is further complicated by two factors: global migration, diaspora and a history of foreign occupation meant that it is difficult to say where the “Chinese” ends and the “non-Chinese” begin. Furthermore, auditory signs of representation and their associative networks are constantly influx, leading to what Christoph Cox calls the “epistemological and ontological insularity” of sound. Using “Chinese” sound art as a case study, the proposed panel discussion will focus on issues of cultural representation and identity politics in sound art curating. By loosening the “non-dialectical solid grounds” of the stigmatized notions of authenticity/nationalism and therefore addressing them as contemporary movements, the discussion will explore how these fossilized concepts may manifest as progressive structures through the non-representational tendency and the “insularity” of sound art. The participants will address the issues-at-hand through two sets of recent sound art events, namely (1) the Taipei-based Lacking Sound Festival and its ambition to write a history of sound art that belongs to “us”; (2) the touring Sound Art China project, which boldly took on the task of historizing “Chinese” sound art by staging a series of exhibitions in New York, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Germany, presenting different combination of artists from Hong Kong, Taiwan and Mainland China in each city.

Call and Response, “New Approaches to the Production and Curation of Multi‐channel Sound Art”

This paper seeks to demonstrate the necessity for sound art curation to oppose some of the established norms commonly found in the presentation and reception of both fine art and acousmatic music. By using examples from some of the work of London based sound art collective Call & Response it demonstrates the efficacy of sound based work to encourage new relations between space, audience and media.

With a focus on multi-channel work, examples sited demonstrate how the creation of multi-channel and immersive sonic environments can move beyond formats commonly found in academic institutions and galleries. We argue that it is the inherent difficulties of sound curation, due to the material nature of the medium, that offer opportunities for the imaginative presentation and creation of this art form. These modes of presentation have the ability to expose not only spatial and perceptual concerns but also the potential for developing new tools of interactivity.

Examples given in the presentation range from 3-D multi-speaker environments to D.I.Y interventions in public spaces and include the use of media and tools including kinetic sculpture, physical computing and apps. Far from proposing a counter-attack of aural cultures against the hegemony of an ocular-centric society, we promote an approach that celebrates the opportunities afforded to artists working with sound and experimental music that allow for a multi-model reception of sound art.

Mary Sherman, “Audifying Paintings”

Various ways of understanding art works as artifacts exist (for instance, through formal, historical and iconological analysis). Usually these privilege the eye over the ear; while both, arguably, overlook, the work’s actual, physical, tactile structure, its embodiment of the artist’s process and sense of touch. Even research that is being or has been done on painting and sound, typically ignores the artwork’s surface structure and instead focuses on color – the psychological phenomenon of synesthesia or the translation of color frequencies into sound waves – with the most prevalent aesthetic format today being computer graphics and digital projections. All these contribute to privileging the eye over the ear and the, arguably, diminishing sense of touch. Audifying Paintings offers another tactic. By scanning a painting’s surface and turning that data into sound (see note below), new possibilities are being proposed and devised – ones that unleash what has always fascinated me about painting: the music (content) of its tactile surface (form). These in turn, will provide new strategies for accessing not only paintings but also the world – ones that incorporate touch, sound and sight – none more privileged than another.

Atau Tanaka “Curating and Exhibiting Performative Systems”

As a performer of interactive music, the curation and exhibition of sound art could at first glance seem to be a stretch. I present four projects developed in the early 2000s that bring performativity to exhibition as interactive installation works. Global String is a dual site network musical instrument that is a hybrid: physical and virtual, for concert and exhibition. Bondage is a sound/image installation that uses live sonification to create relationships between the work and its. Prométhée Numérique is a composition for radio and internet that includes a participatory online component before and after a live radio performance. Jujikan is a collection of late 20th century Japanese electronic sound works curated for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and in the permanent collection of the Walker Art Center. All these projects invoke forms of interaction that recall the performative nature of instruments and digital musical instrument design, transposed to exhibition contexts.

