not listening. listening.


last week i did a small performance/occupation/process work at west space gallery, as the first in a series of project about the role of headphones/sound in the public sphere. it was an impromptu work, facilitated by the presentation of the great sound art show magnetic traces, curated by philip samartzis and eric la casa.

my particular work was in response to the piece by jean-luc guionnet, lac. lac was the sound object of a working lake in france, transported to the gallery in melbourne – the rush of water, the sound of boats and littoral public life was amplified into the main space.

i did a feedback loop of sorts – me sitting in the space for the duration of the lac work with headphones on: not listening to the ambient sounds of the public which are transported into the private domain, by listening to the sounds from a private domain, by a member of ‘the public’.

being and not-being, whilst being and not-being.

it was quite an enlightening experience and valuable research for my masters, which looks at the reconfiguration of space through headphone use*. i found myself regularly switching between being ‘present’ in the gallery, and then remembering the last time i heard the particular song, or some other kind of connection. it was interesting to be hangin’ out, experientially speaking, in the interstitial space of real time and nostalgia.

and in terms of heaphones as a social ‘code’, headphones in a gallery say ‘participation’ in a way that they clearly do not in the public realm. in fact, they’re more in line with adorno’s sense of ‘we-ness’ than at any other time. and in the gallery, i confused some poor chap who couldn’t hear anything in the peace and assumed it was being transmitted into headphones. he asked phip if he could have a set and she had to explain that some slightly potty artist was doing an artwork and that it wasn’t a headphone piece. i’m glad, though, that i found out about this little ‘interaction’ – it did reveal what i thought to be true anyway about some of the clear ‘messages’ that headphone-wearing has in the crossover between public and private.

it was also a great chance to respond to another artists work on an authentic level, without paying homage, or critiquing the work, but creating an echo of it from a place of appreciation and connection.

tomorrow some friends and i will be listening to the sounds of the city using/not using headphones. it’s the extended remix of the listening to the city work from earlier in the year. expect to see more soon.

*extending from theory about the effect of radio and walkmans on the public by kracauer, bull and adorno.

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public space has a soundtrack now

SSR_ 10

apologies for the lack of posts on this blog of late. i’ve had a big project hangin’ over my head, causing me a whole swag of stress. and as much as i love procrastinating in times of stress, i really haven’t been able to justify blogging 🙂

as i keep alluding to, my masters research this year is focusing on sound in the public space, especially within increased urbanity. i’m specifically investigating the divide between public and private sound – the choice over the kind of ‘noise’ you hear, through the groovy development of headphones, and what it is in public that we don’t hear when we choose to wear them.

the research i’ve done so far has involved a couple of smaller projects which are starting to flesh out the crux of what i’m looking at. and the main thing i’ve learned is that, actually, the crux is a whole lot further away than a final year’s project. which means two things: that i’m going to be presenting more of a ‘study’ rather than a final ‘masterpiece’ and, that both mayhem and lucazoid‘s evil suggestions that i do a PhD is looking scarily feasible.

mobile privacy units

MPU SideOn

these are headphone-based objects that play on the social codes and language surrounding the wearing of headphones and their role in creating acoustic privacy in public space.

Headsets have been augmented with art materials also associated with soundproofing/creating quiet: cardboard, felt, cotton wool (in your ears, mate) and take on the oversized form of DJ heasets. And a range of text has been added to state explicitly the kind of language and messages that are often and/or unsconsciously conveyed through the wearing of headphones in public whilst listening to portable music..

Just the image of headphones over ones ears can be enough of a ‘do not disturb’ sign.

These MPUs shout this need for acoustic privacy:‘sssh!’; ‘private’ ; ‘!sssh’ (in arabic); ‘quiet time’; ‘mon moment tranquille’ (‘my quiet moment’ fr. trans); ‘please leave me alone’.

the measure of the public soundtrack


Psychoacoustics, or the perception of sound, has links with psychogeography as one way to map, or
experience the city and die Öffentlichkeit (the public sphere). This project measured public/ambient and
private sound taken into the public space – primarily music through headphones and externalises this
liminal space through drawing.

