9/16/18

Lofoten Sound Art Symposium

From 6 - 9 September I attended the Lofoten Sound Art Symposium in Henningsvær. What follows is a short report, some observations, and a photographic record of parts of the symposium. 

The whole event commenced in Svolvær with a network meeting where participants introduced themselves, their organisations and their activities. It became immediately apparent that diversity was the main characteristic of the gathering, both in terms of nationalities (if not ethnicities) and practices. The meeting was combined with the first meal of the symposium, courtesy of artist-chef Øyvind Novak Jensen, ably assisted by two local cooks. They kept the audience well-fed throughout the four days of the symposium!

The first day concluded with a spellbinding performance, Wind Speaker/Language Memory, by Espen Sommer Eide, on a rocky promontory at the edge of the Henningsvær peninsula. Using one of the instruments he builds himself, he played sounds of a dead or dying Sami language, while moving slowly in a circle around a bonfire lit on a former military gun emplacement. 

The second day, Friday 7th. September, began with the first lecture of the symposium, by Christian Blom, director of NOTAM (The Norwegian center for Art, Technology and Music) in Oslo. The title of his talk was "Norwegian Sound Art Today" and he did indeed present some examples of recent work produced in Norway, but the main focus of his presentation was the problematic and marginal status of sound art in relation to both the musical establishment and the visual art world. He berated the Musical Academy for its failure to recognise sound art as a legitimate extension of avant-garde and experimental music practices, while also castigating the Art Academy for not seriously incorporating sound studies into its curriculum. His polemical point was "Sound Art is Experimental Music" - a position with which one could partially agree, but it is not as simple as that. While many practitioners in the Sound Art field do indeed come from a musical background and operate at least in an intermediary space between Music and Fine Art, there are also many who are nominally non-musicians and whose background may be in sculpture, installation, performance, video and other areas of contemporary visual art. However, by at least laying down a marker and making a sort of territorial claim, Blom introduced an important point for discussion, the need for which became ever more apparent as the programme unfolded. It was not so much that there was a lack of a definition for what sound art is or can be, rather that there were simply too many definitions to make a serious, discursive inquiry a possibility. Despite the fact that there exists a considerable body of theoretical and art-historical work on sound art, which should help in clarifying definitions, the terrain here departed radically from the theoretical map, and the notion of sound art became a placeholder into which one could insert a dizzying array of sonic practices ranging from academic electronic music, through underground techno culture, to conceptual audio sculpture and performance.

I left the symposium with a clear sense that some tidying-up in definitions would be helpful in terms of building a critical language around sound art practices within the Norwegian / Nordic milieu. I also had a strong sense that the history of these practices, at least in Norway and Sweden (if not so in Finland, where MUU have made signifcant efforts to document and archive) is fragmentary, indeed almost invisible. Key figures from the recent past seem to be overlooked or ignored, while many contemporary practitioners seem not to be as widely recognised as their work merits. A point that was raised at several junctures during the symposium was the apparent lack of women artists who could be written into this history - paradoxical here in Norway where many of the most significant sound artists are in fact women. To mention only a few, Jana Winderen, Camille Norment, Maia Urstad, Natasha Barratt or Signe Lidén would be representative of the  growing number of accomplished female artists in Norway whose work is wholly or largely based on sound. Of those women artists in Norway who have a long-standing and significant sound art practice, Siri Austeen was the sole representative in the symposium's lecture programme, while Yngvild Færøy and Søssa Jørgensen, who have collaborated on a range of audio projects including radio and podcasts for two decades, were also present as documenters/podcasters.

In addition to the daytime lectures and presentations, the evening programme featured numerous performances by sound artists and (mostly) electronic musicians. Indeed, the preponderance of electronic / tabletop / laptop performance might lead one to believe that sound art per se is a purely digital practice. It was refreshing, therefore, to hear the performance of the Fermented Subjects Orchestra (Arne Skaug Olsen and Anders Dahl Monsen) whose sound work was 100% analog and electricity-free, consisting solely of sounds produced by the gases given off by fermenting liquids. Using several fermentation bins, meters of plastic tubing, and a set of valves to control the flow of gases, they constructed a kind of pipe organ that surrounded the audience in a semi-derelict space at the top of Trevarefabrikken. This led me to consider the deep roots of sound art in sonic practices that entirely pre-date formal musical history, but belong to the early periods of human cultural history. I would guess that it all begins with two categories of sound: vocal utterances and sounds made by striking one object with another.