Julian Day, “Curating the Itinerant Body”

This paper discusses the interrelationship between curating and creating sound work using mobile bodies and itinerant homogeneous sound in public and private situations. It focuses on an ongoing participatory sound project Super Critical Mass in which temporary communities are constructed to explore the relational, architectural and acoustic properties of a wide variety of spaces: parks, laneways, galleries, libraries and malls. Each space involves a radically different social situation and demands a fluid and responsive creative strategy. In Background Noise Brandon LaBelle describes sound as “intrinsically and unignorably relational …”. Elsewhere, in Acoustic Territories, he emphasizes that “sound may create a relational space, a meeting point, diffuse and yet pointed; a private space that requires something between, an outside; a geography of intimacy”. Super Critical Mass (SCM) is a creative methodology designed to define and interrogate places and social situations through the notion of linking bodies in space through aural transaction. Agents undertake simple, singular provocations using identical sound sources (flutes, trumpets, bells, voice, harmonicas) or the physical infrastructure of a place. Performances are ephemeral and transitory and are driven by the internal workings of the ensemble, including the contingences of memory, corporeality and physical proximity. There is minimal external cueing allowing the principles of emergence to engender each situation, a specific form of Claire Bishop’s notion of delegated performance. SCM operates within a triune of social, spatial and sonic elements and is a dynamic strategy for confronting the notorious vagaries and complexities of sound within open and closed aural fields.

Diana Campbell-Betancourt, “Listen Up!”

Listen Up! is a unique public sound exhibition that proposes to transform the way audiences experience art by using a digital platform through a free mobile phone app to make sound art publically accessible across the city, without restrictions of permissions or sound pollution. The combination of contemporary art and telephones is hardly new, and the seminal 1969 exhibition ‘Art by Telephone’ at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago opened up new possibilities to channel communication devices to realize ambitious projects. The Listen Up! exhibition proposes to blur the boundary between mobile phones for art and mobile phones for daily use by inviting the public to transform their own devices into a channel for an exhibition.

Listen Up! breaks the barriers of institutional walls and presents works by acclaimed artists from around the world in to the public with the help of new technology. A mobile phone app was created for the exhibition and is for accessible for free to anyone with a smart phone and several of the sound works are accessible via dial-in phone numbers as well, making the exhibition accessible to anyone with a cell phone. Through GPS technology, curators can site works in specific locations and easily change works through the digital interface.

The first iteration of this exhibition, curated by Diana Campbell Betancourt and Tim Goossens, occurred in New Delhi beginning in January 2014 in locations ranging from the Saket Metro to the historic Qutub Minar. The exhibition will travel next to Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Maria Andueza Olmedo, “Augmented Spatiality: Curating Public Sound Art”

Augmented Spatiality was a one-week exhibition on public space and sound creation curated by the author in 2013 in Hökarängen, a Southern suburb of Stockholm.

The project was inspired in the concept of ‘spatiality’ coined in 1980 by the geographer and urban planner Edward Soja who devised this term to refer to the attributes of a space that is essentially social. Although having other terms in language related to the spatial, Soja elaborated around the ‘spatiality’ the notion of a space which is produced as a result of the social life, a space whose organization and meaning is subject to multiple transformations and contingencies. A space, thus, where temporality and social relations are in its core.

Augmented Spatiality was conceived as a process in which the artworks, performances and other comprised events were integrated into the social and spatial processes taking place in the public sphere. The decision of working with sound creation was however taken prior to all these conceptions, and it was precisely the study of sound creation in public space which led to the specific project Augmented Spatiality.

Since its diffuse beginnings around the 60’s sound creation in the public realm has been closely linked to the notion of social space. Having the city – and the urban, as scenery, laboratory and source for inspiration, Public Sound Art practices aroused as an outcome of formal discussions by artists and musicians on the role of art in everyday life and, furthermore, as a consequence of acting in response to political and social matters. Half century later, whereas the role of art in public space is substantially different, some of these premises continue to be valid.

Bearing this in mind, the exhibition Augmented Spatiality integrated the discourses of sound art into social and sociological debates on the specific public space of Hökarängen. Eight projects worked out approaches and reflections on specific spaces and issues of the district, while a section with 17 listening pieces worked on the politics of listening, the aural memory and the displacement of sound in urban contexts.

Participating artists: Trond Lossius, Hong-Kai Wang, Mattin, Jacek Smolicki, Cecilia Jonsson, Iván Argote, Playing the Space, Konsthall 323. Listening Section: Acoustic Mirror, Pablo Sanz, Katrinem, O+A, Peter Cusack, Anna Raimondo, Younes Baba-Ali, Simohammed Fettaka, Mohamed Laouli, Mustapha Akrim, Edu Comelles, Juanjo Palacios, Chinowski Garachana, Camilo Cantor, Albert Murillo, Raúl Hinojosa

More information on the project may be found at http://augmented-spatiality.org

Christopher Thomas Allen, “Reflecting on Sound”

Media artist and filmmaker Christopher Allen, founder and creative director of London based cross disciplinary arts practice The Light Surgeons, looks back over the studio’s work from the perspective of sound. The Light Surgeon’s projects range from award-wining experimental films and permanent installations for national museums, to genre defying multi-sensory live cinema performances.

