Everyday sound has had a curious and extraordinary year in the midst of some of the toughest of times. Amongst the sounding memories we have of the last eleven months is the shuffle of papers, hushed voices and birdsong on the live feed from the Rose Garden at number ten Downing Street as journalists waited for Dominic Cummings to make a statement about his visit to Barnard Castle; the sound of rain falling on the turf at Elland Road, home of Leeds United, audible only because there was no crowd, no sound in the stadium other than the sporadic shouting of the players and coaches and the falling rain; the still quiet of the fields alongside the A34 usually saturated with the deafening sound-making of tyres on asphalt but during the first lockdown in England filled instead with the sound of birdsong and children playing.
Contributor: Patrick Farmer
Location: Redmires Reservoir, Sheffield
Time and Date: some time in twenty twenty
‘Pretending to be a heron downstream from a weir covering everything‘.
Patrick: I can imagine that your work has spread out among many avenues since you sent us your Sound Diaries pieces (Forgetting 1993, Score-Portrait, etc). My understanding of your practise is that you work simultaneously in a variety of mediums and in a number of places, often combining them all in order to ‘hear something new’, or perhaps I should say feel, as it were, to breathe the air of the impossibility of representation. Could you tell us a little about where your work has taken you since the Sound Diaries event in Oxford?
Lucia: Rather than seeking a means or a medium to represent this impossibility, I’d say that it lays more on the longing for perceptual integration: a totality of experience within multiplicities. Sometimes I like to think of my practice more as an ethos than a result, a strange device of intersubjectivity that’s trying to build its own tactics or methodologies in order to absorb the world and be absorbed by it. The last couple years, I’ve been very drawn to ideas from the Hermetic Tradition and feel close to Giordano Bruno’s investigations regarding these methods, specifically his work on memory, shadows, and his acute awareness of interrelations or links within different spectrums of visible and occult realities.
I’m indeed working on a variety of things now. I’m drawing and doing small collages, writing a series of poems called The Telaraña Circuit (telaraña means spider web in Spanish) and editing endless sound & film footage from a time-based work from 2016. But what’s been quite present in my mind for some time now, is a project that I will probably name llanto de corazón, inspired by the concept cri du coeur. It will be a series of sound/gesture alphabets, consisting of various recordings. I want to register the sound of a moving foot scraping letters against different ground surfaces. The foot will be “drawing” each alphabet glyph separately and I will record this, creating a coded alphabet of gesture, using the earth as a medium of communication. Once I have recorded all the letters in the alphabet, I will use them to “write” a poem of lamentation. The listener will feel the poem rather than understand it. However, the poem’s content is there, present through sound. By using these glyphs as notations, there’s an aspect of the poem that is hidden and another that is revealed, if one listens closely. This coded soundscape of lamentation is an outcry for ecological justice and human reconciliation, but it is also a protest, a plead from the earth.
Patrick: There are a great many images of books on your website, their pages delicately cut into, and bound together, revealing other ways of reading, or approaching, we might say, of thinking about a book, as if its stratified nature were indicative of a passage of time, each page a new temporal and geological state. Your experiments with the haptic nature of the page remind me of a particularly alchemical line by Cecilia Vicuña, ‘In the book’s darkness, gold shines’. What influence have books had on your work, I’m thinking in particular of the fluid nature of chant, recital, invocation, orality, and the ways which your work may question these relationships in the space of altered form?
Lucia: I remember when I was a child I used to carry books with me everywhere, all the time. I’ve always had this necessity to carry objects and take them in long excursions, at the same time collecting little objects during these transfers, perhaps as a way of delineating the concrete relation of experience during the mind’s travel. I’d take a long time reading books and usually, I’d never finish them, but I’d read fragments and really thought them through for days. But I was more interested in the book’s energy—its weight, its size, its smell, its form, its kinetic elements. An experience that really changed me happened when I was 8 or 9 years old when my book, I think it was “El Principito” (The Little Prince) fell deep in a river. I rescued it, but the book had changed forever. It had experienced the conditions of material reality as an autonomous entity, being wet, then dry—some of the pages stuck to each other, some transformed into a beautiful petrified wave. I was fascinated by all this; it happened by chance but it gave me freedom, it opened new perceptual possibilities. In a way it was my first experience of a literary rupture. The act of “reading” became sculptural, its temporal structure changed. Not in a passive way, but it transformed in a sculptural pulse that was alive and that had multiple variations. I also felt I could free the content inside the book, its intimate, contained imagination could finally merge and expand in a new energetic field.
There was a new in-between tension that was neither the book nor myself, it was the presence of poetry. So the book is many things for me. It is essentially a body with memory and experience that one can get to know and work with, but it is also a system, a technology that can be read in many forms if one grasps its elements and provide alternative paths for its continuation. Reading is process, it is the expression or the presence of time in its countless directions and dimensions. So the book in its disembodied form, with its layered manifestation of language, can become infinite if one creates other poetics for its habitation. And these acts perhaps, become not only another form of reading, or re-reading, or anti-reading, but of writing, writing new readings, readings being re-written, and so on, both actions come close to one another, they even sometimes merge into one.
