16: Final testing and trialling

Final tests and trials of all gear. Lead management is a real concern with this work. I’m trying to get things as set up as I can before the install, as I on’t have 2 hours to get the work ready.

12: Methodology

My research is concerned with active listening, towards re-conceiving the experience of sound in an artistic context and the creation of sonic artworks presented in unique listening situations — most notably, underwater. Through the investigation of a range of theories relevant to sound and listening I have developed three critical frameworks that form my research methodology: expanded bodily listening; sonic representation and place in recorded sound; and re-considering sound in the gallery by accessing an embodied listening experience.  

This research examines an array of contemporary theories specific to sound and listening. These ideas inform a methodology of expanded bodily listening that uncovers unique ways to listen to creative sound compositions within an art context. Jean-Luc Nancy’s philosophical take on listening and the effect sound has on the human body provides the theoretical basis towards identifying the distinction between how people hear and how people listen (Nancy 2007). Using our body as the locus, the work brings into focus the ritual in the act of listening framed by Pauline Oliveros’ Deep Listening practice (2005). Underwater listening has provided a framework for pushing the boundaries of the divergent forms sound can take within an artwork. The human encounter of listening underwater occurs through vibrations in the skull that transmit sounds to the inner ear (Helmreich 2007). Thus, it is through bone conduction listening that the work can access an embodied listening encounter.  

The research seeks to re-think place within sound through the all-encompassing concept of the Sonosphere (Oliveros 2006). Sonic representation and phonography are explored through the writings of Francisco Lopez (1998 & 2004), Pierre Schaeffer (1966) and Seth Kim-Coen (2009). The research utilises manipulated field recordings that relocate listeners to other times, other places, and other realities. By utilising the ‘paradox of sound’ as possessing both ‘absence and presence’ (Voegelin 2014), the research plays with time and place in order to explore the materiality of sound. My research seeks to manipulate sound materials as a sculptor would shape clay. Using sound recorded in the field, the work re-evaluates the role of representation in recorded sounds; and my obligations and values as an artist using such materials.

The experience of the listener is my starting point for exploring new ways in which sound is presented in an art context. Through the writings of Michel Chion (1994), Caleb Kelly (2017), and Douglas Khan (2013), the research looks at the relationship of hearing to seeing. It aims to re-evaluate constructs between sonic and visual arts presentations and practices; and to consider the space in which the sound is presented as the work itself.

The operations of fieldwork and collaboration are used to collect materials through subjective exchanges and listening responses. While the majority of this research is conducted individually, a core part of the project works with materials generated in an exchange with collaborators, both conceptually and technically. I engage a reflexive methodology during studio work using expanded listening to critically arrange and index these materials through intuitive responses, relational archiving and experimentation.

11: PROPOSAL for Dark MOFO 2019 - SATURATE

As a direct result of my research this semester, I have developed a new work concept for Dark MOFO in 2019. I had a meeting with one of Dark Mofo’s creative associates last week who encouraged me to write up this pitch. I’m putting this hear because I think it’s a good example of where this research could go. There is potential for the work to travel, and be reworked for a many different situations.

I think making work that is transferrable and portable is important to me as an artist. It’s important that my work remain accessible to everyday people, not just people who work in the arts. I think this is something that making work for festivals can provide - an line of communication with the general public supported by the infrastructure of an arts festival.

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11: DEVELOPMENT FOR CITY BATHS INSTALL 'DRIFT' working title

After having a small moment of re-thinking the City Baths install, I have decided that this is the best way to go forward for the research. I’ve been working on the composition for the sound. Here are some sketches and ideas for some sound pallets that I would like to include in the work. These sounds are derived from recordings that I captured in South Africa, but manipulated in ways.

The sonic material for this work is important to how people experience the work. My research has been concentrated on ways to get people to listen. Of course inherently the sound is the most important thing to me as an artist.

This year I have been thinking a lot about place and the role of place in the recorded sound. I’ve also been thinking about ways to manipulate recordings in order to use them as a material rather than a representation. I like using field recordings as materials as they possess an organic quality - a sound that isn’t dictated by a computer 100% of the time. Some things can be left up to chance.

My use of field recordings however is a form of synthesis, as they’re manipulated through various digital avenues and places together in composition.

10: Exegetical writing / turning points / health

This semester has been a challenge. My research has been blindsided by some big personal issues and poor health. When things fall apart it becomes increasingly difficult to work, to think and to create. I’ve considered taking a leave of absence from this course numerous times, I’ve felt like I’m cracking, frayed around the edges, without the resilience to go forward and push through this difficult time with study on the top of everything else. I take my work seriously and I want to do well. 

Sitting down to write about my process has been a major challenge for me as this work is personal, therefore the process is personal and requires reflection. Reflecting in a personal way in an academic context isn’t exactly appropriate, but I’m unsure how to get around this huge cloud that has been ever present for me this semester. To not include it in this work in some way would not make sense, as the cloud has demanded much of my energy. 

I was chatting to a friend about this the other day, about the struggle to get on with things and finish this course, and she suggested that I might need to come at the writing from another angle. Maybe just get a whole lot of ‘crap’ out then I’ll be able to get to the good words. So that’s what I am attempting to do here. 