Their most recent audio visual performance project SuperEverything* toured the UK last year with members of the Heritage Orchestra, was supported by Arts Council England and presented by the Barbican. A commission by the British Council, SuperEverything* combines the realtime remix of a digital documentary footage, collections of field recordings with live and electronic music to explore the relationship between identity, ritual and place across the landscape of Malayisa.

Their films, installations and performance based works exploit the connections between sound and image on multiple levels, creating new approaches to narrative storytelling and the fresh ideas on how to apply these of to an space or experience. They begin many their projects through unique collaborations between the creative disciplines that often involve the creation or reinterpretation of archive in new or innovative ways.

Allen’s journey from visual artist and designer, rooted in the world of club culture, to filmmaker and media artist, working across both commercial and cultural contexts, in a range of hybrid forms and environments; reveals the centrality of sound to the groups work and the shifting role of the designer, artist and curator in contemporary arts practice.

More info:


Robin McGinley, “How to Write a Harbour Symphony: Sound, Organisation and Urban-Scale Performance”

The proposed paper will explore the development of a site-specific, urban-scale performance entitled Stockholm Harbour Symphony, which involved the presentation of newly-created music to be played by the ships horns of the vessels in the Baltic Sea harbour in central Stockholm, as part of the Swedish National Day Celebrations in June 2011.

The project created the unique situation where the ships horns themselves, momentarily, became musical instruments and the harbour a vast, open-air concert hall. A performance context where the co-ordinating element of the score is highly relative, as the resultant sonic outcomes are dependent on a host of external environmental factors. Likewise, the position of the individual audience member profoundly shapes their experience of the work. With, in effect, everyone having a radically different perspective depending on where they are standing on the quayside.

The concept of a ‘harbour symphony’ was first developed in the harbour city of St. John’s in Newfoundland, Canada, as part of a music festival in 1983. Since then other versions have taken place in several cities internationally.

Based on new research involving a number of composers and sound artists who have created and performed harbour symphonies around the world over the last thirty years, and addressing the development and specific challenges of the presentation in Stockholm, the paper offers a timely consideration of these unique sonic interventions, at once celebrating the vibrancy of working harbours, and also offering audiences new and singular perspectives of the soundscapes of cities on the water.

Richard Hoadley, “Variations of a Theme by Earle Brown”

Earle Brown’s ‘December 1952′ is a composition characterised by the use of graphical elements in the score.  Part of a ‘search for a new notation’, it is constructed of 31 rectangles.

Earle Brown later imagined the piece as a multi-dimensional orrery in which the score’s elements would be actualised and motorised, “so that the vertical and horizontal elements would actually physically be moving in front of the pianist”, who would interpret them “as they approached…, crossed in front of…, and obscured each other… The performer [would play]
very spontaneously, but still very closely connected to the physical movement of these objects.”  Although there are many recent examples of graphic and animated notations the grace of Brown’s score makes it ideally straightforward to witness the ‘translations’ being applied.

This paper, which will include practical demonstrations, describes the construction and use of such a system in software (and considers hardware implementations) allowing multiple live generative realisations, or variations, in common practice notation.   Each variation is generated by mapping a unique generated version of Brown’s original score according to the size, shape and position of the elements, the ‘route’ taken through taken through the score, etc.  In its current form there is no interaction between performer and score.

The notation provided, although detailed, is intended for use as a foundation for performance rather than as precise instructions.  In this way the project also helps us to explore intuition and improvisation through technology and the mediating role of notation as semantic and graphic forms.

Jacob Thompson-Bell, “RE-Moulded: Creating and Documenting the Aural Environments of Somerset House”

Hearing is often cast as distinct from seeing, the former being understood as immediate and coincidental with the space/time of the hearer, the latter as separate and exterior to the person seeing (Voegelin, 2010). Given their apparent objectivity, visual and textual media (musical scores being a prime example) have generally been used to deconstruct and analyse the properties of sound. Analytical projects concerning music and sound often systematically overlook the inevitable remoulding of their evaluative categories once these visual and textual formulations are relocated to the aural dimension (Hasty, 2010). In fact, hearing, seeing, tasting, touching, can be understood as interdependent processes, contributing symbiotically to our sensation of the world around us.

