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Sound-Space Continuum. Our Experience of the Environment as an Art Subject: 3 Interviews with ISCP Artists

By KATELYNN DUNN, January 2020

The many nuanced connections born between us and our surroundings through the use of space and shaping of environments within space lead us to a particular perspective of the world. Our interaction with and within spaces becomes an art. We create mini ecosystems, cocoons of culture, from which we leave, and carry the imprint of experience on us. Sound, and our interwoven relationship between it and its expansion within spaces directly affects our sentiments, ideas and notions. I had a chance to interview three artists from the International Studio and Curatorial Program to discuss their relationship to space while creating sound-based artworks. All of these interviews were predicated on the idea that sound is a medium that affects us in an energetic way within the spaces where we experience it.

Allard Van Hoorn is a sound, installation and performance artist who creates site-specific maps of physical places and relationships between environments using measures and mediums that record and ultimately describe spaces with sound. His Urban Songlines add another layer of significance to the buildings and locales that we occupy.

Allard Van Hoorn in his ISCP studio with the Big Silver Ball from 063 Urban Songline (Another Hurling of the Silver Ball) | Latitude: 50.204794° N – 50.214926° N / Longitude: -5.482636° W – -5.493938° W, 2019. He will perform a new songline, 072 Urban Songline (Ellis Island Film Filters) | Latitude: 40.690012° N – 40.702417° N / Longitude: -74.016910° W – -74.046767° W, at 9:30 PM on 01/10/20 at Fridman Gallery, New York.

KD: Would you consider the Urban Songlines to be a language?

AVH: They are a language in which the space is physically described through some kind of script or scenario, physical movement or things bouncing off the space. The end result is something that is audible, that is abstract, but is a void, an empty thing that you can put your own meaning and interpretation into. I like this role of mediator, where you are creating a system that is open enough for the people to put their own meaning and interpretation into it, but that is helpful enough for them to be a real tool with which to do something. The basis is always, what is the place about, what happened in the place, what is difficult in the place, what is an opportunity for improvement in the place? What is the trauma, and how can we work with the trauma to ease the trauma? So, from the very beginning, in South Korea when I was in Guangju, when I was in a town that was still living under the uprising of the eighties, there was this mountain where everybody went to hike and go to the monasteries. There was this kind of counterbalance, this soothing counterbalance to the trauma that was in the city. Then the performance was about that relationship between the trauma and the soothing mountain.

Sara Wallgren in her ISCP studio. 2019.

Sara Wallgren is a multimedia artist who creates sculptures and mixed media artworks which allow us to interact with the art object in unusual ways and aim to twist our perspective. Her works are many times integrated with sound. One of the reasons her work caught my attention is that she made sculptures, on display in her ISCP studio, to remove sound from the atmosphere. 

KD: How did the idea to create an object that removes sound come into play?

SW: I started working with sound ten years ago, and as you mentioned, sound always adds something. My sounds add something. Where does this particular project come from? Well, I found a constant frustration that if I have an opening at a gallery or something, at an institution, I found myself telling people all the time, “I’m sorry you can’t hear the sound now, but this is what it’s supposed to sound like. I started thinking about this project where I wanted to change or remove sound instead of adding sound. And that is one origin to this project. The other origin is actually quite paradoxical, because we live in a world that is very filled with stuff. As an artist, I also find it kind of problematic to feed into that, to make another object to put on a wall or put in a storage space somewhere. And I know that is paradoxical, because these things are objects, but they also aim to remove something, dampen the sound.

Tim Bruniges in his ISCP studio. 2019.

Tim Bruniges is a musician and visual artist who creates site-responsive installations. He has a background in musical composition and has researched live sound installation practice at the PhD level. His installations are deeply influenced by sound and our relationships to sound. 

MIRRORS Aalst, 2017. Acoustic mirrors, microphones, speakers. Installation view Aalst, Belgium. Photo: Tim Bruniges.

KD: Despite the physical scale and spatial expanse of an installation such as MIRRORS, and the primarily temporal focus in your works, how do you view the relationship between time and space in your sound installations? 

TB: One of the initial draws for me for working in an art context, as opposed to a music performance context, was simply the possibility of working outside the theoretical boundaries of time. As in, a lot of my installation works are described as being of ‘infinite duration.’ Of course, it’s clear to everyone that experiences them that the works necessarily must end when the exhibition ends, but even saying that something ‘lasts forever’ as a precept when it’s clearly a physical impossibility is at once too simple and too complex a notion to just discard, and therefore interesting to me in and of itself. But to answer your question on a more immediate, experiential level, there’s the fact that as soon as you remove the overt temporal markers from a sonic experience, the space of that sonic experience becomes more evident, which in turn tends to foreground the listener’s role in the creation of sound itself. So, I guess playing with temporality is really just a gateway to making sound, space and the listener more inextricably linked. And this idea leads back to the fact that for me sound is the most immediate and beautiful way to think through all manner of relationships in the world that we often take for granted. WM 

Katelynn Dunn

Katelynn Dunn is an artist and writer. 

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