Alexandra Bell

Sound Artist

  ︎︎︎ ︎︎




Reflective Journal: Interactive Audio Visual Installation




Noise Making Workshop


The workshop started with a deep listening exercise for 4 mins 33s (equivalating the duration of John Cage’s famous piece). I closed my eyes and the first thing heard was the low hum of the air conditioning system, followed by the gurgling hungry tummy of the person sitting next to me. Then I heard a high frequency pure tone and wondered if it was in my head or the start of tinnitus.

After about a minute I became aware and self-conscious of my own body sounds, starting to regulate my breathing and any rustling associated with my movement. When my inner voice interrupted my being present, I tried to physically concentrate on listening, even visualizing sound waves reaching my ears. I then became aware of sounds overhead -footsteps, structure creaking, tapping. This concentration started to make me question what was real or imagined.

Then we performed several improvised noise making sessions, prompted by text (e.g. loud, soft, short, long sounds) or simple images. My initial focus on the self and interpretation of the prompts quickly progressed to listening to the other players, starting to respond to them as in a conversation, and even anticipating the direction of the ensemble. I loved the forum as a means to freedom of expression without the requirements or judgements around skill, and the feeling of collective participation, acceptance and support.

Finally we graphically responded to a performed noise, personally interpreting the duration of the sound via a picture. It was interesting to discover the similarities and differences of each drawing, almost a reflection of the individual lived experience.






    
Noise making objects I brought - with neutral & intimate associations.



Independent Gallery Visit

Mesiti, A., In the Round, (2021), AV installation, Talbot Rice Gallery, University of Edinburgh.

Mesiti, A., Over the Air and Underground,, (2021), AV installation, Gallery 1, Talbot Rice Gallery, University of Edinburgh.
     


I returned to this exhibition three times and it was consistently engaging, always with more to discover. I will focus here on Gallery 1, where five large portrait video screens were arranged inviting you to walk through a spiral, with a total of ten speakers hung overhead. The first impression was of walking into a vibrant sunset, surrounded by a vibrational bass hum. Magenta-coloured Perspex® had been placed over the windows to generate this ambience, like a retreat from the grey rainy day outside, and complimenting the purple colour-graded, slow-motion, time-lapse videos of plants’ movement. At the end of the video loop there is a meteoric event, like the end of the world. With flower heads videoed at close range, scaled to mimic a human head and shown at eye height, they became part of a climate change conversation, their aesthetic beauty almost demanding protection. It could be that the artist is questioning the future relationships between citizens and our environments.

In discussion with the invigilator, who had met the artist, I learned aspects of the concept which were not articulated in the interpretative literature. Ten voices sing the letter ‘A’ like a breath; and the work tries to imitate the sounds of nature using 220Hz -the frequency at which trees are said to communicate. The magenta window colours are meant to replicate the ultraviolet spectrum of bee vision.

The overall sensation was hypnotic, the visuals entrancing and bass resonating in my chest despite the lack of a subwoofer. This exhibition could be described as Gesamtkunstwerk or total work of art (Trahndorff 1887), as it includes poetry, audiovisual immersion, musical scores, performance, varying timelines and subjects beyond the human.

   

Supporting Research

Watched:
  • Song of Ceylon (1934), Dir Wright, B., [Film], London, Denning Films Ltd.
  • Romance Sentimentale (1930), Dir Eisenstein, S.M., Alexandrov, G., [Film], France, Sequana Films.
  • Snow (1963), Dir Jones, G., [Film], UK, British Transport Films.
Visited:
  • Bourgeois, L., Scupture, The Woven Child, 2022, Hayward Gallery London. Provocative female-centric view of the world using her process partly as personal cartharsis. I particularly loved the use of textiles and unusual scale, projecting horror through soft materials against the constraints of cages.
  • Sensatronic Lab Online, (2022), available at http://www.sensatroniclab.co.uk/, accessed Feb 5 2022
  • ISO Design Projects (2022), available at https://isodesign.co.uk/projects, accessed Feb 5th 2022
Sensatronic & ISO offer experiences at different ends of scale but similar intent. ISO remind me of design company IDEO, and are clearly deliverying fascinating work but the current blocked landing page is a barrier.  

Interacted:
  • Eno, B., (2009), Reflection, (Version 1.3) [Mobile App] available at: Apple App Store (downloaded 8/2/2022).
  • Eno, B. & Chilvers, P., (2008), Bloom, (Version 3.1) [Mobile App] available at: Apple App Store (downloaded 4/2/2022).
  • Eno, B. & Chilvers, P., (2009), Trope, (Version 1.3) [Mobile App] available at: Apple App Store (downloaded 4/2/2022). 
  • O’Reilly, M. & Tarakajian, S., (2015), Rhythm Necklace Trope, (Version 1.0.5) [Mobile App] available at: Apple App Store (downloaded 8 January 2021).
  • Till, R., (2012), Soundgate [App], University of Huddersfield/ECAP. Affords interactive exploration of ancient archeological sites & sounds. 
All the Apps demonstrated interesting concepts but lost my engagement pretty quickly. Knowing the costs, effort and legal hoops assocated with an App launch, for me they seemed more technology than sound driven, with no longlasting emotional creative engagement -high tech creation of supermarket music.

  • Garcia, S., (2022), ‘Generative Art’, [Zoom Webinar], 4th Feb 2022, ArtXCode, New York. Interesting discussion of the direction travel for digital art, but ultimately I felt the lack of regulation and environmental impacts of digital art currencies are unjustifiable.

  • Galaxicle Implosions, (2022), [Test Mission], 3rd Feb 2022, London.  Great fun experiment of 3-way theatre where online participants propose plot sequences, which are then curated and relayed to actors,  who improvise to plot in a theatre with a live audience, and their avatars are animated in VR. Fourth wall present and dissolved simultaneously - some way to go to make this work well but very engaging.  https://www.flipsidexr.com/galaxicle-implosions .