As a composer, my work engages with this expanded conception of sound to build a “listening” experience that recruits multiple senses in addition to hearing. I propose to discuss my ongoing work as Composer-in-Residence at Somerset House, London. My presentation concerns a growing series of “sound diaries” and graphic scores investigating visual commentaries on the sonic environment of the building, together with musical performances and listening activities arising as a result of those documentations. These works are offered as a form of recording, in which the generative status of the listener/looker is made explicit: first through my own performative act of writing/drawing/ audio recording and recomposing on the page; then through subsequent readings, viewings and re- hearings, and through musical performances in response. This work straddles visualisation of sound and sonification of visuals, generating combined sense-experiences not rooted in a single, dominant medium.

See the blog documenting my ongoing creative process at: composersketchbook.wordpress.com

Lawrence English, “Relational Listening: The Politics Of Perception”

Following the creation of the phonograph, the first popular recording and playback device, the subjectivity of the human ear was revealed. From this point onward, listening and the recognition of tensions surrounding the extraction of signal from empirical noise, gave rise to new understandings about the subjective perceptions of the human ear. As sonic arts have emerged in the wake of technological advancements and accessibility, a new creative tension has emerged, born out of the second ‘prosthetic’ ear, the microphone. Unlike the human ear, the microphone’s perception is non-cognitive, relative to its inherent design and free from the biological and socio-cultural conditions of human listening.

The tension therefore reflects upon the relational space ‘between’ the human and the prosthetic ear, the space it is argued creativity within sonic arts is realised. It is in this space that the artist translates their own horizon of listening into that which can be experienced by an audience.

This piece therefore responds to questions of practice and aesthetics within sound art creation and ultimately curation. It examines the perceptive nature of the human ear, its political motivations in a creative context and moreover the role of the sound artist as an agent operating in the relational space between the human ear and the prosthetic ear of the microphone. It examines and seeks to respond to Szendy’s (2008, p. 5) provocation “Can one make a listening listened to? Can I transmit my listening, unique as it is?”.

William Schrimshaw, “Writing-Down Sound”

Essentialising experience has bound philosophical reflections on sound art to the phenomenological; this paper outlines an alternative perspective based upon the anti-phenomenological aspects of the work of Gilles Deleuze and Alain Badiou. These latter philosophers provide considerable challenges to theorising sonic practice yet these are challenges that must be considered in detail if critical discourse on sound art is not be lumbered with a choice between two models of interiority: between phenomenology and “textualism” as its only options for philosophical interrogation (Foster 1996). Seth Kim-Cohen (2009) has raised an apparently similar critique of the phenomenological disposition with regard to sound art, arguing for a “non-cochlear sonic art” that embraces the conceptual turn ushered in by Duchamp. Yet Kim-Cohen’s textualism merely extends the interiorizing tendency of the phenomenological to the textual—a gesture which simply provides a different perspective on the constraints of an apparently insurmountable anthropic horizon or “correlation” (Meillassoux 2008). The shift to textuality that Kim-Cohen advocates does little to consider the more radical implications of a practice of writing sound as an exteriorising mechanism. This paper argues for a writing of sound that empties it of presence in a manner that accelerates rather than accepts the Derridean framework in which this evacuation might be thought to take place, advocating a philosophical position that both silences and exteriorises sound art in manner that unbinds it from the necessity of a decision between two constricting models of interiority.

Don Ritter, “Aesthetic Awareness in Sound Art”

This paper discusses the notion of aesthetic awareness and its relevance when creating or judging various forms of art, with an emphasis on sound art. Aesthetic awareness refers to an understanding of the interactions between idiosyncratic aesthetic criteria, aesthetic features, aesthetic judgements, personal knowledge, and persuasion. The discussion emphasizes the influences and consequences of aesthetic judgements and the importance of extrinsic aesthetic features. The findings are based on formal interviews with curators from North America, Europe, and Asia.

Max Eastley, “On Being Curated”

I have been exhibiting major sound installations since 1976 in a wide variety of contexts and have collaborated with many curators during this period. I will present a brief overview of selected installations to highlight the relationship with curators and the important role of the curator in producing and realising the final work.

Colin Tucker, “Toward an Ontology of Nearly-Inaudible Sound Works”

The emergence of nearly-inaudible music and sound art during the past two decades poses significant problems for the ontology of art. In these works, acoustic instruments are played with conventional techniques at extremely low volumes. To the observer, the most perceptible gestures are (barely) visible and audible, while other gestures are visible but inaudible; in extreme cases, the performer executes actions that are neither audible nor visible to the observer.

