6. Contextual Research

Semester 2

Soft Coercion, the City and the Recorded Female Voice

Books and Media I’ve researched and referenced:

Soul Shapes by Alice Murray-Smith

Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit

The Feminine and the Scared By Kristeva and Clement

Deeper in the Pyramid by Melanie Jackson and Esther Leslie – published by Grand Union Arts Centre, Birmingham

Blade Runner

 

Artists and writers that have inspired me and informed my practice

During the research phase for my dissertation, I discovered many artists, writers and theorists that have informed my recent practice and I believe this has enhanced certain qualities within my work.

Publications of particular relevance for me have been:

‘Capitalist Realism’ by Mark Fisher          ‘The Wretched of the Screen’ by Hito Steyerl

‘How Did We Get into This Mess’ by George Monbiot

‘Geology of Media’ by Jussi Parikka

‘Manufacturing Consent’ a film documenting the philosopher and activist, Noam Chomsky

‘Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene’ by Donna J. Haraway 

Guy DeBord’s theories in ‘Society of the Spectacle’

I have also read multiple journal articles online https://www.e-flux.com/journal/ with particular attention to works and research on art and geopolitics by Irmgard Emmelhainz

https://www.e-flux.com/journal/?q=Irmgard+Emmelhainz

and websites that keep me informed on global issues and activism such as https://beautifulrising.org

 

 

Stone and Lithophones

I have been in discussion with our tutor David Paton, an artist and stone mason who has been an inspiration and offered invaluable help with introductions to the local granite quarryman (Tim Marsh at Stone Masons, Mabe). Through his help and with the generous support of Tim Marsh, I was able to obtain my own small ‘coin’ (block) of granite cut into a similar configuration to that of Pino Sciola’s to form a Cornish variation of the Lithophone. My aim was to release the sound of the Cornish land and somehow explore a way to connect with the ancient past of the landscape and earth. Granite is a unique rock and I’m only just beginning to research its properties. The Cornish Lithophone is quiet, it whispers its secrets but the more I play it, the more it reveals. I attached some contact microphones to amplify the sound and I obtained a range of interesting sounds from the granite. I used the sounds to create a soundscape and incorporated the audio into my video work. I have also made a sound score without visuals that document the various sounds produced by the Lithophone. (Here):

 

The Cornish Lithophone

 

The Lithophones belonging to Pino Sciola in Sardinia

What would I do differently next time? I would like to develop another larger granite coin into a lithophone with longer prongs that will is likely to produce deeper tones. By varying the lengths of the cuts its possible to create prongs of different timbre and tonality. I am also keen to try different types of stone, such as Portland and blue stone. The monument of Stonehenge is comprised of blue stone from Wales and I’d love to source some. The monoliths of Stonehenge are also referred to as singing stones – a fascinating lost history surrounds this ancient monument. The mythology and the poetry around the idea of releasing the ancient voice of the Cornish landscape holds great weight for me. I feel I want to continue the work of Sciola and explore stone and sound in more detail. The physicality of touching and smoothing the Lithophone to generate sound is a meditative and relaxing experience – especially if you close your eyes and ‘feel’ the sound. The performative aspects are interesting and I have managed to generate a range of sounds from the lithopone and one sounds similar to that of a purring cat. Maybe the stone purrs when stroked too (?!)

 

I’m happy to have developed a sound apparatus from a material that connects directly to landscape, place and history – it adds a layer of context to my work that may have been lacking in the past. The experience of using the Lithophone to generate sound has led to many questions and I’m curious to understand more about how we, as humans, generate sound with our bodies and larynx – also – how does this vary in animals, such as the cats, that create the purring sound? Friction and air flow. There are many branches to research around the physiology of speech

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_voice

http://www.landscape-perception.com/archaeoacoustics/

I’m also finding references to recent studies in the acoustic properties of stone and ancient monoliths. There is a whole branch of scientific study devoted to this called ‘archeoacoustics’ where acoustic data is collected from stone and rock in the landscape.