Images were made by occupying a selection of public spaces and mapping the ambient sound using a variety of capture technology. The primary device was the online Voice Drawing Tool by ze frank, which responds to sound through basic form from a laptop in-built mic: low volume curves counterclockwise, medium volume is straight, high volume curves clockwise. HD Video, Microsoft Word and still images were also used to record sound environment.

The iphone/ipod touch application, Wide Noise was intended to be used, but didn’t function without an external mic on the ipod touch.

This has become a comparitive study of place through its sonic output and the images represent the nature – aural and otherwise – of these places in visual form. The drawings also mapped the conceptual action of being in the public space, listening and measuring sound through drawing and technology.

listening and dancing to the city

SSR_ 33

This project aims to draw attention to all of sound in the public space, the action of listening and headphones-as-device through the process and/or performance of actively listening to sites and their rhythms in the CBD.

By performing the acts of listening and then dancing to places in the city, over a reasonably prolonged period of time (well, an hour), the artists involved will become attuned to the city and its soundtrack. Passers-by will also notice the sustained process
of engaging with the sound of the city and question their own engagement or response to sound, listening, dance and the ‘soundtrack’ of the urban environment, both public and private.

This project also uses the artists’ occupation of space as a vital basis from which to make observations and to elicit change within the public realm. It places itself within the ‘political’, people-focused, process-based aspect of arts practice.

audio guide (test project)

using the mobile privacy units, i made an ‘audio guide’ for the underground art space at collingwood housing estate, during their Living Art project. the work, which caricatures gallery audio headsets, encourages the viewer to note what they see in the gallery, and what they hear. and when i say ‘note’, i mean it – the work comes with little cards with a list of 5 things they’ve seen and 5 they’ve heard.

whilst it wasn’t an absolute hit in this setting, i think i’m going to push it a little and see where it goes, in terms of gallery settings – maybe even public gallery settings.

the next lot of projects are slated to include:

emergency dance zone: public permission to rock out. for when you’ve got a killer track in your headphones and you’ve just gotta dance. kind of like a porta-loo for dancing. changes afoot, dates and locations TBC.

the listening to the city XL. i think i’m going to work this one up into a larger scale – 20 or so artists in a smallish city block.

the cone of silence – a ‘silent’ space in a public gallery. in september/october in melbourne.

i’d also love to do a workplace-based work, plugging into the whole culture of open-plan offices using headphones as privacy devices. but we’ll have to see.

these images and some of the text are from my first publication for uni – a durable visual record – which was made in the vein of a 7″ rekkid. with a DVD of ‘bonus material’, liner notes and a booklet. i’ve uploaded the main part of it as a PDF here. and as a presentation here. if you feel like it.

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art isn’t important.


let’s face it, in the whole scheme of things, a lot of artists make a lot of useless crap. me included. we take up resources that could, in a more conscientious society, could be used for those less-fortunate, or could be saved in order to take better care of our planet.

sometimes i think that maybe the world would do ok without artists. and i could be forgiven for disappearing down a nihilist path and refusing to come out of a cave until the world was perfect.

but the other day i had two complimentary conversations with friends that made me realise that, apart from other, more obvious reasons, artists are important. and it’s not necessarily for what we produce, but the process we go through to get to that outcome. by what we see, hear and then pass onto others. in another forum, i might use the word discourse. or even dialectic. luckily, this isn’t one of those forums.

i go to a fair amount of exhibitions. i’m always thinking, looking, reading – keepin’ an eye on what’s out there – it could be said that i ‘consume’ art. i certainly mainline it most of the time and i am hardly ever ‘not working’. when i go into my day job, or catch up with other friends, i regularly talk about the shows i’ve seen, articles i’ve read, cool blogs, podcasts i’ve heard, stuff i’m working on, ideas i’m thinking about, or other random, quirky bits and pieces related to arts and culture.

i mostly do this because i’m a chatty, caring-sharing, annoying type. but i didn’t realise that, in sharing my process in this way, my friends (and family) feel connected to what’s going on in the arts, feel that they can discuss aspects of art/culture and that they feel more “cultured” through knowing me. that’s a nice compliment istn’ it? and it’s quite a nice gift to give someone too don’t you think? one where they feel that they can get access to areas of society that are attractive, but possibly seem off-limits. it makes art truly political.

granted, what i make may not have people feeling “connected” to art or culture, but it seems the open process i go through in order to make those things is just as valuable to those around me.

i like that idea.

