Material City: Art in Urban Spaces + SIAL: Sound Studio Creative Lab :: Duke Albada

14 – 15 + 22 – 24 September 2007, Melbourne Australia “Material City is a platform for dialogue and creative engagement that brings together artists, writers, historians, academics and arts workers to consider the complexities and challenges of working in the urban environment.”

One and a quarter days were filled with a variety of presenters grouped in four distinctive sessions. Each brought its own sparkle and the speakers were generally good, some excellent, my highlights were Matthew Ngui and Sonia Leber / David Chesworth.

I enjoyed the assault of ideas and possibilities released by the speakers; it inspired me to push my works even further and gave insight in new ways to collaborate with other artists and the community. The symposium was inspirational due to its focus on improving art in the public domain by creating a dialogue between all kinds of art forms, architecture and community which parallels my art practice. It has given me insight in other ways of approaching Public Art. Besides being inspired I enjoyed putting faces to names, catch up with acquaintances and initiating new contacts (especially during the symposium drinks).

SIAL (Spatial Information Architecture Laboratory) Sound Studio Creative Lab
“A three-day workshop will focus on spatial, cultural, social and technical aspects of designing sound works for urban spaces, through site-specific events, lectures and practical studio tutorials.”

I was expecting an intensive ‘hands-on” laboratory however the workshop was primarily theoretical. The participants were varied; musicians, artists, architects, performance-, visual-and sound artists as well as radio and field recording artists.

22 September: Several sound artists including Ros Bandt and Nigel Helyer had 50 minutes each to give us some insight in their practices. This proved too short thus it was enriching that most of the presenters where there the entire day and approachable during breaks.

23 September: We were put(ty) in Nigel Frayne’s hands. He started the day guiding a soundwalk through Melbourne city. A new experience for me and what a great lesson it was! We walked, listening and absorbing the audio surrounding us. I came to realize how much I use audible stimulant as an instruction to look. During the walk all the individual sounds were to morph into ‘one stream of data’ when reaching a certain threshold. I don’t know if I ever reached this stage but my ears were definitely fine tuned. Following the walk we listed the sounds we heard and grouped these in blocks et voila according to Murray Schafer* we now have a composition. Using this word for the collection of sounds written on a whiteboard sparked an animated conversation, was it not better to call it a; documentation, compilation, registration etc. as composition insinuates a certain level of craft and manipulation involved in its making.

We also visited the ACMI bringing our main equipment; our ears, in order to create a ‘soundmark’. A valuable lesson from Nigel is to always first visit the site without a microphone as you will listen differently.

The PVI collective offered all SIAL participants a complimentary ticket to their performance; REFORM. Expecting the unexpected and tuned for yet another sensory experience I was drained but elated after the performance. I won’t try to describe the performance as I think you should go and see / hear / experience it for yourself.

Monday 24 September: The basics of the techniques behind an acoustic design was provided to us by several SIAL people. Information included; microphones, recording, software, multi speaker set up etc. SIAL increased my knowledge of sound art regarding technique, equipment, work methods and presentation possibilities. It has been educational and intriguing to talk with (sound) artists from such a variety of backgrounds. I found it inspiring and educational to hear opinions from a (very) different point of view as well as sharing my knowledge and ideas. We discussed and exchanged information in order to improve and extend our practice and expertise.

And then it stopped, I wished for another 3 days where we could collaborate and practice the theories, but it was not to be. I left Melbourne one book, an extensive booklist to read and an overwhelming amount of theoretical information richer. The (theoretical) workshop was well balanced, informative and inspiring. I wish to thank everybody involved in organizing, selecting, presenting and sharing.

Material City: Art in Urban Spaces and SIAL Sound Studio Creative Lab have been amazingly informative, constructive and inspiring. It offered me the possibility to appraise and reflect my arts practice in general and confirmed the direction my art practice (especially my sound works) is going. It has raised the bar of the technical quality of sound, techniques and presentation methods I wish to use, most important it inspired me to make more innovative sound works. I have made several new contacts that might lead to interdisciplinary collaboration, commissions or exhibitions within the new media scene. I am already implementing some of the newly gained knowledge of techniques, equipment and work methods in the production of a new artwork for the Helen Lempriere National Sculpture Award.

Attendance to the symposium Material City: Art in Urban Spaces and participation in SIAL: Sound Studio Creative Lab was “Supported by ANAT (Australian Network for ART and Technology) through the Professional Development Travel Fund. ANAT is assisted by the Commonwealth Government through the Australian council, its arts finding and advisory body” and a “Quick Response Grant provided by Regional Arts NSW through the Regional Arts Fund, an Australian Government initiative supporting the arts in regional, remote and very remote Australia”

* Canadian Composer and Pioneer in the area of international sound research

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