Q&A: Kathryn Tovey to Atilio Doreste

‘Muffled Sounds’, your work for Sound Diaries, feels relevant during the pandemic, where there has been a shift in the occupation of public and domestic space. During this time, have you observed any changes in the sounds of these spaces?

In a forced phase of public confinement there is a marked distinction and contrast between the aural spheres of the domestic versus the public. The natural soundscape is amplified and filled with details of an excellent cleanliness. It is also true that domesticity is individualised, because transit is drastically reduced, and also the drifts. Therefore, the home value is customized.

In my case, I live in a fairly rural environment, where the neighbours are disrespectful in relation to acoustic contamination. There are no changes in these types of household sounds that cross the wall, they are only radicalised in intensity and frequency. At these extremes we have beautiful spring walks with limits of legal transgression with regard to human activity, and inside an unbearable neighbourhood of anxious activity.

On the other hand, there have been some very curious sonorous incidents, such as the inexplicable habit of civil protection officers and police making noisy caravans of mermaids, apocalyptic pandemic warnings to advise respecting lockdowns, and police children’s birthday celebrations with public address of children’s music, choreography and Disney costumes.

In many of your video works, you are filmed interacting with dis-used spaces and found objects. Do the historical contexts of the locations you choose to perform within inform how you respond to the landscape?

Definitely not. It’s a plastic attitude about all things. The curious exploration of a sonic and percussive potential, the transgression of limits and risk. Everything else manifests itself as a continuity that necessarily bears no intention. But the historical question is as the critical extension of a theoretical phenomenon that focuses on a willingness to reactivate heritage, especially on the fragility of the elements of identity value of a moment and a place.

I am interested in your combinations of sound and performance to create comical artworks. Do you think comedy has a significant role to play in the context of contemporary art?

Nothing is centred in contemporary art, but my performances do not have a comic-will. Along with the ex-as-destructive local political value of artifice identity phenomena, my work is based in a surreal (and consequently fluxus) local tradition in Canary Islands that require the most serious and inexpressible attitude possible. That people laugh is still a confusion or ignorance, because we live in an excessive society and habit of entertainment that has invaded every artistic discourse.

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