Visual sound works from imaginary archives (part 1)
Paul Wilson and Eva del Rey, co-curators of Listen: 140 Years of Recorded Sound present:
Since 2016 the British Library sound archive has been hosting show-and-tell and listening sessions for students from the Graphic and Communication Design department at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts.
This year we offered the students a tour of our free exhibition Listen:140 Years of Recorded Sound along with an introduction to the Library’s Listening and Viewing Service.
Guided by a brief from tutor Abbie Vickress, we hoped to inspire the students to develop projects in response to the sound archive collections. The brief asked students to reflect on the role of the archivist; on how sound is used in exhibitions; and how one might attempt to ‘archive the intangible’.
After two weeks of work the creative responses emerged in the form of one-minute sound pieces and video works with accompanying visual art, and one online performance. What follows is a mini-gallery of ten sound works and one video, each presented with notes provided by the respective artists.
Michelle Lim draws inspiration from the exhibition’s display of historical recording devices and suggests that in our rush to digitise our sonic past we’re in danger of losing something equally precious – our tactile relationship with the physical world. Chang Liu and Julie-Anne Pugh both envisage therapeutic applications in which future ‘sound hospitals’ blend sound and memory to create bespoke treatments. Andrea Li seeks to preserve the endangered sounds of a once leisurely world, now being swept away in the headlong rush toward faster technology. Yuen Wai Virginia Ma and Alice Lin re-enact the ‘hit and miss’ nature of archival selection/survival, and its equally arbitrary neurological counterpart, the human brain.
The Archive of Tactile Expression exists in a future where our relationship with technology has become so intimate that it acts as our intermediary with the physical world. Everything has been virtualized, thus, we have forgotten how it feels to touch. Physical objects have been modelled and re-conceptualised into digital space. All of our motions have been reduced to the limited gestures between our fingertips and the screen.
The Archive includes The Death of the Button - an audio-narration of the history of the push-button, an artifact that sits in the Archive. It narrates the push-button's transition from an object of wonderment in the 20th century to an intangible idea in an era of 21st-century touchscreens. More from Michelle Lim
The ‘Sound Hospital’ is a place that archives coloured noises. Different coloured noises have different functions. For example, white noise can help people with concentration while pink noise can help people to sleep well….
So, what I want to do is to provide an experience room for people in this hospital.
Music Remedies challenges modern attitudes toward well-being and the many new health trends we are adapting to, through an attempt to heal physical illnesses like hangovers without the need of painkillers.
This 60-second sound piece is a sample of a longer composition designed to guide one out of the depths and into the light through a series of specific layered sounds.
‘The Collection of Obsolete Interactions’ is one of the sound categories within the slow archive that showcases everyday forgotten ephemeral interactions that have become redundant due to developments in technology and the drive for consumers wanting things faster, stronger and better. These interactions relate to the entertainment, service and communication areas of consumers’ lives.
Brain as an Archive is a performance that shows our minds’ selective archives of memories, conversations and emotional baggage. The main objective of this project is to give authorship to the viewer in creating their own narrative. The sound of this piece is composed of a combined mix of different narratives.