Ever since sound entered the space of art, it has been plotting its escape. Materially, sound is difficult to contain. It leaks through walls, resounds in unruly ways, is audible where it should be not. This excessiveness, or “noisiness,” is a fundamental quality of sound. Conceptually, sound is equally slippery. Attempts to define it always seem delimited and constraining, insufficient when set against the infinite horizon of the sonic imaginary. Sound is materially and conceptually resistant—it always contains too much. So, against this sense of “too much sound,” what specialist modes of listening could be deployed? In response to sonic abundance, how can we learn to hear “more,” to “over-hear?” This talk departs from these questions, addressing recent works by artists and theorists working with sound to propose a series of strategies for listening experimentally—to sound in itself, but also, and more importantly, to the complex and profuse relations it engenders.
Joel Stern (Australia) is a curator, researcher, and sound artist, concerned with theories and practices of sound and listening. He is the Artistic Co-Director of Liquid Architecture, a leading Australian organisation that stages encounters and creates spaces for sonic experience and critical reflection on systems of sonic affect, at the intersection of contemporary art and experimental music. Stern is part of OtherFilm, an artist collective driven by a central curiosity about the limits of the moving image. He has initiated the experimental residency Instrument Builders Project in 2013. Stern is a PhD candidate in Curatorial Practice at Monash Art, Design and Architecture, where he teaches Sound (in the Space of Art).
Image Credit: Eric Demetriou, Bunghole, 2014, Victorian College of the Arts. Courtesy Joel Stern.