found(ed) object(ion)


i found these posters, plastered up on bus stops in frankston.

i found them so despicable that i tore them down. thankfully, no one seemed to want to stop me doing that.

i found the whole experience completely weird. it’s not like frankston isn’t without its fair share of violence and rape. not to mention its filthy drug habit and general trashiness. it’s just that it’s mostly white there.*

i found the whole dialectic aspect of it kind of strange too – some racist wanker puts up these posters in prominent places, trying to sway a particular section of the public, and then i come along and tear it down – my action conveying a specific retort. and that , in a free country as ours purports to be, both actions are as ‘valid’ as each other. as much as i wanted to vomit all over the creator of said racist propaganda, i value the freedom of a politic which supports this kind of exchange – where he (and i’m being gross in my gender generalisation here) puts up shit i don’t agree with and i get to take it down. equal and opposite reaction again.

i found it quite important to be having a ‘remote’ clash of values, in the public realm. on equal footing almost. rather than it being facilitated through the all-powerful broadcast media, or the insidiousness of behind-closed-doors-deals-and-policy that happens at either end of the big power structures. it was almost mano e mano. one citizen against another in hand-to-hand combat.

i found out what what frankston looked like according to its sound a while back. it might be interesting to see what dandenong sounds like. and compare the two – see what frankston would sound like if it ended up like dandenong.

*disclaimer: for those not from melbourne, frankston is a southern outer-suburb which has had a bad name for years. it’s pretty low on the socio-economic scale and has a disproportionate amount of young pregnancy, amphetamine abuse and unemployment. superseded only by toorak (i jest, just). and my generalisation about frankston is just that. of course there are amazing people in frankston, doing some fantastic things. and plenty of ordinary people doing lovely ordinary things. naturally, this post isn’t really about them.

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calling all listeners

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all 5 of my regular readers will probably remember me talking about that listening project eddy and i did last month? where we ‘plugged in’ to the city and listened to the public soundtrack with our headphones on.

well, in the spirit of all things bold and beautiful, i’m upscaling the project for a performance next month and i’m looking for helpers.

i need people to listen with me. in public.

there will be 20 – 30 of us, all with headphones, randomly plugged into aspects of the city and its structure/infrastructure, all paying attention, noting the sounds of the city. radiating from the key intersection of elizabeth and bourke sts, but still in a relatively tight formation, the work will draw attention to the act of listening, the object of headphones in public and the sound of metropolitan melbourne.

unlike last time, you don’t have to dance. all you have to do is listen and be willing to do that for 30 minutes, in a group.

if you’re interested in participating, drop me a line in the comments section, DM me on twitter, or email me lauren @

if you’re one of my current angels, and i haven’t got back to you yet, never fear – the group email is nigh.


and here are some related links, just in case i haven’t made myself clear enough.

my mini-DVR (pdf)
flickr pics
my blog post
eddy’s blog post
michael bull’s essay in google books

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the fourth plinth: one and other.

personally, i was rooting for tracey’s work. i wanted to see meerkats in trafalgar square.

and, to be honest, thanks to the oversaturation of gormleyness a few years back, i was feeling a little lacklustre about one and other. until i started hearing about it online and i saw the live streaming.

yes, i’m talking about the fourth plinth commission – the public art work that is situation situated on the spare plinth in trafalgar square. thomas schütte‘s hotel for the birds has come down and has been replaced by the controversial winner of the public competition. beating tracey emin and yinka shonibare to the post. heh.

but this, kids, is an ace use of technology and art in the public space. yes, the ‘ordinary englishmen’ aspect of it can be a little ho-hum, but getting to know the ‘plinthers’ is pretty cool, and the live streaming is almost as good as nils september and his ikea durational performance last year.

i could go on about other shit aspects to it, and pick apart the ‘everyone is an artist’ beuysian references, but i can’t be arse at the moment. what i like most about it at the moment is the sheer car crash television aspects of it. i am addicted to it. in terms of durational/ritual/torture work, it’s kickin’ arse over the tour de france and master chef anyday!

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public space has a soundtrack now

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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

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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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sound as memorial

i know that there will be 4,398,009 blogs about michael jackson posted today, and although i’m not one of the massive fans, it’s a pretty massive thing. so forgive me.

however, what i did notice was the emergence of a new form of memorial. what has gone from bronze, to landscape architecture and now to the ipod. every store, cafe, public place with a PA system had michael jackson songs playing. my boss – a massive fan – had his entire collection on (including the random b-sides from dangerous, or something).

and across the city, homage was being paid in this way. a real-time memorial in sound to a man who meant something to people.

when kurt cobain died, radio did specials on him, there was a rage piece and i distinctly remember standing in the local video store listening to helen razer’s spoken work eulogy to him. but those sound pieces were in fits and starts – not a city-wide sensation.

with the spread of the ipod (and other portable music devices), paying tribute through sound has now become a public connection point between people, and a way to address a collective grief.

bronze on pedestal, be gone!

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sound on demand

the other night i went to the MSO performance, to the new world. it was a freebie through the test-drive the arts program (ace program, by the way).

and whilst i was being swept away by dvorák, i was thinking about the experience of music and composed sound. that all-encompasing, performative artistic expression which is seen ‘out’ – in public. i don’t know a lot about the history of music, but i can imagine that prior to, say the 17th Century, music was not an altogether “accessible” experience. at least not in a dedicated space. you would probably hear chamber music during the dances and (depending on your station in life) perhaps an orchestra once every 6 months, or a year. maybe not even as much as that.


fast track 400 years (not all that long really, in the history of ‘civilisation’) and now, we’re all walking around with own private soundtracks all the time. even if we’re not rockin’ the latest 32G iPod touch, we’ve got car stereos, walkmans, mp3 players, turntables, ghetto blasters, transistor radios, etc. all ‘dedicated spaces’ for hearing an all-encompassing sound. my friend from apple calls it ‘on-demand’.

perhaps it is just me, with a slightly warped focus on sound in public at the moment, but i think this is amazing.
given that i’m now listening to a nick cave and the bad seeds slam their way through ‘i’m on fire’ at about 8, it’s pretty incredible to imagine that my 17th century compatriot might only ever listen to music that loud once a year. no wonder symphonies had such a profound effect on people. and that the cultural significance of a song lasted so long (see faris’ interesting article on latency with regards to that)

MMOP Headphones

i’m about to start some research on threshold shifts, but given what we hear now, given that we carry 100 db around in our pockets on a daily basis, plus we have to deal with cars, HVAC systems, trains, buses and much larger populations, it’s pretty astounding how quickly we have adapted to that level of sound (or noise, depending on which side of the fence you sit on).

unsurprising really, that our ‘dedicated spaces’ for listening to (electronically) amplified music have become an architectural/design category in their own rights: up there with the MRC, the sydney opera house and carnegie hall.

expect more in this in the future…

images: turntable by josh sandler
mso by tengtan

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