The symposium programme continued on Saturday 8th. September with several more talks and performances. The undoubted highlight for me, in terms of an intellectually challenging lecture, came from Raviv Ganchrow, an artist/engineer/academic from the department of Sonology at the university of Den Haag. Exploring regions of sound that exist beyond the scope of human aural perception, particularly infra-sound at extremely low frequencies, he gave a fascinating account of the omnipresence of sound waves as a fundamental part of the geological environment. Cagean notions about (the absence of) silence were, for my part, subject to a radical revision. Ganchrow's own projects evidenced a highly advanced understanding of the sonic in all its forms, linked to a rigorous conceptual framework that also forced us to question our many received notions of "site" and "place" - terms that are often central to our understanding of sound art practices.

The symposium offered insights into many other ideas and artistic endeavours, too numerous to describe in this short summary. Perhaps its greatest success, happily reinforced by the beautiful late summer weather, was a striking congeniality and the opportunities it offered for relaxed networking in a stimulating environment. For those of us with a strong interest in Sound Art, whether as practitioners, curators, educators or researchers, there is clearly a great need for more events of this kind, to supplement the fora offered by existing events and festivals such as Borealis, Ultima and Only Connect and the exhibitions promoted by Lydgalleriet and Atelier Nord ANX among others.


Svolvær

In Svolvær, introduction to the programme, with curator Karolin Tampere and director Svein Ingvoll Pedersen of the North Norwegian Arts Center and Stefan Klaverdal of CY Contemporary, Malmo.

Henningsvær - performance the first night by Espen Sommer Eide

First speaker at the symposium, Christian Blom, director of NOTAM, Oslo

Andres Lõo on Estonian Sound Art

Stefan Klaverdal on Swedish Sound Art

Rita Lepiniemi and Timo Soppela, MUU, Helsinki

Kulturribingo, Oulu

Raviv Ganchrow on "Denaturalised Hearing"

Makiko Yamamoto, communing with plant

Makiko Yamamoto - banana concrete poetry

Tine Surel Lange, cello installation outside Treværefabrikken

Alessandro Perini, composer & sound  artist from Italy

Siri Austeen on Lyder som Nordland (Sounds like Nordland)

Espen Sommer Eide again, this time performing as Phonophani.

8/28/18

Lost, Abandoned, Discarded or Forgotten

Lost, Abandoned, Discarded or Forgotten is a new blog based around photographs of abandoned items observed in the environment.

This is a blog devoted to photographs of stuff that people leave lying about - lost, abandonded, discarded or simply forgotten.

I have been documenting these phenomena for about twenty years, first with analog, then with digital cameras. The archive of images grows continuously and the problem has always been - what to do with all of these photographs?

I am interested in what they tell us about our relationship to objects and to the material world. I am also interested in how these things change when dissociated from their usual context. Paradox and poetry emerge.

An early phase of the process involved documenting plastic mineral water bottles that had been discarded in forests, on beaches, on mountainsides, and otherwise in the natural environment. I was struck by the disconnect between the idea of bottled mineral water as something health-giving, and the thoughtless act of leaving large amounts of non-destructible plastic in the landscape. A selection of these images were exhibited within the international art project Overtures Am Wasser which took place in Munich in 2004.

Other themes or sub-categories include; submerged bicycles and shopping carts; tv sets and computer monitors; items of clothing.




6/30/18

I Can Travel Light Years

I Can Travel Light Years: a new installation by LMW (Lossius Mogstad Welsh) showing at Surnadal Billag during Øramartna 2018. This is the groupo's first collective project since 2010, when they showed the installation Please Note After Image at KODE 2, Bergen Kunsthall. The new work combines a large-scale wall painting and one painted canvas with four channels of sound and three video projections.

Images below from the final phase of installing. The installation is open on 30 June and 1 July.




6/15/18

It's Painting Today (just like any other day)

It's Painting Today (just like any other day)

An exhibition by Jon Arne Mogstad, curated by Jeremy Welsh

Trondheim Kunstmuseum, Gråmølna
16 June - 30 September 2018.


Installation shot from the main gallery


It paints today and today it’s all about painting. And more.  Jon Arne Mogstad has recently retired as Professor of Painting at Trondheim Academy of Fine Art and this exhibition will be both a summary of his artistic practice and a tribute to his many years as mentor to new generations of artists. 