These sound works challenges received models of the relationship between sound and its source. That is, more conventional, easily audible sound pieces privilege sound over source: a sound’s source (the instrumentalist’s intended and actual physical actions) carries significance only to the extent that it is embodied in sound. In contrast, almost-inaudible sound works thematize the gap between sound and source, treating the two as functionally equal: at extremely low volumes, listeners are often unable to locate audible byproducts of visible instrumental gestures. While audible pieces effect a straightforward, lossless translation of source into sound, nearly-inaudible works enact a wasteful, inefficient conversion of instrumental gesture into audible result.

This paper aims to develop an ontology appropriate to extremely quiet sound pieces. Contending that these works’ ontological center is not actual sound but the disparity between actual and potential sound, the paper explores the implications of this reorientation for the performer and listener. The paper discusses works by Vadim Karassikov and the author, and also includes a brief live performance of Mieko Shiomi’s Fluxus event Boundary Music,an early experiment in near-inaudibility.

Roger Thomas, “Curation through Subtraction: a Case Study in Improvised Sonic Performance”

A performing ensemble devoted to improvising with electronic sounds can be defined by a list of the attributes it does not have. It need not rely on a fixed membership (individual participants need not have designated roles), the involvement of trained musicians or sound artists (if the instruments/devices used do not require conventional skills and/or defy formal study), a rehearsal schedule/practise sessions (there’s nothing to rehearse or practise) or regular meetings – although it may choose to meet regularly. It does not require fixed instrumentation (the work it creates need not be intended for specific sound sources) or an audience in the traditional sense of an attendant group of witnesses, in that the collective process of improvisation is by definition an ongoing new experience for those engaged in it, thus allowing the work’s creators to simultaneously constitute its audience.

Nevertheless, despite the absence of all these features traditionally associated with performance, the output of the (very much extant) group exemplified in this case study is aesthetically satisfying and amenable to development. This paper will seek to demonstrate how this is possible: that when all these factors are removed from the prerequisites of performance, what remains is a multifaceted form of curatorship applicable not only to this way of working with sonic material but to many other – perhaps all – creative processes.


Noel Lobley, “Curating Sound Galleries”

No human sense is more neglected in ethnographic museums than sound. But how do you curate and relate the experience of ethnographic sound? What are the possible future relationships between ethnographic sound archives, recorded communities and other audiences?

Drawing on case studies working with some of the world’s largest collections of ethnographic recordings – including Hugh Tracey’s The Sound of Africa series (The International Library of African Music, South Africa) and the Louis Sarno BaAka archive (Pitt Rivers Museum, UK) – I will illustrate and analyse practical outcomes from my interdisciplinary pro-active sound curation. I consider the value of combining approaches from ethnomusicology, sound studies, museum anthropology, digital humanities and exhibition design for the development of ‘Sound Galleries’, an ongoing curated series of interactive experiential events.

Today, digital circulation of ethnographic recordings is promoting new listening engagements among expanding international audiences, raising awareness of social problems facing increasingly marginalized communities. Ethnographic recordings are increasingly being used by sound artists, DJs, choreographers, filmmakers and researchers to develop new practices and responses. For example, the world’s largest archive of BaAka field recordings is currently circulating online, in museum gallery spaces and beyond in order to develop interdisciplinary projects linking ethnomusicologists, eResearch centres, conservationists, and BaAka communities. Accordingly, I introduce my current research exploring ways in which ethnographic recordings can ultimately be reconnected with ‘source communities’ for their benefit, creating responsible and reciprocal communicative networks between academic institutions, eResearchers and local communities requesting access to their own archived sound heritage.

Rasmus Holmboe, “Envisioning and Documenting Sound Performance”

This paper is based on my dissertation research that investigates how sound performance can be presented and represented – in real time, as well as in and through the archive. This double perspective opens a field of curatorial problems related to the simultaneous movements of both envisioning and documenting, when curating within the context of the art museum.

Acknowledging that performance and sound art has entered the ecologies (and economies) of museum institutions, I explore the conference theme from the perspective of on-going experiments with laboratory-based approaches to curating that highlight possible discontinuities and convergences between experimental curatorial/artistic practices and institutional needs of museums to communicate, document and archive.

From a basic notion of difference that essentially questions the pure or authentic experience and the possibility of documenting what ‘actually’ happened, I investigate how working in a practical and dialogical forum, focusing on process rather than outcome can help to rethink these conventional issues.

Drawing on examples from my current work with the artists Tobias Kirstein and Claus Haxholm for the ACTS Festival (at Museum of Contemporary Art, Roskilde, Denmark) 2014, the paper suggests that the relation between the live event and its documentation are addressed from this practical perspective, acknowledging that issues of envisioning and staging performance are closely connected to the documenting endeavour. In this light documenting reveals itself as a situated curatorial act that is highly performative and thus has the potential to question dichotomous categories like event/document, live/archive or presentation/representation.

