2013: The year in retrospective. Part X
Sound composer, artist. Works at Impulsive Habitat.
Chief editor at The Field Reporter
An introspective perspective
Text by David Vélez
Writing about one’s creative work is usually a hard task; to use words and sentences to ‘explain’ something that doesn’t necessarily uses words and sentences to communicate is not only complex but unnecessarily: one always has the more pragmatic alternative not to write or talk about one’s creative work.
In the other hand, writing about other people’s creative work seems slightly easier mostly if the work is powerful and evokes images, memories and reflections that helps articulating the text.
Still, after two years working as editor for Earlabs and now three for The Field Reporter, writing about sound art * it is still something that requires a big deal of my creativity and time.
The point is now..is anybody reading?
Over the past year The Field Reporter averaged 120 visits a day, which leads to figure that they are people out there interested in reading about sound art, or at least interested in the fact that they are texts being written about sound art.
When TFR started, its direction was to publish reviews of sound compositions; after a couple of years the direction has also expanded to other editorial approaches like essays written by artists and interviews made to artists, curators and writers. Coincidentally these articles seem to draw more attention from our readers than the reviews as it is stated in the website statistics.
The people who read TFR seem interested in what the artists have to say about the ideas, concepts and media aspects behind their sound works.
Whether you talk about compositions, concerts or installations I feel that the encounter with a sound art piece should be equally meaningful with or without an accompanying text. Actually sometimes I like when the story behind a certain piece remains a mystery as it can easily happen with acousmatic composition, a line of work that strongly stimulates our imagination and activates our memory with sound.
But even if it doesn’t interests us, there is always a process behind a piece: a process built around questions and explorations, a process that can become subject of interest by itself regardless of its final result.
I believe that the formal and conceptual questions that the artist deals with during the creative process of a certain work are inevitably encoded and contained in the final piece whether they manifest explicitly or not.
A sound art piece is a container of encrypted information regarding the relation that the artist establishes with himself and the world during a certain period of time during a specific course of events, and under certain specific conditions.
And it is up to the artist to try or not to unlock and release this content.
Recently I was invited to speak in a forum about sound art and recordings with composers John Grzinich and Eamon Sprod; one of the most interesting questions that surged during the forum was, why so many of the people who work creatively with sound and recordings have the urge to publish the result of their work, why it has to be presented to others? It was a pretty complex question that actually never got a sufficiently convincing answer.
If making public our work is already complicated and hard to explain, then making public our thoughts and motivations behind it could be even more complicated.
An artist makes questions, reflections and decisions in an internal dialogue that occurs parallel to the creative process. This is the room that I see for actual research in sound art. Not a theoretic frame built by an institutionalized line of thought but instead a series of very personal, individual, intimate and elusive dialogues and monologues that often aren’t even transcribed or documented.
Writing can be valuable, because it leaves a trace of all of these reflections and questions, a trace that can escape oblivion and prevail. Still, writing is not essential in the creative process; a sound artist shouldn’t need to be expressive and fluent with rhetoric and discourse to be effective with his work; otherwise an effective sound work is about presenting substantial content and emotional forms without necessarily recurring to the structures of human language **.
Methaphors and causality
The Arabic philosopher Al-Kindi defines all causes as metaphorical. If causation is metaphorical, there are more causes present than are necessary to cause a certain effect.
‘…metaphor is just Greek for translation, since meta means across and -phor means carrying. This is a far more suitable way to think causality than mechanical clunking.’
– Timothy Morton from ‘Realist Magic Objects, Ontology, Causality’
I believe that my work is effective when it catalyzes analogies and metaphors; it is effective when it can be emotionally and intellectually appropriated by the spectator. Only if my intentions are invisible the spectator will reflect himself on the work.
On 2012 I started to work with a sub-woofer and when I discovered what I could do with it in terms of vibration and resonance, I started to get interested in destroying things.
I found very appealing and absurd that something invisible and intangible like sound, could have such a strong impact on tangible physical matter.
By the time I started working with the subwoofer and breaking things, I also started to read the writings of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, which became really helpful in order to consent the inevitable double lecture that we do on things: one emotional and personal -the reduction-, and other more functional, causal and universal.
‘We must not, therefore, wonder whether we really perceive a world, we must instead say: the world is what we perceive’.
And then I remembered Julien Barbour’s theory about a universe without time, being time just an illusion.
Many years later I discovered the many analogies and metaphors that can arise from the relations that I can establish between the mysterious invisibility and intangibility of time and the mysterious invisibility and intangibility of sound.
Sound strongly activates the illusion of change and motion, and change and motion are essential aspects in the way we perceive time.
Time concerns me beyond my craft, and sound is how I craft this concern.
Destruction is the action that for me best points out to the absurd and dramatic relation between life and death, a relation that constantly puzzles and overwhelms me.
Sometimes, when I am recording in the forest and it is really dark and they are threatening animal species around, I get scared; I am there not only recording but also confronting certain funded and unfunded fears, turning my awareness into a more primal state of alert.
Even when we are just thinking, we are using human communication; there is an internal dialogue that reflects in our emotions and behavior.
But sometimes for very short spans of time and for a variety of reasons, the internal dialogue stops, and communication occurs now on an emotional level and all that we can listen is the absence of thought.
This is when the potency of sound finally kicks in.
[David Vélez, photo Lina Velandia]
* I refer to sound art as the broad universe of creative practices with sound, that range from composition to installations and that are linked with other lines of work such as music, fine arts, photography, film, literature and architecture.
** ‘…”language” may refer to the cognitive ability to learn and use systems of complex communication, or to describe the set of rules that makes up these systems, or the set of utterances that can be produced from those rules. All languages rely on the process of semiosis to relate signs with particular meanings. Oral and sign languages contain a phonological system that governs how symbols are used to form sequences known as words or morphemes, and a syntactic system that governs how words and morphemes are combined to form phrases and utterances.
Human language…relies entirely on social convention and learning. Its complex structure therefore affords a much wider range of possible expressions and uses than any known system of animal communication’.
Photos of different projects I did through 2013:
1) A mechanism from my work ‘Deriva y catástrofe’.
By Lina Velandia.
2) As till from my work ‘La orilla’.
By Lina Velandia.
3) My presentation at Arteocupa.
4) An installation at the Tecnología Primitiva residence.