Painting is the core of Mogstad’s practice, but he is certainly not a monolinear artist. As a new;ly educated  painter from the Oslo Art Academy in the early eighties he was a member of the artist group Lambretta whose agenda would seem to be to explode all boundaries for artistic practice. Installation, performance and video were part of a practice that would now be referred to as painting in the expanded field. After several years of intensive experimentation with the Lambretta group, Mogstad began to concentrate on his own painting and exhibited frequently at the Oslo space Galleri K. In the early nineties he began to teach at the Trondheim Academy, and from 2004 - 2011 he was Professor of Painting at Bergen Academy of Art and Design, before returning to Trondheim as institute leader and professor.

Between 2004 and 2011 Jon Arne Mogstad was part of the collaborative project LMW (Lossius, Mogstad, Welsh) which produced a series of installations combining painting with video, electronic mages and sound. The group’s projects took place in a variety of locations ranging from the Quart Festival in Kristiansand to KODE, Bergen Art Museum. During the same period, Mogstad and Welsh collaborated on two large commissioned projects for Halden Prison and for the Norwegian Postal Service’s distribution terminal in Lørenskog. Public commissions have over a long period been an integral part of Mogstad’s practice and he has realized large-scale projects for, among others, Telenor Fornebu, Drammen University College and St. Olavs Hospital, Trondheim.

Although he has traversed the boundaries of many different media, painting is central and always at the heart of Jon Arne  Mogstad’s artistic practice. But he is not a “clean” painter - he has constantly explored new possibilities and materials, new combinations of materials, and has been unafraid to combine elements of figuration and abstraction in his work. Since 2012 he has worked with textile colours on canvas, a process that has resulted in works that are, mildly put, explosive in coloration and energy. A combination of coincidence in the way that the fluid colour spreads itself on the canvas and precision in the overpainting with thin layers of white has resulted in some of his most poetic works in the series “Veils” from 2017. For this exhibition, Mogstad has also made a series of new paintings entitled “Rainbow Chaser”, and two of these are amongst the largest works he has created. As the first and last paintings one encounters in the exhibition, these two large canvasses function as a sort of frame for the whole. They are powerful works that have a presence which adresses the viewer both visually and bodily.


With a main focus on paintings from the last few years, the exhibition will map a number of different tendencies in Jon Arne Mogstad’s artistic practice, and at the same time point forward for an artist who has never ceased to experiment and explore. The contemporary art discourse is often coloured by references to “artistic research”, a term that can be read in many different ways. But for Mogstad the central research question has always been: what painting is, what painting has been and what painting can become. Not a redundant question in a contemporary art world where painting has repeatedly been declare dead, but comes repeatedly back with renewed vigour and relevance. Mogstad is an artist with a deep knowledge of painting - its history and its material fundament - and a facility for combining references and tendencies from various periods in art history. American modernist abstraction from the mid 20th. century may be the greatest influence on his work , but he also takes inspiration from popular culture and from older periods of art history, especially the renaissance. His reinterpretation of motives from modernist abstraction is no nostalgic gesture, and at the same time one can not place his practice within the category of post modernism. But one can perhaps describe the painter Mogstad as a “dirty modernist”.










4/5/18

Cloudy and Chilly

Cloudy and Chilly, a new work by Craig Wells and Jeremy Welsh, produced during the residency and workshop  e-x-p-a-n-d-e-d. at Surnadal Billag. A ten minute video with quadrophonic sound. (Title courtesy of a work made earlier at the same venue by Isabella Martin)



4/2/18

e-x-p-a-n-d-e-d

e-x-p-a-n-d-e-d  is a workshop and public performance to be held at Surnadal Billag from 3 - 7 April 2018. Artists working in video, experimental film, electronic sound and improvised music will develop material for new projects over a period of four days, and then present works-in-progress on the final day. Surnadal Billag is a project space and artist residency in Surnadalsøra, Møre & Romsdal, Norway. The facility is housed in a former bus station. Taking part in the project will be Ellen Røed, professor of research in moving image at Stockholm University of the Arts: Nazare Soares, experimental film-maker & installation artist; Craig Wells, Phd research fellow in sound and experimental music at the Grieg Academy, Bergen; Michael Francis Duch, contemporary musician and associate professor in music at NTNU, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology; Sigurd Saue, leader of the institute for music technology, NTNU; Magdalena Manderlova, MA student in Fine Art at NTNU, working with voice and electronics; Jørgen Wassvik; BA student at NTNU working with video and sound. The project has been initiated by Jeremy Welsh as part of an ongoing series of research-based art projects investigating space, place and site-sensitivities.

From the installation 3Rom1/RGB, Jeremy Welsh & Michael Francis Duch, 2018.