Lewis Kaye, “Reanimating Audio Art: The Archive as Network and Community”

Audio art is a technologically dependent practice, and its fundamentally mediated existence leaves it profoundly sensitive to the material conditions of its reproduction. In other words, the actual sound of any particular audio artwork, and hence how it’s heard and perceived by a given audience, will necessarily be transformed by the technological system used to make it audible. This raises a basic question for the archiving of audio art: how do we archive such work knowing the act of reproduction will inevitably alter its experience? This paper proposes the method of archival reanimation as a means of embracing the technological variability at the heart of audio art presentation. Archival reanimation is a methodology whereby audio artists, curators and audiences are engaged in a collective and collaborative process that sees single or multiple artworks remounted, and ultimately rearticulated, with an ear towards the contingent spatial, technological, and curatorial conditions present for a given presentation context. Such a process understands audio art as dynamic and performative, suggesting the idea of an audio art archive, and by extension the sound archive in general, as not simply a repository of things but as a network and community.

John Barber, “Sound Curation by Re-creation: The War of the Worlds Radio (Re)broadcast, Martians with Moustaches: a Case Study and Suggestions”

Sound disappears quickly, and, if not preserved, may be lost. If preserved, the original sound experience can be re-created and interrogated with curatorial information / activities that address the ephemeral nature of its knowledge modality. By re-creating the original sound(s), the curator may create immersive cultural, social, and physical contexts that involve participants with transitory sonic experiences in ways beyond just listening.

In this presentation, I recount my efforts to curate by re-creating the 1938 radio dramatization of H.G. Wells’ novel The War of the Worlds by Orson Welles and the Mercury Theatre on the Air in conjunction with a curated exhibition of various sound art projects inspired by the original radio broadcast. A major component of this exhibition was an Internet radio station, purposefully used to foster wider relations with the curated sound(s) and to explore how different approaches to theory and practice may provide curated multimedial, participatory contexts where listeners can variously engage with the sounds under curation.

I suggest Internet radio as a fertile medium for curation, collaboration, and communication that may promote opportunities and affordances not found in more traditional one-to-many curatorial situations, including the opportunity for sound to be both a curated and interactive activity, archived yet constantly in play (literally and figuratively), continually curated by re-creation. This process of curation by re-creation may provide a viable methodology for curating a sound culture where participants can explore and experience the conditions under which it was (re)-created.

Dominic Smith, “The Space is the Wall”

Basic.fm is a constant 24/7 online audio stream that operates under the precepts: Broadcast Art, Sound & Independent Culture. In this talk I will discuss what motivated me to create Basic.fm, the curatorial framework and the working strategy for this project.

Basic.fm originated as a project I developed whilst curating a new media arts programme in a specialist cinema in the Northeast of England. Whilst in this role I witnessed the interplay between audiences and the growing popularity of live, arts focused broadcasts, mostly in the form of opera and theatre. Whilst being an enriching experience for those audiences, it also appeared to be a contraction of this newly formed digital cinema network. Reflecting on this situation I developed Basic.fm as a means with which to test my suspicion that when developing a curatorial framework for the dissemination of artwork over a broadcast medium, an expanded exploration of continuity is vital.

Basic.fm exists wherever it is listened to. Point two of the Kunstradio manifesto states “Radio happens in the place it is heard and not in the production studio.”1 This is a principle that is followed when curating Basic.fm. The space between the stream and the listener is the gallery wall. I will explore this proposition further in my talk, introducing the technologies we use and the day-to-day management strategies that make this possible.

Barbara London, “What’s Technology Got to Do with It?” 

New York-based media curator and writer Barbara London explores the challenges visual art institutions face in exhibiting and collecting “art in our time.” Now that interdisciplinary practice is normal and sound a standard medium, contemporary museums are compelled to retool conceptually and logistically.

London draws examples from decades of curatorial experience at MoMA to discuss how technology’s transition from analog to digital impacted work at the intersection of performance and installation. She explores how artists developed strategies to articulate sonic and empowerment ideals. She considers the sonic work of such media artists as Steina, Joan Jonas, Laurie Anderson, Pipilotti Rist, and Jana Winderen to ponder directions and change.

Morten Sondergaard, “The Periodic Table of Sound Art; Developing Curator-Based Research Methodologies”

The framing of this paper is constructed on curator-based research and the idea of The Periodic Table of Sound Art.

