Archives for the month of: February, 2014

Resonance I






Resonance I, 2014

On Thursday 13th February 2014, a group of 14 vocalists performed my first vocal work at the opening of an exhibition. The performance, which took place in the cavernous, neo-classical Sculpture Court of the Edinburgh College of Art, was unannounced and lasted just over six minutes. The performers, appearing to be regular visitors to the opening, were distributed randomly. The beginning of the performance involved my vocalising a sustained, single note mechanically amplified through a simple, hand-held speaker cone. The performers, joined in, holding the same note over an extended period before continuing with their own choice of sustained notes judged at all times as a response to the other performers and the auditory quality of the work as it evolved within the space. The work is a gradual, non-linear evolution, of shifting harmonies and dis-harmonies, resonances, dissipations and flowings.

It is a collective drawing of sculptural space through sound.

It is at the edge of order – propelled by chance and the relationship between the individual and the other/s.

It is the reverberation of a moment passed,

an articulation of perceived presence in time and space.

Listen to first performance.


Artist’s recent work in development – with straw,  chair and rope and the sound of restful breathing (listen).

I’ve been busy listening to, recording and creating sounds while, at the same time, juxtaposing these with objects – the same objects (and spaces) that make the sounds and others that don’t. This extension of my practice is good. It’s fundamentally changing the way I think about objects – a totally unexpected consequence of this shift towards an auditory perspective.

My efforts have become a series of experimental encounters with combinations and resonant juxtapositions. Subtlety works. Clichés abound.

Recording  (listen) of artist’s own involuntary body sounds – heartbeat, sneeze, stomach and breath.

The obvious, such as heartbeats, are over-loaded with prescribed meanings that dominate our reading of the visual field. While we live in a world of incidental, real-time unmediated sounds, we are also immersed in the time-based, mediated world of manipulated audio. Working with sound in sculpture has to involve an understanding and navigation of these two states of learned sound experience.

Anticipation and the expectation of its specific fulfillment is fertile ground for sound. We respond to certain sensory stimuli by filling in the sensory gaps. With respect to the object and the image of the object, the visual impression of an occurrence, such as a falling cup, causes us to anticipate the auditory consequence, i.e. the sound of a smash. Likewise, auditory stimuli causes us to anticipate a visual impression of the likely event that just occurred but did not see.


Moving beyond images of assumed reality, we arrive at the visual field of symbols and the written word. From a traditional point of view this strays into the realms of print-making, painting and poetry, but is, I believe, especially interesting with respect to instructional works. 

Balloon & Pin instruction

Projected slide from experimental instructional work involving audience participation (each member of the audience having been given a deflated balloon and a pin.)

Finally, the visual-to-auditory relationship comes full circle and we end up at the sound of the written word as spoken. This time the sound is tapping into the language centers of the brain such that the effect of the sound of the word is wholly different (obviously) from that of the sound of the subject that is being spoken of. Because the sound is identifiable as language, the effect on the listener is culturally contingent.

Straw box inside

Straw I, 2013 (detail)

To date, I have experimented with spoken word in just one sculpture. In Straw I, 2013, the audience encounters a dark projection room in which there is a thick layer of straw into which they must walk in order to experience the work. A close-up video of the skin, moving, on the side of my face as I speak is projected onto the wall while a continuous audio track of me slowly reciting the names of wild animals commonly found in captivity.

While the straw and moving image remained contained within the projection room, the sound of my voice reciting the animal names carried through the gallery space beyond. The effect of this created a divided response from the audience. Clearly, the handling of the audio element of a work needs to take into account the proximity, nature and ownership of the surrounding works in the gallery. However, there can be no doubt that an audio element can affect the audience’s response to all the works within earshot, on a range of levels – from aggressively interruptive to subtle and subversive.

No matter the immateriality of sound, it is a profoundly affecting and effective medium that needs to be handled with consideration and subtlety.