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1994 (or 1995 depending on which camp you subscribe to) is the anniversary of the birth of cinema. It’s probably fitting then, that in the Sound Studio event at The Performance Space in October, film will disintegrate before the audience’s very eyes. In Alchemie, created by German artists Thomas Koner and Jurgen Reble, acid is poured onto unexposed film as it is projected, and the sound of physical and chemical catalysis is amplified, creating its own audioscape. Studio, developed by independent curator and audiophile Alessio Cavallaro, also features a number of Australian artists who work with a variety of reconfigurations of sound, music, the body and the image, using a range of the historical lineage of technologies of sound and image developed in the last century.

Catherine Hourihan, Garry Bradbury and James Whitington create a multimedia performance which resurrects ‘primitive’ super 8 film, a gauge currently battling extinction, projected onto the moving body suspended in a trapeze. Daniel Cole’s untitled work uses static projected images and sound drawing from Public Works film footage of 1960s Sydney housing projects. Cole and Jo Frare also present a work with an historical bent, this time drawing on the development of forensic science and plastic surgery. Sophea Lerner’s computer-based sound and image work moves Studio into the digital age.

Rik Rue’s Everything Changes, Everything remains the Same utilises his extensive library of found sounds in a semi-improvisational aural piece that eschews the visual dimension entirely, as does Charlotte Whittingham’s Signal to move, which amplifies the sound of technology. Thomas Koner’s soundscape, Kanon, engages with the subtle margin between the audible and the inaudible, representing the “acoustic shore to the sea of silence outside.”

In Melbourne, Earwitness, developed by the Contemporary Music Events Company and curated by Sonia Leber, also challenges the idea of sound as an “accompaniment” or form secondary to the image: a range of practitioners express ideas using sound as their primary medium. A diversity of approaches is the key here; as Leber says, “ Sound can penetrate so many sites. It can be used as a means of communication in many different ways.” The event, to be held in November at a range of sites including the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art and the Botanical Gardens, showcases many of the most interesting artists working in sound art in Australia in a range of installations and performance events.

The installations are a mixed bag, ranging from interactive computer based works, to conceptual works and acoustic environmental works. A collaboration between Sherre DeLys and Joan Grounds will result in the engineering of a “new species”. The artists use the ambient, exotic space of the Glasshouse at the Botanical Gardens, an environment in which “transplanted sonic artforms” can migrate, cross fertilise and flourish, in a work which challenges the dominant perceptual role of vision. Derek Kreckler’s Boo! makes a witty, anarchic acoustic intervention in the normally silent and sacral white cube of the gallery. Graeme Davis creates a sculptural sound garden driven by wind and water. Joyce Hinterding’s custom designed electrostatic speakers use 8000 volts to create sonic and visceral energy waves where sound and space intersect: an architectonic acoustic environment is built into nodal points and planes where sound vanishes, juxtaposed with zones of high sonic intensity. Rod Berry’s Sound dial transforms solar power into acoustic energy: a set of solar panels activate organ pipes according to the arc of the sun, creating a slowly changing chord structure that ‘tells’ time audibly.

The performance series covers voice works, improvisations and works which focus on the body as the site of production and transmission of sound. Carolyn Connors will use vocal multiphonics to change physical objects, causing glasses to ring and possibly shatter. Anna Sabiel reprises her Tensile series: the suspended body physically orchestrates a subtle low-tech industrial soundscape. Herb Jercher performs a series of actions using sporting and archaic hunting ‘technologies’. Jercher plays with the way that simple physical technologies used in, for example, golfing or archery determine and shape the body’s movement through space and time, requiring kinaesthetic stealth, and producing an acoustic consequence such as the sound of the arrow in flight or the crack of a whip. Chris Mann and the Impediments will perform a ‘voice triangle’ using performers linked by technology but unable to hear each other’s voices; the performance works with a notion of information flow which uses the performer as signal processor or “biological computer”. Special guests for the festival are New York artists Ikue Mori, who formed the seminal No-Wave band DNA after moving to the US from Japan in 1977, and her collaborator David Watson.

These events are a kind of barometer for the current interest in sound art and performance, an impetus which has gathered momentum in the increasingly hybridised artworld of the 80s and 90s. Watch this space also for a national state of the art sound survey show to be held in 1995 at the Museum of Contemporary Art.

RealTime issue #3 Oct-Nov 1994 pg. 10

© Annemarie Jonson; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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