Anna Jane Houghton

When thinking on Georges Perec’s instruction of exhausting a subject, to listen, and to keep listening, long after it would probably have been more sensible to stop – the humble hairdryer comes to mind. In many ways Perec’s instruction is unconsciously fulfilled by many, multiple times a week. The act of drying one’s hair involves an almost ritualistic sound bathing, as the appliance is manually moved around the head generating an everyday ambisonic listening experience of sorts. I am intrigued by the containment of the chaotic movement of air particles, random fluctuations in the pressure field and how this is partnered with an almost equal intensity of distribution over the audible spectrum – no ups and downs. The act of listening to the hairdryer at work, conjures images of a tree mirrored by its roots- the hairdryer held to the ear, chamber into chamber.

Initial recordings have toyed with the hairdryer being held out into space, through walls, and augmented by the movement of the body, the recordings were altered live using reverb and delay pedals to convey the gradual descent into inner monologue that being enveloped in such white noise induces. Experimenting with the appliances blowing onto multiple vocal recording microphones from stands at varying heights; highlighting the hair dryer as performer, as art object, as machine and listening to this simple machine, in an era when more complex machines are perpetually and relentlessly listening to us. 

Anna Jane Houghton is a researcher and artist working with sound, film and print media, investigating prepared listening spheres in the context of the poetics of materials, the fabric of memory and the sensitivity of space. Her work centres around hyper-memory-installation in an exploration of the psychological and sculptural dimensions of sound, in response to the architecture and history of the spaces in which they are installed; bringing to our attention the auditory presence of place to evoke collective memory and a plural sense of being.

Anna’s work has been exhibited internationally in Greece, Santander and Texas and nationally as part of Liverpool Biennial’s The Stomach and The Port (2021), TATE Liverpool’s An Imagined Museum (2016) and can be found in Selfridge’s&Co and LA’s Slow Down Studio. 

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