Also, language and earth have a deep connection in my practice, there’s a symbolic mirroring but also a desire for its fusion. I really like the vision of María Sabina, the Mazatec poet and shaman, when she says that Language is contained in The Book, and the book emerges from the earth, like a root of awareness, of communication. In many of my works, there’s an impulse of returning language to the earth, like threading tapestries of consciousness. There’s an entropic interest that is also phenomenological, which I feel the only way for me to develop or expand it is through poetry as a medium and sound as reportage, informing me through sensation. For me, all of these subtle ideas are a product of a feminist ethos, a listening rather than a saying.
Patrick: I was wondering if you could tell us a little about the environment, auditory and otherwise, in Mexico City, and how this may or may not reflect your multiplicitous natures? I’m thinking in particular of the work of Peter Lamborn Wilson (an artist whom I know has had a great effect on you), who calls for ‘anti-categorialisationism’ to take the place of what he considers to be inter-disciplinary timidity.
Lucia: I think this question could be split into two. On one hand, I could say that the myriad operating realities within Mexico City have had a deep effect in my practice. And, replacing the term interdisciplinary with a call for anti-category within the arts, goes hand in hand with the fluid intimacy of the hermetic model and its experience of reality. They’re part of the same stream of consciousness. I agree that we must be very careful with naming everything in separate categories in the arts, poetry, science, or anything really. And even labeling something as interdisciplinary, still acknowledges that there are some barriers present in that in-betweeness. So it is interesting to think almost in geometric terms, and understand the difference between a layer and a barrier.
The visual, fragrant, auditory environment of Mexico City is layered, and these layers are extremely present, they’re alive, pulsating and operating through diverse actualities of experience. Temporal, cultural, and ideological systems coexist in a fragile tension that somehow lives together. But its nature is not catalogued or compartmentalized, it is simultaneous. In some parts of the city, especially in the Centro Histórico, entire buildings are tilted onto one side, because the city is sinking. As we know, it was built over the Texcoco Lake through the agricultural system of chinampas. This is just a little example of the intense presence of simultaneity, becoming almost a palimpsest of experience. A research project or process-poem that is evident of the city’s influence in my practice is Acción Fértil (Fertile Action), a piece inspired by the “memories” of a micro-geography: a natural pond in the outskirts of the city that was part of this lake, holding a hidden archive of memories. So I do relate to this, and in a way I think of my practice as a drift within layers, residues, and remains that are never completely vanished, they’re just changing in form, evoking new mind collisions, and possibly revealing other, new epistemologies.
The opening of an exhibition in the Old Fire Station Oxford featuring New Works by Manfred Werder and Ben Owen with a curatorial intervention by Patrick Farmer, functioned as the private view / opening of the Audiograft festival.
“The three paper based works deal with the intrinsic reality of a situation and question the assumptions we make concerning our reception of space.. Each of these artists is also a musician and a composer, and find a point at which their refinement and understanding of silence and vacuity reaches a balance between material and immateriality.”
We arrived from a car-park beneath the old fire station into a gift shop foyer space where a busy discussion was taking place, separated from the street by a pair of automatic sliding doors. In the market space outside people’s conversations could be deciphered as they walked past, whereas inside, music blared loudly from speakers overhead. The sound of the opening overflowed into the exhibition space below continuously filling it like a bubbly din in an artists’ bathtub.
1009 gift shop entrance context clip
1041 public voice
I used an electromagnetic pickup to record someone’s camera taking a picture of the work, and to listen to the work itself by scanning the electric cable and plug that that powered one of the pieces – a speaker linked to a contact mic stuck to the back of a textured surface hung on the wall. In a similar way I then recorded the repeated operation of the sliding entrance doors as people came in and out of the building…
1012 installation electric lead a
1013 installation electric lead plug silence
1018 electric doors
In the gift shop I spoke to Shirley Pegna about the nature of the exhibition space and about her work at the festival using transducers to play sound through people’s bodies. The artist Patrick Farmer came down to be interviewed, the presence of his voice seeming to wax and wane in the reflective sea of [gentle] cacophonous discussion descending from above where he had been. Recording with two mono shotgun mics enabled me to concentrate on and emphasise this mixing of voices as I tried to focus on and understand what was being said particularly in relation to silence.
1021 INTV shirley – conductivity density
1027 INTV artist – silence
1027 INTV artist – sound in space
It would be interesting to integrate the recording of the doors and other electric fields with the interview of the artist[s] and think about how the Audiograft festival is at once a singular cultural event in itself which is to some extent consumed at specified times and places, while simultaneously being a complex body of individual artists / voices who’s activity extends independently and infinitely beyond this on many levels – time, space, method, intention / meaning etc.
This post is by Toby O’Connor, who participated in the Documenting Sound workshop held at Audiograft 2012 by Felicity Ford and Valeria Merlini
As per this post and in anticipation of the forthcoming Audiograft 2012 festival, during each day in February 2011, a recording created during Audiograft 2011 will be played here as a Sound Diary entry. The whole series will act like an album of sonic snapshots from the festival; though without frames, without borders, and filled with the overspilling sounds of the surrounding world.
Today’s sound was recorded during the Concept as Score concert at the Holywell Music Room, and features the sound of Patrick Farmer realising “For a Drummer, Fluxversion 2″ by George Brecht, in which a pillow filled with feathers is cut open and drummed so that its contents leak. As well as the rhythmic sound of drumming on a feather pillow, this recording contains the sounds of coughs, the incidental sounds of the drumsticks clicking together, and the beep of a camera somewhere in the audience.