The Periodic Table of Sound Art is a metaphor for an investigation of the basic elements of sound art and how the react on each other – a thermodynamics of sound art with overtones of media-archaeology and some cybernetic theory.

Thus, the paper is an investigation into ways these basic elements have been used in artistic practice.

Firstly, the paper builds upon the assumption that even though sound art is an active practice, and the periodic table of sound art is still being developed, the fundamental elements have been developed and established. However, sound art is nothing without someone’s ears listening, perceiving and experiencing it. It demands to be repeated.

Secondly, the practice of sound art has not been archived with the same frequency as other artistic genres, so the sound art practice is dependent on a media- archaeological practice to be more than unheard avant-gardes.

Thirdly, Sound Art is the first ‘real’ Media Art – a history of sound/media art has not been written. I am suggesting rectifying this, but not by writing a new history with sound as a speculative element. Instead, I am proposing The Periodic Table of Sound Art.

In effect, the paper is also suggesting developing an exhibition which will be a mapping of the different elements from the periodic table of sound art – and the mapping will construct a grid that is structuring the elements of the exhibition in ways so that the level of conceptual and visual experience is dialoguing.

Christof Migone, “Sonic Somatic Curating”

“From the utterance stems the establishment of the category of the present, and from the category of the present is born the category of time. The present is precisely the source of time. It is that presence in the world that only the speech act makes possible, since (if we reflect on this) man has no other way of living ‘now’ at his disposition besides the possibility to realize it through the insertion of discourse in the world.” – Émile Benveniste

From my first curatorial project in 1990, Touch that Dial: Creating Radio Transcending The Regulatory Body, to the most recent, Volume: Hear Here, in 2013, the concern has centered around the vexed question of presence in its entwine with absence, and their concomitant socio-political implications. The figure of the Sonic Somatic is exemplar of a tenuous objecthood, but exhibiting resolute materiality, and as such is a fitting model by which to approach a notion of curating that oscillates (between presence and absence). Benveniste’s epigraph gives primacy to the speech act, what if we momentarily supplanted it with the sound act? The event of language taking place in time would then be replaced by sound as infiltrator, enveloper, occupier of both time and space. The other bias the epigraph foregrounds is the role of discourse in performing a framing function. There is a desire in the assembling of works implemented in my curatorial projects, however temporary and fraught the exercise of this desire might be, to go beyond meaning, beyond interpretation. Why this desire to seemingly bypass the straight path to knowledge? Hans-Georg Gadamer spoke of a poem speaking not only through a “meaning intention” but that simultaneously a “truth lies in its performance.” Serendipitously, he dubbed this dimension “volumen”. The recent exhibition Volume: Hear Here fully explored this tension and will be the prime site through which I will develop the concepts that I will present in this paper.

The Sonic Somatic is steeped into a notion of performativity which cannot entirely eschew speech, but can divert the flow of interpretation and point to the remainders that are usually left out of consideration. The linguist C.K. Ogden asserted that in the same way that “we cannot be more dead than dead, [...] there is no anti-volume, opposed to volume and beyond one-volume, no anti-mobility beyond rest, no anti-light beyond darkness, no anti-sonority beyond silence.” Note the recurrence of “beyond” in these phrases. The Sonic Somatic is the beyond that is already here, here and there.

Exhibition conditions are vexed circumstances, the public inadvertently bumps into things, or they intentionally steal, or they miss the point, or they quite generously offer a reading not foretold by either the artist or the curator—in other words, an exhibition is always partial because (a) a space is heterotopic; (b) reception is beyond our control. Correspondingly, there is a reluctance here to be pegged exclusively to sound (as an art form, as a discipline, as a sense), this is a tactic that heeds Jean-Luc Nancy’s caveat that “nothing can be said about sound that is not also valid for the other registers and against them, [... for they are] in an inextricable complementarity and incompatibility one from the other.” Sonic Somatic Curating, therefore, is not just particular and specific, it is also steadfastly ambiguous, plural, and beyond its own parameters.

Linnea Semmerling, “Explorative Listening. A Phenomenological Approach to Sounding Art at the Museum”

Sound art curating in museum gallery spaces has long developed from the assumption of the ‘Ohrenblick’ (the blink of an ear), which attempts to look at the essence of sound from the perspective of its physical materiality or its physiological perception. In 2009 Seth Kim-Cohen has proposed the conceptual turn toward a non-cochlear sonic art that would move beyond the essence of sound as its core concern. However, this promising step is difficult to make in curating practice, when we have never actually listened to the sounds that pervade contemporary art museum gallery spaces. In between looking at sounding artworks and reading them, we have apparently forgotten to listen to them.