The ideas and intentions in this line of enquiry reference the Gaia theory described by the scientist James Lovelock who proposes the planet earth is a living entity. “The Gaia hypothesis posits that the Earth is a self-regulating complex system involving the biosphere, the atmosphere, the hydrospheres and the pedosphere, tightly coupled as an evolving system. The hypothesis contends that this system as a whole, called Gaia, seeks a physical and chemical environment optimal for contemporary life”

http://www.gaiatheory.org/overview/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaia_hypothesis

This area needs further research, but personally, I hold a vague belief that this could be the case, mainly because I believe the narrow range of electromagnetic energy that our bodies detect cannot give us the whole picture of the world and universe around us. I believe we are blind to many possibilities through the limits of our sensors. Humanity holds great capabilities to extend the range of our biological sensors but without the means to detect beyond our blinkered views, how can we adjust our technology to detect or interpret more of the mysteries around us. I liken it to a metaphor where we are only peering through a letterbox or keyhole to view the world and systems around us. We cannot see the whole picture. So, on this basis, I hold a view that its entirely possible that the earth is a living entity – “Life but not as we know it”. I like the idea that the planet and rocks exist within a slower temporal bandwidth than human beings. Maybe they perceive time in longer or slower intervals – so to them, we are streaks of light and a garble of sound and vibrations moving so quickly we are wisps.

 

Sound studies

 

https://www.crisap.org

The sonic arts are gaining more recognition and I’m in the process of researching and understanding more about this area. The organisation above offers good resources to explore.

Christina Kubisch recommended some good books to read about sound art. Its a very specific and specialist area to work within and the Hidden Sounds course at CAMP offered a unique opportunity to meet sound artists and musicians. Some sound artists are musicians or started off having formal education in music theory and it may often be the case, that the rigidity of formal instruction in music can frustrate many who simply love sound.

More to come here.

Extinction

Themes relating to climate change and mass extinction resulting from human behaviours deeply disturbs me and its an underlying concern that I aim to hint towards in my practice.

Reading publications by Jussi Parrika and Donna Haraway have helped clarify these concerns and reveal how deep rooted they are. They discuss the ecological impact of human behaviour and how the planet and the animal world are paying the price in more devastating ways.

More to come here.

PEARLS and molluscs

The metaphor that provided the backbone model for my dissertation. This period of the semester was highly productive – my creative energy began utilising text and research data and transformed it into a surreal body of text-based work that has provided me with materials to process and explore. The metaphor relating to a pearl oyster’s abilities to assimilate irritants and parasitic invaders was applied to an idea to describe a mechanism by which capitalism and consumerism rely on to maintain the current hegemonic system. Human beings are assimilated into a system that enforces compliance and contribution to the perpetuation of the current state through entrapment and neutralisation of their will to resist and protest. the idea was sparked by the work of Mika Rottenberg (NoNoseKnows).

The process I went through in researching and writing my dissertation demanded I ascertain and refine my concerns and areas of interest. Its always been quite challenging for me to whittle down my concerns – they generally reside within the realms of geopolitics and finding a narrow enough topic to discuss was proving tricky until I devised the Pearl-Mollusc-Assimilator model to describe capitalist/consumerist functions.

This concept is strong and I want to develop it further. The next few months may either be spent developing visual work relating to this theme and/or developing a new lithophone but I need to think carefully about the last few months of university and decide what I want to focus my energies on for the degree show.

I have begun making connections between the earth & stone, the human & bone and the mollusc &shell – themes link through concepts relating to the skeleton – support frames – backbones – exo and endo skeletons. Frames that contain, house, protect, give form. The hardness, the resistance, the sonic qualities. I have constructed a form that references a granite rock in my garden that looks as though it’s about to topple over – it leans and appears unstable, precarious. This form has been used in the installation to infer ice, coldness, an illusion of permanence.

Bone, stone and shell fragments endure and leave traves through history. clues and remnants to discover and tell of ancient histories. We develop methods to unlock the secrets of the past through clues residing in bones, stones, rocks and shells. Archaeology and forensic explorations. This links to my interests in communication to the future and the recent analysis of tsunami stones in Japan following the 2011 disaster  – warnings from past civilisations reveals how language can change, how histories are erased. ‘He who controls the past controls the future’ George Orwell, ‘1984’.