[-empyre-] start of week 3

Christoph Cox ccox at hampshire.edu
Tue Jun 17 07:05:58 EST 2014

Thanks, Jim, for the invitation to contribute to this conversation.

You, Dave, and Lewis raise important questions about the promises and 
pitfalls of sound exhibitions. On the one hand, group sound exhibitions 
are valuable for showcasing the variety of sonic practices pursued by 
artists today. And, whether or not they adequately solve them, they also 
draw attention to the unique problems involved in exhibiting sound. On 
the other hand, the ghettoizing problem is real; and I'm tired of sound 
being treated as some peculiar domain entirely apart from the visual 
arts and music, a domain with its own set of artists, curators, critics, 

It seems to me that artists such as Luke Fowler and Haroon Mirza have 
been really important in breaking sound out of this ghetto. Both artists 
have a strong visual practice; yet both are also aware of the history of 
sound art and situate their work within it. This forces curators, 
institutions, and audiences to come to terms with the sonic and the 
visual, and to draw the former into discussions of contemporary art in 
general. It also seems to me that we need a clearer and more robust 
account of the role of sound in contemporary art history. That's 
something I'm trying to do in a long book chapter that considers the 
co-emergence of conceptual art and sound art in the late 1960s and the 
subsequent divergence of these two practices that led to the dominance 
of the former at the expense of the latter. The reasons for this 
divergence are complicated and, to my mind, largely philosophical and 
ideological. In any case, while unique in some respects, sound art 
shares a common history with the "visual" arts, a history that ought to 
be more widely known and considered.

-- Christoph

On 6/16/14, 9:28 AM, Jim Drobnick wrote:
> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> Dear Renate and Tim,
> Thank you for inviting me to coordinate week 3 of the month-long 
> discussion on New Sonic Paths. It's been a pleasure listening in so 
> far. For this week, the 16 core participants represent a diverse 
> cross-section of the sound art world, and includes artists, composers, 
> curators and theorists, from Toronto and beyond.
> Each day, I will introduce a few related questions that have been 
> solicited from the core participants. Overall, the general context of 
> the questions pertain to the post-legitimacy stage of sound practice 
> and studies today. That is, with the “sonic turn” in art and theory 
> secure, and its place within the worlds of museums and academia 
> assured, what are the main issues to be discussed? This week’s 
> discussion group will examine how innovations in sound art, curating, 
> technology, and theory intersect and develop in the contemporary context.
> To start the discussion today, I draw from questions raised by Dave 
> Dyment, Lewis Kaye and myself on curating and participating in 
> exhibitions of sound art.
> 1) For myself, I've noticed how the millennium seemed to provide a 
> watershed moment for sound art. Within the span of five years, a 
> number of high-profile audio art shows occurred at major art 
> institutions, such as “Voices” (1998), “Sonic Boom” (2000), “Volume: 
> Bed of Sound” (2000), “Frequencies” (2002) and “Sonic Process” (2002). 
> Since then, sound shows have continued to feature huge numbers of 
> artists. "Soundworks" at the ICA in London (2012) included over 100 
> artists, and "Zeigen" at the Temporare Kunsthalle Berlin (2009-10) 
> included a whopping 566 artists. While these shows operated on the 
> premise of inclusivity, and sampled the broad diversity of audio 
> practices, to what degree is this curatorial strategy still useful, 
> and what might be lost or compromised in the process?
> 2) In a similar vein, Dave Dyment asks: How does the curation of Audio 
> Art move forward, away from ghettoization in thematic group shows or 
> token inclusion in larger projects (“we need something for this hallway”)?
> 3) Lewis Kaye's remarks echo these sentiments: At a recent conference 
> in London, I heard David Toop suggest that curating a group sound art 
> exhibition was "impossible" given the inevitable sonic conflict 
> between the exhibited works. Such a claim, on its face, seems rather 
> provocative. What are some strategies that curators or artists might 
> employ to overcome the obvious challenges Toop is alluding to? [Note: 
> Toop curated "Sonic Boom" at the Hayward Gallery]
> Dave and Lewis, please feel free to further elaborate on your 
> questions as the conversation begins.
> Best,
> Jim
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
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