My research explores the contemporary art museum gallery space as a space for listening in between the traditional research fields of contemporary art theory, museum studies and the phenomenology of listening. Its aim is to understand a visitor’s manner of listening from within in order to formulate an adequate curatorial strategy that takes the initiative to deliberately shape her experience of sounding artworks in the gallery space. I have therefore set out to describe this visitor’s cultural disposition toward sounding artworks together with her phenomenal experience and understanding of them. Through detailed observations of her approach to and experience of sounding objects, sounding installations and sounding performances by artists such as Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller, Bruce Nauman, Susan Philipsz, Stephen Vitiello or Lucy Raven, I will establish Explorative Listening as one possible manner of listening at the museum.

Explorative Listening is an aesthetic and inherently situated manner of listening. It is a Husserlian kind of ‘spielerisches Umhören’ (playful listening around) that is marked by directionality and intentionality together with a visual bias and corporeal awareness. The curious museum visitoris essentially active in her openly curious and hence explorative aim at discovery. She is playfully listening around herself in a heightened state of auditory attentionality, and sets out to explore the gallery space and its artworks together through her listening.

Seth Cluett, “Ephemeral, Immersive, Invasive: Sound as Curatorial Theme 1966-2006″

From the silence encouraged by the museum to the environmental immersion of earthworks and other site-specific interventions, sound – or its absence – often marks both the means of production and the condition of reception of the work of art. Whether highlighting the coded acoustics of the place of engagement, the figuring of listening in representational practices, or the evocation of the acoustic-imaginary in conceptual art and music, sound can be worked as material, developed as medium and can function as support. This paper addresses archetypal approaches to sound as an exhibition focus and curatorial theme over the last four decades by focusing on the balance between conceptual frame and practical execution. Rather than present a comprehensive survey, I will draw instead on exhibition catalogs and ephemera from the over 300 exhibitions that have taken place between 1966 and 2006 to develop an initial taxonomy of strategies and approaches for the display and documentation of sound in art practice.

Sarah Hughes, “The Continuum of the Field”

My proposal for the ‘Sound Art Curating’ conference is to present a paper that explores the relationships between the work of composer Michael Pisaro and critic John Berger. The main focus will be on a series of realisations of Michael Pisaro’s composition ‘Only [Harmony Series #17]’, a project curated by Compost and Height and Jason Brogan in 2009. Compost and Height is an online curatorial platform for new music of which I am the co-founder. It has a large archive of freely downloadable music and sound art and has curated a number of offline events, including exhibitions, concert series and workshops. As an artist, musician and composer, I have worked closely with Pisaro’s composition and have written about it with direct reference to Berger’s essay ‘Field’. I propose to develop this writing, which focuses on the notion of the ‘event’ and field- recording, to incorporate how the curated project can be viewed as part of a wider process of research, interpretation and understanding. The basic structure of the presentation will provide an outline of Pisaro’s score, Berger’s essay and the curated project. This will include reference to realisations by 21 international artists including Julia Holter, Steve Roden, Rhodri Davies and Pisaro himself. The project featured in Word Events: Notes on Verbal Notations by James Saunders and John Lely (Continuum Press 2012), which collated interviews with the composer and a number of performers. By making reference to these interviews published within a survey of text-based scores, I hope to further situate the Compost and Height project, and its approach in general, within a wider canon of contemporary composition.

Cathy Lane, “Women, Sound Arts and the Sonic Imaginary”

In this talk I will share some of the ongoing research that is interrogating the unique and radical contribution that women artists are making to sound arts practice. I will look particularly at  four specific elements: -  playfulness; embedded critique and social and political comment; the creation of new and alternative realities and the use  of the artist’s voice -  that frequently characterise their work across different generations, formats and political and artistic backgrounds.

This research, while currently housed mainly in the academy, owes much to curation. It was initiated by a perceived lack of feminist perspective within sound arts and it has been fed by the donation of the Her Noise Archive to CRiSAP (Creative Research in Sound Arts Practice). It is motivated by the desire to educate, create and activate ourselves and others to interrogate and create new reframings of the histories, theories, orthodoxies and categories of sound arts practice as it is portrayed at the moment.

I will try and give a flavour of this research focusing on specific case studies from works by Janet Cardiff, Kim Gordon and Jutta Koether and Annea Lockwood. I will also discuss some of the ways in which this research is being produced and disseminated through collaboration, new networks for exchange and formal and informal teaching aiming to use this “new knowledge” to rethink the existing histories and theories of sound arts practices and to hopefully inspire a new generation of scholars and artists.



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