[-empyre-] curating sound art

Marc Couroux couroux at gmail.com
Wed Jun 18 05:21:02 EST 2014


Such a pleasure to be in the midst of brilliant practitioners and thinkers.
Thanks Jim for making this possible.

Steven Connor has written extensively on the vagaries of sonic curation -
Earroom <http://xenopraxis.net/readings/connor_earroom.pdf> and Ears Have
Walls <http://xenopraxis.net/readings/connor_earswalls.pdf> among manifold
texts. The former making distinctions between the virtuality of the white
cube (space), a cipher open to anything (including nothing) and the
always-already-inhabited nature of the room - each modality positing very
different entanglements between bodies and sounds. Also, crucially, Connor
makes the point that while sound leaks out of any but the most hermetically
sealed, disciplined spatial constraint, it also
conditions/modulates/occupies, making space.

A sonic exhibition might profitably engage with a politics of frequency.
The ongoing freq_out <http://www.freq-out.org/> project is a case in point:
12 artists commissioned to collaborate on a composite sound work by
occupying a particular frequency band <http://freq-out.org/about/>:

"The project reveals how space-specific certain frequencies can be, but
also how other sounds can be separated from their source and 'thrown’
around the space. It also shows how sound 'fits’ (or not) into the space
provided by exploring the complexities of frequencies and their
interaction. The final mix not only reveals the innate properties of the
frequencies, but also the possibilities when they are combined."

The principles of sonic niching (developed in the work of Bernie Krause -
here <http://xenopraxis.net/readings/krause_habitatniche.pdf> and here
<http://xenopraxis.net/readings/krause_nichehypothesis.pdf>), by which
species are able to communicate across long distances in dense sonic
environments by occupying a particular notch on the spectrum, might be
productively radicalized for our exhibitive concerns. It also points to a
more metastatically distributed potential for sonic intervention outside of
the realm of art altogether. Where does sound live in colloidal capitalism,
a period in which the military-industrial-entertainment complex is devising
ever more intricate exploitations of targeted frequencies? (Think of the
compressed ambitus of Muzak which enables it to function as wallpaper; or
particular mixing strategies which foreground the voice in pop music, so
that even as the gain asymptotically approaches zero, the voice still
persists.) It is in this sense that the initial provocation was intended.

A couple of students presented a speculative curatorial proposal (in the
context of the Sonic Praxis intensive course I just finished teaching at
York) involving the hijacking of existing sonic propensities across the TTC
(transit) network—intensifications/attenuations, recirculations,
bifurcations—under the radar, with the eventual intention of releasing a
catalogue post facto. Importantly, much of the content would be
hyperstitioned (hyperstition = the making effective of fictional entities),
which would (potentially) provoke a retrospective recalibration of one's
own acoustical experience in that environment. Curation as a way of
revising a past experience in order to induce alternate future modalities
(both in perception and intervention). The project was also a prime example
of mètis, or cunning intelligence, suppressed by Plato but nevertheless
leaking into many discrete domains (especially design), in which a
particular spacetime's disposition is stealthily modulated, leveraged in
order to produce a parasitic effect (the lever is a good heuristic -
minimal effort producing maximal results).

I put together a rather occult list of references in the context of this
course, one section expressly concerned with mètic praxis, in the hopes of
catalyzing sonic investigation into this area.


Looking forward to the next!

Greetings from phonoccultural T.Dot.


On Tue, Jun 17, 2014 at 12:53 PM, Christoph Cox <ccox at hampshire.edu> wrote:

> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> Mash-ups, orchestrations, audio ecologies, and the like are good
> strategies for sound curation. And some of the best sound shows I've
> seen/heard have treated sound bleed as a positive rather than a negative
> feature: e.g., the "Treble" show that Regine Basha curated at
> SculptureCenter in 2004 or so, "In Resonance," curated by Fionn Meade at
> Seattle Center in 2005, Allora & Calzadilla's "Never Mind that Noise that
> You Heard' at the Stedelijk in 2008, etc.
> But that sort of orchestration is difficult, requiring either a group
> commission or very close coordination between artists, which can strain
> budgets and relationships. Visual (and sonic) artists are often annoyed by
> sound bleed. And the professed acceptance/affirmation of sound bleed can be
> a lazy way to "solve" a problem, patting oneself on the back for an
> exhibition that, in truth, sounds like shit. (Perhaps that's the case with
> the Chris Marker show Denise describes.)
> To Renate's earlier question, Brandon LaBelle's book (and Seth
> Kim-Cohen's) provide valuable beginnings at telling the story of the
> co-evolution of sound art and "visual" art in the late 1960s and 1970s.
> From my p.o.v. (or p.o.a.), the historical connection is deeper than both
> LaBelle and Kim-Cohen present and also reveals deeper rifts (particularly
> between conceptuality and materiality) in subsequent artistic practice and
> critical discourse.
> On 6/17/14, 11:03 AM, Lewis Kaye wrote:
>> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>> Online curation does open up some new possibilities, however there is a
>> problem with the exclusivity it imposes. MP3s are a very finicky format,
>> and a lot of audio work just sounds terrible when compressed this way.
>> Such work, for example some of the compositions I do with crowd sounds,
>> could never be presented this way.
>> Basically, the format is not a neutral part of the signal chain. Sterne's
>> book on the subject makes this abundantly clear.
>> best,
>> Lewis
>> On 2014-06-17, 10:22 AM, "Jim Drobnick" <jim at displaycult.com> wrote:
>>  ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>>> Online curating definitely has advantages and disadvantages, doesn't it?
>>> While the technology of mp3s and the like certainly make soundworks more
>>> easily distributable and accessible, the problems are evident in the 2
>>> shows I mentioned in my intro yesterday -- ICA's Soundworks and Berlin's
>>> Zeigen (which wasn't an online show technically, but it functions like
>>> one when distributed on CD). Both had an overwhelming number of artists,
>>> and most of the clips were short, a minute or less.
>>> Beyond the limited expectations of what can be done in such a short time
>>> frame, I found something else arose in the listening experience. While
>>> flipping through so many contributions one after another, either in the
>>> space or at home, I found myself judging the works by how much immediate
>>> impact they offered. Works that had an emphatic oomph to them, something
>>> like on the order of Dick Higgins' Danger Music, drew my attention more
>>> than subtler works. Nuance seemed to lose out by comparison. My patience
>>> was practically non-existent when going through all the files to find the
>>> most interesting one or the next "hit". Even though I knew my experience
>>> was being biased, and I had the opportunity to control it, it felt like
>>> the technology coerced my listening to a great degree.
>>> Any one else experience something similar? How is it possible, then, to
>>> counteract the downside of superficial online listening?
>>> best,
>>> Jim
>>> On 2014-06-17, at 9:51 AM, Salomé Voegelin wrote:
>>>  ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>>>>> It's interesting that noone has yet to mention curating sound art
>>>>> online
>>>>> where many of these bleed problems are naturally contained.
>>>> I am very interested in the context of work online, less as a parallel
>>>> gallery opportunity and more as a radiophonic environment off schedule.
>>>> I have tried to do something in that way myself
>>>> (http://clickanywhere.crisap.org/) but feel that the visual pull of the
>>>> net, our staring into its virtual space, makes it important the the
>>>> environment the sound work is embedded in is well designed and carefully
>>>> considered in relation to the sound so we get seduced to listen rather
>>>> than focus on what is not there.
>>>>  I actually found the bleed to be fascinating
>>>>> and energizing, as if to suggest that the energy and volume of these
>>>>> radical performance events
>>>> I also do not find the bleed the main problem of curating sound, and
>>>> would not go on-line to avoid it. the very opposite: the overlaps and
>>>> spillages are the audio-visual context the sound work is performed in,
>>>> just like the architecture of the space, color of the walls, or the
>>>> lighting arrangement, they form not a distraction but the focus of
>>>> listening and could be exploited and used in designing the
>>>> presentation/performance rather than avoided.
>>>> On Jun 17, 2014, at 2:37 PM, Timothy Conway Murray <tcm1 at cornell.edu>
>>>> wrote:
>>>>  ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>>>>> Thanks everyone for such stimulating posts.  I enjoyed an exhibition in
>>>>> Taiwan this spring on the history of sound art in Taiwan from martial
>>>>> law
>>>>> onward: "ALTERing NATIVism: Sound Cultures in Post-War Taiwan" at the
>>>>> Cube
>>>>> Project Space.  This included footage of very loud rave events that
>>>>> bled
>>>>> into other rooms and pieces.  I actually found the bleed to be
>>>>> fascinating
>>>>> and energizing, as if to suggest that the energy and volume of these
>>>>> radical performance events (just after the lifting of martial
>>>>> law)connected with and resounded through the related sound art
>>>>> projects in
>>>>> Taiwan.
>>>>> It's interesting that noone has yet to mention curating sound art
>>>>> online
>>>>> where many of these bleed problems are naturally contained.  You might
>>>>> be
>>>>> interested in an exhibition that I did with Arthur and Marilouise
>>>>> Kroker
>>>>> for our collaborative project, CTHEORY Multimedia, called NetNoise:
>>>>> http://ctheorymultimedia.cornell.edu/four.php  Although the pieces
>>>>> don't
>>>>> bleed into each other, they will continue to resonate in the
>>>>> background if
>>>>> users don't close their browser (a little trick we played on more naïve
>>>>> users of a decade agoŠ).
>>>>> Best,
>>>>> Tim
>>>>> Timothy Murray
>>>>> Professor of Comparative Literature and English
>>>>> Director, Society for the Humanities
>>>>> http://www.arts.cornell.edu/sochum/
>>>>> Curator, Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media
>>>>> http://goldsen.library.cornell.edu
>>>>> A D White House
>>>>> Cornell University,
>>>>> Ithaca, New York 14853
>>>>> On 6/16/14 2:44 PM, "Andra McCartney" <andrasound at gmail.com> wrote:
>>>>>  ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>>>>> _______________________________________________
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