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using a fashion device.

Over the last year, i’ve been doing more and more conceptual work, primarily about the process of measuring spaces.

Not being a natural born killer on screen, and not wanting the work to be about ‘me’ per se, i’ve taken to using a fashion device as a costume of sorts: my black st pauli cap and a black hoodie.

It has been interesting to see it creep into my process on a semi-conscious level and to notice the relationship between what i wear when i am doing these process works and how it fits in with what other artists have used when making similar works, primarily joseph beuys, eminen and every graf artist in the history of the world.

I certainly didn’t set out for it to be that way. It just happened to be what i was wearing the first time i documented the measuring and patterning of the RMIT toilets. In fact, most of my friends will attest to the fact that black jeans and hoodie are pretty much my uniform during winter anyway. But the fact that it has moved from happenstance to choice is interesting to me. It has become a symbol of anonymity, comfort and specificity for me now. I step into a mode through this moda and it enables me to focus. Same goes for costume throughout the history of theatre.

The thing with the hat is kind of fascinating and little embarrassing in its obvious (although unintentional) link to beuys. i’m sure that mr beuys used the hat in similar ways- as a screen to hide behind, regular symbol of his process and a personal motif, so maybe it’s unsurprising that there’s a sartorial link.

And then of course there is the uniform of making (often uncommissioned) work in public- the black hoodie. Contemporary fashion device of blending in and hiding- a dime a dozen. Which also also happens to be bound up in political action, as suggested in the pics of G20 protests on flickr and eminen’s cool mosh vid from 2006. The hoodie has become a fashion item of the public space, in terms of interacting with it. It’s the street version of the black cloak and wig of law, or the black polo of architects (i jest).

if i had more time, and i was a fashion grad student, as opposed to half-arsed blogger, it could be an interesting point of research: fashion devices used in public and performance art.

In the mean time, you have this.

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enciclopedia ilustrada

As long as Im walking,
Im not:

I will not repeat
I will not remember

Francis Alÿs, from The Walker

[thanks to eddy for sending it to me, not once, but twice AND posting it on her blog – just in case]

Here’s my list from my occupation at Knox.

When i’m in the toilet i will not:
Buy stuff
Think about buying stuff

Worry about money

Worry about whether I’ve bought something I shouldn’t have

Wonder if my husband/mother/friend/child will like what I’ve bought

Feel bad about myself because the jeans I wanted to buy were too small, even though they were a size 12

Support sweatshops and slave labour by getting those Nikes.

Drive around for 30 minutes trying to get a park nearest the door, then forget where I parked my car.

Shoot up smack. I’m not a heroin addict.

Smoke. I gave up smoking years ago.

See sunshine for a couple of hours.

I will:


Day dream
Make myself comfortable
Have some time to myself

Interestingly, i’m writing about the role of occupation in public art/art in the public space and it seems that in any kind of occupation, what’s not being done is just as important as what is being done – that the negative space of action (inaction) supports and equally defines the positive. Who would have thought that such formalist ideals as postive/negative space and form could translate so beautifully to post-modern manifestos about process.

oh, and take this as a warning – there’ll probably be a post about occupation soon. tune out either tomorrow or wednesday if you can’t be arsed reading more art/political rhetoric.

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no pens or pencils allowed

Interesting Sketchbook P5

i know the ngv went through this a while ago. i know they’ve got some good reasons for it (mostly financial, really), but can i just say that i’m fucked off that i won’t be able to take a pen or pencil in to sketch their winter masterpieces Art Deco show next week? i’m a student and will be taking advantage of their extra discount, but what’s the point in encouraging students to see the show, if you can’t actually learn from the show in a way that is helpful: ie, writing about and sketching about the show? ok, so as i write that, i can see that there are other ways to learn from the show, but as an artist and a student of art, architecture, design, craft, etc. [ie, all the good stuff of the art deco era], i get the most out of an artwork when i can stand in front of it and draw it. i process it on a very deep level and can learn by imitation from master artists and craftsman.

if a public institution is serious about having educational quality, surely allowing people to learn on this level is important? or am i just being selfish?

UPDATE: this says it all, really

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