Q&A: Atilio Doreste to James Green

How do you think that the soundscapes, recorded as part of your Sound Diaries project, have changed during the intense weeks of the pandemic compared to the previous ones? Are you able to go back listen ‘in person’ these days?

Yes, I have been listening to the original ones a bit recently and they differ quite a lot! This is because I honestly haven’t taken many new recordings since the lockdown began. Instead for me, it has been a process of listening, reflecting on them and trying to figure out some ways to reimagine them instead of going out and making new recordings.

 Another way they have differentiated is their sudden significance in the new context we have been put under. With the project, and my approach as a whole, I have concentrated on spaces and areas that hold meaning due to their social use or the way people shape that area, so listening back to crowds, buskers, religious singing and nightclubs they almost seem shocking and absurd that these many people were ever allowed to occupy the same space. Overall though I’ve enjoyed using sound as the material to create something new rather than seeing it as an elusive substance I’m always trying to capture. 

If there are layers of attention and definition (or non-definition) in your sound experiences facing the landscape, how would you establish the relationships between them in terms of overlap, transparency, or murmur?  Do you consider the possibility of some leading role in a specific sound source?  If so, what character would it have in relation to its possible appearance of figure and background?

For me, what tends to take my interest are areas of non-definition, many particulate elements coming together to form a larger image of what that landscape represents. However, that’s not to say that sometimes sounds take the foreground. I think this is more to do with our conditioning towards those sounds rather than the actual sonic characteristics. Things like cars, alarms, announcements and unpredictable sonic agents (eg crashes and lary people) often make it into the recordings I’ve made. Due to these usually being warnings in our everyday lives they evoke a reaction and therefore bring themselves to the foreground whilst listening back.  

I really like your idea of transparency and overlap, when reimagining some of the soundscapes from the project I’ve been layering unedited recordings from different areas of Aberdeen which I think ties in with these ideas. The city in these experiments has been overlapping and merging with places too disparate to have ever come into direct contact before but still echo or contain murmurs of the region as a whole. 

What do you consider is the estimate and necessary time for a track as a piece for the public? Is very different the length of your listening and the final selection?

It has been dependent on what I’ve been making the track for but generally, I listen back and edit at the same time. By edit, I only really mean finding the length of recording I like or removing the low-end wind noise which always makes it in!  Most of the longer, hour-long tracks I have composed use 2 – 5 minute chunks of audio that are then brought together in a kind of generative system I’ve been working on. The process of listening here is also an on the job case, listening and running it through this system a couple of times and hearing which I like better. These longer tracks are more meant for installations and therefore the listener may only hear a couple of minutes but can drop in and out at any point and still get a feel for the place that they are listening to.  

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.

Atilio Doreste

Muffled Sounds

Extract from Muffled Sounds (below) featured in Recording Life In Sound (SARU 2019).

Atilio Doreste (Canary Islands 1964), walker (plastic/sound artist). Fine Arts Professor of the University of La Laguna. Generally his artistic and research activity focuses on landscape and territory. Director in Workshop Group of Creative Actions (Art, Nature, and Landscape), Canary Sound Map project, Canary Editorial Laboratory, Auriculab Sound Art Laboratory, 15 Sillas Auditorium, and Cultural Classroom of Photography and Phonography. He founded the interuniversity research group Taller de Acciones Creativas, for which he organized various landscape scholarships and photography national. He is a member of the Institute for Social Research and Tourism, as well as the Canarian Research Agency. He is also a member of the Six Ensemble group. www.atiliodoreste.net/about

Recording Life In Sound

Make an effort to exhaust the subject, even if that seems grotesque, or pointless, or stupid. You still haven’t looked at anything, you’ve merely picked out what you’ve long ago picked out.

(Georges Perec; Species of Spaces; 1974)

On a rainy day in Oxford more than ten years ago Felicity Ford and Paul Whitty set up a project with the aim of recording everyday life in sound – to resist the overwhelming tide of visual images of the everyday and to meet it with the abundant soundings of vending machines, luggage carousels, toasters, escalators, boilers, garden sheds, wheeled luggage. We followed the writer Georges Perec’s instruction to exhaust the subject, not to be satisfied with a cursory glance, not to be satisfied to have identified what we already knew – what we had already heard – but to look again or in our case to listen, to keep listening, to listen long after it would probably have been more sensible to stop. That project was Sound Diaries.

This project celebrates ten years of Sound Diaries with contributions from twelve artists who responded to our open call;

We are interested in everyday sounds and sounding contexts from cutlery drawers to bus stops to self- service checkouts. Projects can take many forms but should focus on documentary recording of everyday sound.

Sound Diaries expands awareness of the roles of sound and listening in daily life. The project explores the cultural and communal significance of sounds and forms a research base for projects executed both locally and Internationally, in Beijing, Brussels, Tallinn, Cumbria and rural Oxfordshire.

We have invited twelve artists to create new projects and you can hear the artists present their work on July 13th 2019 at The Jam Factory in Oxford. Admission is free and all are welcome.

Here’s the programme:

11:00 – 11:20 Richard Bentley Sweep

11.25  – 11.45 Hannah Dargavel-Leafe Conduit

11.50 – 12:10 Kathryn Tovey Walking with another

12.45- 13.05 Aisling Davis Uisce

13.10 -13.30 Jacek Smolicki Inaudible Cities

14:10 – 14:30 Atilio Doreste Muffled Sounds

14.35 – 14.55 Beth Shearsby

15.00 -15.20 Lucía Hinojosa Forgetting 1993

15.45- 16.05 Fi.Ona SoundStamps

16.10 – 16.30 James Green Sounding 24h

16.35 – 16.55 Marlo De Lara aural investigation of everyday britain

Open Call Artists Announced

We had an amazing response to our Open Call with many fantastic and innovative project proposals – thanks to everyone who responded. The successful artists are:

Richard Bentley
Hannah Dargavel-Leafe
Aisling Davis
Atilio Doreste
James Green
Lucía Hinojosa Gaxiola
Sena Karahan
Marlo De Lara
Fiona AR Patten
Kathryn Tovey
Beth Shearsby
Jacek Smolicki

The successful Artists visited audiograft festival in March to introduce and discuss their projects and we are looking forward to welcoming them back in July to present their work and to launch the SARU publication celebrating ten years of the Sound Diaries project.

Watch this space for more information about our event in July and the publication!