for those of you who were following my cone of silence antics, you might also wanna check out this show at conical which opens whilst i’m down the coast on friday (d’oh!)

i’ve pinched all of this from the conical site and i’m hoping to update with a link to Cara-Ann’s own site shortly.

oh, and by the way, my thesis on sound in the public space (who could resist the invitation of those dainty headphones) is online. it’s only 60MB so feel free to download it 🙂

‘The Act of Things That Aren’t There’

The work of Cara-Ann Simpson is about constructing environments where the ephemeral nature of experience is explored. This exploration forms a seminal material within the reading of the work ‘Noise Cancellation: disrupting audio perception’ as this installation questions the relationship between public and private space as an architectural metaphor for spatial collage. This is done by creating objects that have a physical and sonic construction.

The validity of Simpson’s work is to question its own existence within a site-specific context creating a composition that isn’t about sound as music but about sound as object. The work is suspended within a particular time and space where an interruption between various elements meets and overlaps, leading to a transformation of the object into an observational landscape. This landscape is constructed through the audio which creates a spatial collage that juxtaposes and knits together disparate aural elements from inaudible whispers, the clatter of the site and the viewer’s physical presence within the space. This form of sonic collage transforms the actual physical reality of the object sitting in the gallery space. The object now must be read as not only just a Post-minimalist form but also as an object transmitting a signal which creates an assemblage of readings and meanings within the installation. It is from this point that the work creates a stage that is set up to rebuild the understanding of the object from its concrete and aural realities.

What Simpson’s work achieves, is to shift the roles of interior and exterior space in relation to the viewer. In this context the anticipated boundaries between object, gallery and viewer are shifted within the exhibition space. Thus there is a fluctuation between concrete reality (that of the object as a Post-minimalist sculpture) and the audio (as an elevation of ordinary sound to form a mapping of experience). The work thus acts as a temporal vessel inhabiting the gallery space but also the physical space of the viewer as the work is to be experienced through a duality of reading. This duality is created through the viewing of the audio speaker both as an object and as audio sound that creates an ephemeral collage.

Simpson’s ‘Noise Cancellation: disrupting audio perception’ is an evolving installation that is constantly being repositioned within an immediacy of collaged space, where a highly structured object meets with the uncontrolled experience of the viewer. In this context the work can be seen as an ‘act’ carried out through the positioning of one object and its relationship to the abstract behaviour of the viewers’ patterns of movement and dialogue. This ‘act’ becomes an ongoing transient process of imbedding conceptual intention within the randomness of an individual’s viewing and listening experience. It is within this frame that the work acts to form indistinguishable ways of experiencing the duality between an object and its ephemeral construction of spatial dialectics.

Kyle Jenkins Toowoomba, 2009

When I first approached engineer, Eva Cheng, to help me with this project I wanted to investigate a field of emerging technology – almost as an analytical and creative experiment. While the technological outcomes are exciting, it seems that the most interesting outcome is more to do with perception of sound within society.

The question is not so much about how sound is produced within our society, but rather how we interpret sound and respond to it. For example, I am currently sitting at my computer with a blanket over my head and computer and with earmuffs for working with loud machines on. I am trying to isolate myself from the sound that exists in the same room – in this case my partner playing a great slow psychedelic Melbourne-based band loudly from his desk. My earmuffs are working to muffle the noise to a certain point – just enough for me to ignore the music and attempt concentration on another subject. I am unable to dislocate myself from the noise of my surroundings, which is perhaps why my practice investigates the very nature of sound and its cultural implications.

Noise Cancellation: disrupting audio perception explores sound as a form of creativity, a product of engineering and science, and as a cultural experiment. There has been much discussion on modes of listening within cultural theory and modern philosophy, but it has often been the case of separating listening from hearing. This installation questions the validity of separating listening and hearing, instead suggesting an equality that leads towards sameness. Roland Barthes proposed a formal separation of hearing and listening by separating the physiological from psychological. However, as portable music players become increasingly accessible and ‘essential’, theories on hearing and listening must change accordingly. Michael Bull describes the effects of the iPod as “the creation of a personalised soundworld” that “creates a form of accompanied solitude for its users in which they feel empowered, in control and self-sufficient”. Bull’s ideas imply that perhaps we can reach a state of listening where we are also hearing – accepting the additional environmental noises around us as part of our ‘soundtrack’. Perhaps it is possible for the ‘modern listener’ to merge Barthes’ notion of hearing as to do with the body in space and awareness of surroundings with his notion of listening as an act of concentration and decisiveness to analyse sounds. In many ways we are doing this already – accepting traffic noise on public transport while listening to music, or those few moments at the end of a song where nothing is playing but the environmental sounds allow that moment to merge with the next song – a constant fusion of sound and music through physiological and psychological listening/hearing. But my query lies more within the realm of removing music from this equation and asking the participant to give that same level of attention to the environmental sounds.

Noise Cancellation: disrupting audio perception forces audience participation by recording the sounds of any person entering the space – but it also asks for interaction by physiologically and psychologically hearing and listening. The installation spits out the sounds we make straight back at us, changing and altering signals – asking us to pay attention and find the difference. These alterations are disquieting – they are not loud and vicious, but blend back into the surroundings, subtly altering our cognition of the space both as a physical and psychological manifestation. Where Barthes suggests that listening is about psychologically deciding on what to ignore, this installation asks us to consider accepting all. To be as aware of the output from the speakers as of our own sounds, those sounds around us, and those sounds beyond the room.

B LaBelle, Background Noise: Perspectives on Sound Art, The Continuum International Publishing Group Inc, New York, London, 2006.
M Bull, ‘No Dead Air! The iPod and the Culture of Mobile Listening’, from Leisure Studies, Vol. 24, No. 4, October 2005, p. 353.

Cara Ann Simpson, 2009

Cara-Ann Simpson is a multidisciplinary artist with a focus on the tension between visuality and aurality. In 2007, Simpson graduated from the University of Southern Queensland with a Bachelor of Visual Arts with Distinction, and in 2008, she completed her Bachelor of Visual Arts First Class Honours (USQ). Simpson was the recipient of the Hobday and Hingston Bursary from the Queensland Art Gallery in 2007, the Asia-Pacific Golden Key International Honours Society Visual & Performing Arts Sculpture Award (2008) and was awarded the University of Southern Queensland Faculty of Art – Visual Arts medal (2007). Simpson has recently been included in numerous emerging artist awards including the Wilson HTM National Art Prize 2009, Agendo 2009 and the Port Jackson Press Graduate Printmaking Award 2009.

Simpson has had a number of solo shows, sounds releases and been involved in numerous performances and group shows within Australia, New Zealand and the United Arab Emirates. In 2008 she installed a work at the Australasian Computer Music Conference (sound:space), Sydney Conservatorium of Music, and curated and performed a sound art collaboration, Audio Aware, with Lawrence English (Brisbane) at the Brisbane Powerhouse as part of the University of Southern Queensland’s tradeshow. She moved to Melbourne in early 2009.

Noise Cancellation was sponsored by the Janet Holmes à Court Artists’ Grant Scheme, supported through a donation by Mrs Janet Holmes à Court, financial assistance from the Visual Arts Board of the Australia Council and administered through NAVA, the National Association for the Visual Arts.

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