Site & Sound: Sonic art as ecological practice invites audiences to consider the importance of listening as a means towards a better understanding of the urgent and complex environmental issues facing our planet.
The exhibition runs until 11 April and draws from RMIT’s Sonic Arts Collection, Australia’s first dedicated collection in this field, augmented by four significant new commissions.
Whether it be the roar of bushfires; the creak of fragmenting glaciers; silence where there used to be bird song; or the hum of cicadas, our comprehension of sounds can lead to an intuitive understanding of the ecological issues confronting us. Site & Sound features an evolving program of presentations, both within and beyond the gallery, across the internal spaces and outdoor environment of McClelland—these include immersive sound environments, a rich array of performances and listening events, and explorations of the history, theory and significance of field recording and sonic art which will evolve over time and provide new experiences for each repeat visit.
RMIT Culture’s Senior Coordinator, Partnered Projects Ali Barker said that this project was a strong example of the tangible outcomes generated from partnered projects, enabling both research translation and real-world experiences for students. “The McClelland Sculpture Park and Gallery collaboration has given our students tangible experiences applying their media practice to photography and social media management. Excellent guidance from the McClelland team enabled the students to forge lasting professional relationships,” Barker said.
The collaboration also draws on RMIT’s research expertise and significant collections, contributing to the innovative public outcomes. On Saturday 27 March the exhibition will be accompanied by Sial Sound Studios – Speaker Orchestra Concerts, a major event presented by RMIT’s Lawrence Harvey, co-curator of Site & Sound and director of the RMIT Spatial Information Architecture Laboratory (SIAL) Sound Studios. From 2-4pm participants will join Harvey for a introduction to spatial sound composition through a series of electroacoustic sound works inspired by natural environments from around the world. The event will be presented on the SIAL Sound Studios speaker orchestra.
“This concert features six international works inspired by solar winds, glaciers, tectonic plates, rain and the spectra and rhythms of animal colonies.” said Harvey, describing the sound worlds as “re-imaginings of the acoustic environment – from vast events to microscopic detail. Each SIAL concert is a unique listening experience – a spatial sound theatre combining electroacoustic composition, design and performance”.
Site & Sound is curated by Jon Buckingham, Lawrence Harvey, and Simon Lawrie and features artists Steve Adam, Ros Bandt, Leah Barclay, Philip Brophy, Daniel Browning, Christophe Charles, David Chesworth, Madelynne Cornish, Robert Curgenven, Reuben Derrick, Sarah Edwards, Lawrence English, Nigel Frayne, Susan Frykberg, Amy Hanley, Liquid Architecture, Rachel Meyers, Xen Nhà, Steaphan Paton, Frans Ari Prasetyo, Douglas Quin, Philip Samartzis and Eugene Ughetti, Thembi Soddell, Tina Stefanou, Barry Truax, Chris Watson, and Jana Winderen.
RMIT's Sonic Arts Collection comprises works that have been commissioned or acquired from Australia and internationally, from a range of both emerging and significant established artists, including pioneers such as Bill Fontana and Daniel Teruggi, and Turner prize winner Susan Philipsz. Sound art can trace its lineage at least as far back as the 1913 Futurist manifesto The Art of Noises. Featuring multi-channel electro-acoustic works and radiophonic works adapted primarily for exhibition and performance, the Sonic Arts Collection is also a source for research, and enables RMIT - already a world leader in study and research in auditory disciplines - to continue building a network of institutions, producing scholarship around sound art and design.
Image: Chris Watson, Namib, 2013. Courtesy the artist.