Previously at the ICA - Events

Acoustic Ambiguities

Part II: Acoustic Ambiguities

15 Sep 2012

This event, part II of SOUNDWORKS: BRRRRR BRRR BRRRR and MMMMMMMMMMMM features four presentations that focus on the gap between the origin and the location of sound. Taking a closer look at spatially discrepant auditory information, the four speakers present creative musings that investigate the acoustic ambiguities and physical inconsistencies of sound production, dispersion and consumption.


  • Brandon LaBelle on 'Echo'

    Doubling, shadowing, mirroring... all such performances lead to the dynamics of the echo, tuning us to the disjoined horizon of audibility separate from us that also finds its way back. The echo captures the spatial complexity of sound, as reverberant propagation that leaves behind its source to reflect from multiple surfaces. The echo returns sound's propagating energy, acoustically playing back to haunt this space, that body, with a certain voice – who's there?

    The echo thus outlines a primary figure of listening, that of othering and differentiation, which is also central to individuation, of separation. The echo returns us to ourselves, yet as another. Following such echoing behaviors, my presentation will examine the echo as a form of practice: of doubling, of twinning, of ghosting. The echo will also be highlighted as giving radical suggestion for strategies of resistance, where the gap between center and margin, dominant and subterranean, offers opportunity for movement. In this way, the echo supplies us with a platform by which to emphasize the fissures inherent to auditory experience as generative.

    Brandon LaBelle is an artist, theorist and writer. His work addresses questions of sociality, subjectivity and informal articulations of agency, using sound, performance, text and sited constructions. His work has been presented at the Whitney Museum, NY (2012), Image Music Text, London (2011), Sonic Acts, Amsterdam (2010), A/V Festival, Newcastle (2008, 2010), Museums Quartier, Vienna (2009), 7th Bienal do Mercosul, Porto Allegro (2009), Center for Cultural Decontamination, Belgrade (2009), Casa Vecina, Mexico City (2008), Netherlands Media Art Institute, Amsterdam (2003, 2007), Ybakatu Gallery, Curitiba (2003, 2006, 2009), Singuhr Gallery, Berlin (2004), and ICC, Tokyo (2000).

    He is the author of Acoustic Territories: Sound Culture and Everyday Life (Continuum, 2010) and Background Noise: Perspectives on Sound Art (Continuum, 2006).

  • Erica MacArthur: Glass music, the nervous system, and the threshold of beauty and harmony

    The transcendental notion of the feminine comes into focus through the glass instruments of the 1800s, whose cold ghostly tones were linked to both healing and hysteria during their short fashionable period. Benjamin Franklin’s glass Armonica was thought of not just as a very becoming instrument for the ladies of the era, but a later poetic symbol of feminine liminality itself. The effect the acoustic resonance of glass upon the inner workings of the body raises further questions of the physical effect of listening, and the possibility to arouse the vulnerable and stir the delicate.

    Glass might be thought of as a kind of musical 'other' which in its transparent purity was thought to create a bodiless sound, leaving the act of performance to a phantom body.

    Erica MacArthur is a writer and musician completing the MRes at the London Consortium, a multi-disciplinary programme in Humanities and Cultural Studies formed of a collaboration between the Architectural Association, Birkbeck College, the Institute of Contemporary Art, the Science Museum and Tate. After playing synthesizers for industrial pop band White Rose Movement, Erica studied the History of Art and developed an interest in architectural modernism, nostalgia and otherworldly universes of submersion. Her current research dovetails her musical experience with themes of fluidity, the etheral and the psycho-acoustic.

  • Joe Banks on 'Rorschach Audio - Art & Illusion for Sound'

    Rorschach Audio - Art & Illusion for Sound is a book which presents results from a more than decade-long study of illusions of sound. In this talk author Joe Banks discusses Electronic Voice Phenomena recordings, which EVP researchers believe are literally recordings of ghosts, demonstrating a range of sometimes bizarre sound illusions. These show how EVP recordings can be misinterpreted as proof of supernatural phenomena, and which, by analogy with various visual illusions, show how audio illusions form as byproducts of processes of perception - critically influencing artistic creativity and perceptions of and reactions to creative art.

    Joe Banks is a former Visiting Fellow at City University, an AHRC sponsored researcher at Goldsmiths College and The University of Westminster, and founder of the art project Disinformation. The Guardian wrote that 'Disinformation combines scientific nous with poetic lyricism to create some of the most beautiful installations around', SF author Jeff Noon wrote in The Independent that 'people are fascinated by this work', Art Monthly described Disinformation exhibits as 'distinctive and intelligent', novelist Hari Kunzru described Joe as the 'poet of noise' and The Metro described Disinformation as 'the black-ops unit of the avant-garde'.

  • Jon Wozencroft: Landscape and Perception

    For the past five years Jon Wozencroft has been working with artist/author/researcher Paul Devereux on a project that investigates the role of sound as a key element in the designation of certain landscapes and manmade constructions in the UK as being 'sacred sites'. The main area of study, the Preseli Hills of southwest Wales, is known as the source of the bluestones that were transported to Salisbury Plain circa 2500 BC to form a significant part of the monument of Stonehenge. Most researchers have since dedicated their efforts to understanding how they were transported across such a distance.

    Few have investigated why they were chosen for such a purpose in the first place. One significant clue is to be found among the rocky outcrops across Preseli. Jon Wozencroft and Paul Devereux have established that many of the supposedly inert lumps of spotted dolerite stones on the range are in fact lithophonic, producing a range of tones that thus far defy scientific explanation. The Landscape and Perception project is both an attempt to cast new light on this aspect of our heritage, and a more contemporary take on environmental awareness and experience.

    Jon Wozencroft is the author of The Graphic Language of Neville Brody 1 & 2, published by Thames & Hudson in 1988 and 1994, and a curator of the exhibition of the same name held at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1988, and ultimately at Parco department store in Tokyo in 1990. In 1990, he set up FUSE with Neville Brody, a critical forum for the impact of digital media on type and visual communication. In 1982 Jon Wozencroft founded the audiovisual publishing company Touch to push the powerful chemistry between sound and visual media.

    Alongside Touch, Wozencroft’s photography and design work has appeared in a number of publications, including Fax Art, Sampler, G1, Merz to Emigre and Beyond and most recently Cover Art By. In 2008 he was named Music Designer of the Year in the Qwartz Awards, Paris. Wozencroft has taught at Central Saint Martin’s College of Art and Design, The London College of Printing, and has given lectures at numerous art colleges and universities around the world. He is the Senior Tutor in sound and moving image in the School of Communication at the Royal College of Art.



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