[-empyre-] Saturday, 21st: The Disciplinarity of Sound Art

Kevin deForest kevin at lux.ca
Mon Jun 23 05:04:24 EST 2014

Thanks for the insightful commentary John. I am wary about the 
institutionalization of the term "sound art" because I think its 
presence in the academy as a department for example will have a large 
part in its perception on the outside too.

Through this week and from catching up a bit with Douglas Kahn's Sonic 
Paths from last week, I am now more than willing to investigate the 
energy model you and he are engaged with. Within the visual arts, I tend 
to oversimplify and polarize the positions of those engaged in social 
critique versus those focused on material formalism, which I'm seeing 
now does not do justice to the complexity and philosophy of sound based 
art. I'm looking forward to reading more from Marcus Boon and his 
investigation of sonic ontology and its relation to subcultures.

My own art practice is not trying to capture essences or beauty for its 
own sake, but instead loves the challenge in negotiating Seth's "messy 
pain in the ass" vision of making art that for me is awake to 
marginalization, privilege and power relations. Whether that is too much 
to ask from a simple a gesture as an artwork is up for further debate 
for another time I'm sure.

I've really enjoyed being involved this week. Thanks to all for their 
contributions and to Jim for his organization. There were a lot of 
questions to consider and I felt my age as it was tough keeping up at 
some points over the week. Also interesting how we spent an entire week 
around sound working entirely with words.

On 14-06-21 5:30 PM, John Hopkins wrote:
> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> For those of us who have lived through several iterations of a 
> technology 'becoming' a field of creative/'artistic' inquiry, much of 
> the discussion here may be retroactively recognized in substituting 
> "new media" or "network" or "internet" or even, digging back a few 
> decades, "photographic" for "sound" in "sound art" -- all these 
> materialist categories have once been 'outsiders' in the dogmatic 
> hierarchy of art institutions (including magazines, academies, fairs, 
> museums, critics, funding bodies, etc etc...). Now many of them have 
> their own journals, departments, museums, funding schemes, and so on. 
> Who cares? The socially-mandated relevance of a art form seems to be 
> peripheral to the intensity and verity of a creative praxis.
>> With schools in Europe offering degrees in Sound Art I start to 
>> wonder how the
>> Sound Art discipline is being formulated, formalized or 
>> institutionalized. My
> ...snip ...
>> as much as it might be evolving out of currents and innovative new 
>> technology.
> To me this temporal repetition points to a distinct poverty of 
> thinking that relies on tired materialist paradigms and an over-riding 
> need for career-minded folks to justify their existence and their 
> product-oriented processes. IMHO this way of thinking is a creative 
> dead end -- to categoirze the world according to material outcomes 
> rather than to approach it from a more wholistic and continuous pov. 
> (For example, an energy-based one that Douglas has suggested.) (and, 
> at the same time recognizing that much of the language we use is so 
> replete with materialist baggage its scarcely possible to escape the 
> gravity of soul-killing Cartesian dominance -- we do not approach any 
> 'thing' we are not separate from the world except in our 
> socially-primed and abstracted imaginings).
> To take on an energy-based worldview is to be liberated from the 
> underlying paradigms of Newtonian physics whose limits in modeling 
> reality cause those following the dominant worldview to imagine 
> themselves as the detached observers of a segmented and 
> categorically-defined world -- this to the detriment of the whole 
> global system ...
> (Physicist David Bohm proposes a powerful alternative view in his book 
> "The Implicate Order" where he observes the effects of the Newtonian 
> approach, for example where "from early childhood we learn to accept 
> the notion that the world is constituted out of a tremendous number of 
> different and separately existent things. Among which is the self as a 
> 'physical body,' sharply bounded by the surface of the skin, and then 
> as a 'mental entity' ... which is 'within' this physical body and 
> which is taken to be the very essence of the individual human being. 
> The notion of a separately existent 'self' thus follows as an aspect 
> of the generally accepted metaphysics, which implies that everything 
> is of this nature." It is this illusion of separation that has 
> profound consequences in life and it needs to be understood as a 
> convenient form of "metaphysical art that fits our general experience 
> within certain limits, [but is] not an expression of how thing really 
> are": that is, fundamentally *not* separated ...)
> so it goes.
> I suggest that an energy-based definition of (any particular or in 
> total) technology is crucial for exploring the dynamics of the wider 
> social system that will provide any results addressing our current 
> situation on the planet. Technology may be seen, in this context, as 
> an array of specific individually adopted or discovered, 
> collectively-refined and optimized pathways that govern any and all of 
> the flows of energy that cumulatively form a social system. Technology 
> is prima facie evidence of the actuality for human life to alter and 
> distort pre-existing flows as it endeavors to optimize its 
> relationship with those existing energy sources.
> Getting stuck focusing a discourse *or* praxis on particular sets of 
> technological protocols without understanding what it means to 'use' a 
> technology ends up ultimately repeating the obvious and never 
> understanding how our 'system' is functioning.  (Here, the concept of 
> protocol defined as the existence of refined, defined (learned or 
> imposed) pathways for energy to follow in the 'service' of the system 
> that generated the protocol. A protocol does not carry any energy 
> itself although by definition energy is expended when a protocol is 
> applied.)
> I understand that if some of you consider yourselves 'sound artists', 
> or you've been taught in a 'sound art' program or you've been hired on 
> as the faculty member in a new 'sound art' department that a pragmatic 
> survivalist approach as a participant in the dominant social system 
> dictates that you have to carry those distinctions around like the 
> baggage of all the socially-mandated behaviors, I understand this 
> challenge very well, I have been called a sound artist myself, among 
> other perjoratives. My comments here come from being a firm believer 
> in the value of ignoring the labels, not relying much on prior 
> frameworks or pov's and finding more idiosyncratic expressions and 
> approaches arising from momentary impressions ...
> So, just a few imaginary comments on the discussion so far...
> Cheers,
> John

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