When I sit down to reflect on the past year, to look at where my research has gone, and where it is at now it’s difficult to mark clear points where things changed or progressed. Turning points are key to writing this chapter. If I needed to point out 5 markers I would say: 

1. Trial presentation one, the movement from the visual to the aural

2. Blue - experimenting with collaboration, finding this a restrictive way to work. Loss of creative control over the materials I’m using. Good to experiment with great restrictions on the work, but finding this idea does not offer the depth of sounds I would like to work with. There could be ways to re-think this piece and break it open some more. But I’m not sure that now is the time to do this. 

3. South Africa: here public art and collaboration met within the research which opened things up tremendously. Experimenting with new technology and making sound works with 100% control of material reminded me that the sounds are the most important thing, the situation in which they are listened to is the second most important thing, but not secondary. This leads straight into my final presentation and acted as a really good trial for how things sound under water and how the speakers work etc. 

4. PORTAL: making sound art for galleries. With keeping the underwater listening going, I needed to develop a work that could be transferred to a gallery situation. This has also formed my trial presentation. A sonic portal of sounds that I recorded in South Africa. 

5. Gallery vs Public install. Towards the end of semester I was faced with making a big decision on which direction I would take the work for the final install. I had to choose between further developing Hydro-Static or doing a public underwater sound installation at the City Baths in Melbourne. There were arguments for both outcomes, but in the end I think it’s important to develop the work that is most exciting to me and that is presenting the pubic work at the city baths. Hydro-Static is a great way to bring this form of listening into the gallery context, but the public install is the optimum way for this work to be experiences. To be fully immersed in water, to experience the sound all around is the most exciting part of the underwater sound installation for me. For the participants to experience weightlessness while listening to my sound is key to honing in the listening experience and focussing people on what they are listening to. 

9: NEW WORK ‘LISTENING REMNANTs’ DEVELOPED FROM DOCUMENTATION OF SLIPSTREAM

I’m thinking about ways I can develop a remnant of the City Baths install to present at the grad show. I’m hesitant to just make a documentation video, as I don’t believe it can be read as an artwork in itself. I want to think about a residue, something that comes out of the experience rather than something that just documents the experience.

I am enjoying playing with these images in an attempt to capture a visual representation of the experience. There is no way I can translate the actual experience in a gallery. These images are screen grabs from the video documentation, which I have captured with great attention to detail and manipulated digitally. The digital manipulation could act as a way to comment on the floored nature of documentation, how we rely on digital platforms to take a real world experience and preserve it in time. The distortion in the images could be something worth playing with more. I could make them almost unidentifiable, just shapes of colours and form.

9: Concept development FOR PORTAL

Two-channel sound, electronics, wooden plinth, warm water, water drum
No set duration

Submerge your ears and listen. Hydro-Static, a sound portal in a negative space. An intimate listening experience; what sounds within the body of water.

  • A sound portal in a negative space, and intimate listening experience. 

  • Transporting listener to another place. 

  • A direct message 

  • An intimate experience 

  • Soothing 

  • Dream like

  • Warm wash 

  • Lush 

  • Fluid 

  • Meditative 

  • Stop and listen 

  • Encourage slowness 

  • A warm bath 

  • Cleanse 

  • Unknown 

  • Listening as a means of travel 

  • Future, past, present 

  • Time, duration 

  • Musical non-musical 

WAYS TO EXPAND / NOTES

What if the listeners could lay on their backs? Without fully submerging in the water, listeners could lay on a platform which has a body of water at one end. The head would float into the water, like when you get your hair washed at a salon, bit much more comfortable. 

People could be supplied with shower caps or swimming caps to project their hair. 

One vast body of water with listening stations. People could lie back, others could dip an ear. The water would become and ecosystem of sounds melding together, like something we could discover 

A collective consciousness, or collective listening experience 

8: Developing sound for underwater listening

Here is am trialling different ways to deal with or manipulate the audio that I recording with Pascal a few weeks ago. I’ve used resonators to pick out tonal qualities in the material, while the percussive elements are decided by the performer. This is a rough edit of a huge amount of recordings we have to use. I enjoy parts of this, however I’m not sure if the right approach sonically.

I am re-thinking the use of skin and body for this work. It seems that the most interesting part of Hydro-Static is that it’s a sound portal. So it could be more interesting to use sounds of place, rather than sound of body. I think I am deviating from the research a little with this body stuff. Albeit an interesting idea, I actually think it might be another project.

8: RE-THINKING CITY BATHS INSTALL

CITY BATHS RE-THINK 

This week I have been thinking a lot about the pros and cons of doing the install at the City Baths. I think this is a great project that I would love to do at some point, but I’m unsure if this is the best way forward for my research. Is it possible that I was getting carried away with the theatrical element of the install? I’m going to sit on this decision for a couple of weeks while I complete my exegesis and trial presentation (OCT 11). Maybe after the trial presentation things well become more clear, and I will still have time to develop the work which ever way makes the most sense then.

PROS: 

  • - Great space to work with

  • - Good trial for something bigger next year (art and about ?)

  • - Public art work 

  • - Large scale 

  • - Relatively simple install for a really effective presentation 

  • - Will give the an opportunity to document the underwater install

  • - Event based 

  • - Assessors need to be in the water

CONS: 

  • - only allows me to present one piece

  • - Could be seen as a departure from the trial presentation work (Hydro-Static) 

  • - It’s costly

  • - One time thing, will not give me something I can exhibit next year 

  • - Event based 

  • - Lots of room for errors on the day 

  • - Assessors need to be in the water 

  • Cannot transfer easily to the grad show (need to work out residue / documentation )

  • may run over time