Eco: Interviews about the exploration of sound in Latin America by female artists. Elizabeth Polanco

In Greek mythology, Echo (Eco) was a nymph from whose mouth came the most beautiful words. Once upon a time Zeus wife Hera became jealous of Echo and she cursed her so she could only repeat the last words uttered by other people. Following that, Echo fell in love with handsome Narcissus but his obvious rejection forced her to isolate in scorn and shame. Eventually Echo faded away but the sound of her voice prevailed.

Echo is a series of interviews of Latin American female artists that I will be publishing on Sonic Field as part of a research that looks for fresh and singular approaches to the creation and production in Sound Art.

My idea is not to consider “Latin-American sound artists” as a category, but instead to research the conditions in which these artists develop their interesting and original proposals.

The selection does’t necessarily obey to what I think are the most relevant or representative artists within the context, but instead I selected artists whose sensibility provide an original element that I feel sometime is missing in Sound Art production.

The first in this series is Elizabeth Polanco, a very young artist from Bogotá, Colombia whose interest in sound has captured my attention for some time now.

Here the interview.

Q. How and when you found in sound a field to develop your artistic concerns?

A. I became intrigued with sound when I just started my university studies, where I became interested in its perceptual potency. First, I realised how sound allows to have a very particular perception of a certain space considering the different tonalities that resonate in it and their location in this space. Secondly I was intrigued by how certain sounds can generate mixed reactions such as pleasure and repulsion depending on the subjective sensibility of the listener.

Q. From your experience do you feel that sound art is a line with greater presence in number of a particular genre? If so, have you seen this as an advantage, disadvantage or do you think it has no influence at all?

A. I believe that the presence of men and women in the field of sound is equivalent; the number of male sound artists is almost identical to the amount in the female one, therefore I don’t see any advantages, disadvantages or influence because in sound art sound all genders have the same goal: the exploration of sound.

Q. Sometimes the relationship between what an artist do reads, investigates, eats, watches and listens, and the work that she or he produces simultaneously, is deliberate while at other times this relationship occurs in a subtler and even unconscious level. How do you feel about this relationship in your work?

A. I feel that both processes, deliberate and subtle, are present in the artistic life. As an artist, one has to enrich knowledge and experience because they provide the tools and also subjects that one looks to transmit. Therefore is in this feedback where both paths, deliberate and subtle, arise, first in the study, research and exploration of other artists, and secondly in the personal experience of everyday life where the work form the past and present consummates into one field.

Q. How do you articulate and experience in your work the following aspects of the sound practice:
A) The immediacy and the presential aspect of the performative in the concerts.
B) The isolation and that can be lead into during the process of composition.
C) The objectual and spatial facet of the exhibited installation or sonic sculpture.

A. Usually my pieces are compositions that require a detailed and focused listening. Isolation and retreat seem essential for this creative process because I like to work with subtle low frequency sounds, with very minimal and repetitive sonorities and with output channels as well. Retreat and isolation gives me the possibility to develop them with full detail and select what is more or less convenient for the piece. Live performances is a field I haven´t explored yet in part because I need time to make aesthetic decisions and the immediacy of concerts does’t provide it. I usually like to work with objects because installations and sound sculptures provide the most intimate experience. In addition, I find the experience with a tangible object more direct in the sense that the spectator can relate to the piece in a more substantial manner.

Q. Being a female artist from Latin America, do you think that this combination of elements influences in some way your creation? If so how this influence occurs?

A. Not much of an influence, I work with field recordings so naturally the subject of my recordings reflex the context where these sound are captured, but I am interested in elements that are universal like  public transportation for example.

Q. In sound art, collaborations between artists are very common. Have you worked with other artists? If so, how do you feel that these collaborations have enriched your work?

A. Of course. I have worked with other artists and this has allowed me to engage more with certain elements of the installative work for example recording gear, sound consoles and mixers, and also it has allowed me to meet people who has showed me the way to affordable and accessible methods, practices and devices that have been very helpful. Through other artists I also have learned about artistic references that have influenced and enriched my artistic work in conceptual terms.

Q. Is there any particular work or project you would like to talk about? If so, tell us about it?

A. Painting without painting was a sound installation in which four speakers were evenly distributed in a space. The idea of this installation emerged from my interest in considering sound in visual and plastic terms. With that in consideration, colour is a matter of light frequencies where the frequency determines its tonality. A light frequency was converted to a sound frequency and assigned to an individual speaker. The idea was to activate the space where the spectator could compose his own painting by walking across the room where each spot presented a unique experience.

To learn more about Elizabeth´s work visit her website.

Photo courtesy of Mario Carrascal.



David Vélez

David Vélez (PhD) is a Colombian sonic artist studying the acoustics of food, working in the intersection between sound ethnography and plant bioacoustics. His work oversteps the boundaries of installation art, field recordings, composition, performance and commensality exploring gardens, kitchens and open food markets as exhibition spaces. Vélez is interested in the strategic artistic possibility of sound and its invisible, immersive, unstable and fluctuating material, attrubutes shared with the nourishing transference of energy in food.