Recovering the sound

A reflection on sound, noise and contemporaneity in the context of the programme of FICXLAB.

Published: Nov 23, 2015
Recovering the sound

'Elisabet, Lena, Tobias, Kerstin, Besa, Rikard, Anki', 2013. Alex Reynolds

By Marta Lorenzo Jáudenes (@MartaLorenzoJ) My Art Diary

"Wait a minute, wait a minute, you ain't heard nothin' yet".

This is the first spoken line in film making history, pronounced in the film “The jazz singer" (1927). That was in the 1920s and, since then, technological advancements have changed and continue changing the way we convey stories within and outside the screen. However, there is something that does not change and that will ever be current, the sound. Sound in its capability to express a certain type of feelings but, especially, to generate fiction.

In our society that favours image and the sight over any other sense, it seems that we are missing something, so to speak, of life. We live so much exposed to a saturation of images in our own social networks and traditional media like television, that most times we just hear, but we do not listen. I get the feeling that we perceive sound rather as a deafening everyday sound, for example, with the constant beeps of our smart phone. It is precisely these so disturbing sounds that start when we get up (Who does not use the mobile phone as an alarm clock?) until we go to bed, but intermingled with the most contemporary and sadly very current and predominant sounds, the sound of machine guns and tanks in the wars of Middle East, were central in teh sound sound performance by the artist Kassem Mosse last November 10 at Museo Reina Sofía. This intervention closed the lecture of the artist Hito Steyerl, currently exhibiting at this museum and, without a doubt, one of the most critical and provocative creators in contemporary art.

And taking up the aforementioned disturbing sounds, recently I read on the news that even sounds that cannot be heard by humans have been created, with ultrasound waves broadcasted in TV advertising, and online advertising, that we detect with our devices (tv, tablet, mobile phone), the provide private firms with data on our behaviour regarding the ad in question, how long do we watch it, whether we buy or not...Sounds crazy, doesn't it?

Well, against so much hidden control, I prefer to think of all that makes sound something beautiful to keep and to learn from. A sound we enjoy especially in the cinema, but also by being able to see beyond everyday sounds, as explained in this TED video by the singer-song writer Meklit Hadero:

In order to learn with sound, Laboral Centro de Arte y Creación Industrial has launched the workshop "Un tira y afloja entre el ojo y el oído", that takes place today and tomorrow. This activity is part of the programme of FICXLAB, a section of Gijon Film Festival organised by the Centre. It is aimed at giving visibility to the latest artistic practices related with the moving image. This is its third year, helping viewers to generate their own critical opinion about all those images that surround us everyday and, at the same time generate knowledge on video art and experimental film making.

In particular, in this workshop students will discover the potential of sound to generate tales and impact our perception of reality. This will be achieved by means of hands-of exercises about sound, with examples from the history of film making, art and literature. Moreover, all the work will finish with the creation of a site-specific sound piece. It will be conducted by the artist Alex Reynolds, renowned for his projects designed for just one viewer and who has developed workshops in other centres like Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo de Móstoles. I had the chance to discuss with her the importance of her work, her references and her expectations for this workshop. Below you can read the conversation:

Interacting with the public, or rather with the individuals is essential in your work not only for the narration but also as its main driver. Could you explain why you are interested in such a personal relationship? How do you use sound to create this first-person connection?

My works involve viewers physically, but on the other hand they don't address viewers directly, it is within and outside at the same time, it is not a comfortable space. I want viewers to consider their experience with the piece as another element of the work.

Which references of film making, art or literature will be used in the workshop to analyse sound as an element in itself?

Italo Calvino, Dora García, John Smith, Tati, Audiard, Lucrecia Martel, Charlie Chaplin, Walter Murch, Michel Chion...

We live surrounded by acoustic pollution, assuming noise as a part of our lives. Don't you think that such a derogative of sound makes us unaware of its essential role in our lives?

If we don't want to see an image we look away or close our eyes, but as ears have no eyelids we perceive sound as something much more invasive. Perhaps the only way to stop hearing the noise is listening carefully.

For whom is this workshop addressed? Which tools with you provide participants with upon completion of the workshop?

It addresses all those interested in film making, sound, site-specific works and fiction. Hopefully, by the end of the workshop participants will be more aware of the sounds around them, they will acquire a vocabulary to speak and work with sound, and they will use it to guide their look and body.

In which other projects are you currently working with sound?

I think a lot how the repetition of a sound, a rhythm can connect two bodies physically without touching each other… I am currently making a film where rhythm and sound are a narrative vehicle as important as the word, or even more.

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