An unexpected sonic journey in 2018 .

Since no one on earth is omniscient, I am not afraid to avow my ignorance. Keep on learning and searching for the new subject will enlighten and humble one’s soul.

Is it true that “Silence” is a type of “Sound”?

Let a “yes” be “yes” and a “no” be “no”.

Yes, I am new to “Sound Art”. Now, I say it loud enough to lay a safety nest before silly questions come through my lips. My fond of music will not help much when it comes to sharing in writing of “Sound Art”. Therefore, I write as an amateur, outsider and observer. Here is my primitive step toward sound art since the first quarter of the year.

What about “Sound”?

This subject is mainly associated with our auditory system because sound has no physical substance. It exists within us and moves around us every single second, even from the outer universe to the depth of earth. I think there is no exception whatsoever. There are loads of sounds can be taken into consideration but mostly I find them not orchestrated to the point of harmony like music to please our ears. Despite its intangible nature and abstractness, the source of sonic stimulation can easily access our soul through ears to move us into the sonic realm.  I assume that the only way to stop it is to make use of “Earplugs”, oh, but do we take silence as a type of sound?

What do you hear now?

From a macro view, sonic experience matters to cultural, aesthetics, historical and social aspects, but from a micro view, it relates to everyone.  Among all the multitude sensors given to human within a body, the most recognizable ones are the basic five senses, vision, audition, gustation, olfaction, and somatosensation. Even though we are born with them, but what comes naturally to us do not mean that we can take them for granted. In most of the circumstance, we are required to put effort and pay attention to exercise them without knowing it.  As for sound, active listening with our ears and heart is the key.

“Sound Art”? “Sound Art”!

With the great effort of sound art pioneers, such as Kurt Schwitters, John Cage, David Tudor, La Monte Young, Pierre Schaefer, the fire of sound art has been spreading since the early 20th century, underneath the blankets of futurism, Dada and Surrealism period of the iconoclastic art movement era. These days, contemporary artists expand its scope to environmental, historical, ethical, social, personal issues to express concerns, cultivate and exchange of ideas. In the contemporary art world, “Sound Art” runs a much wider spectrum with a higher level of abstraction and illustration to transform sounds into many fascinating art presentations.

The SoundPocket Mentorship program- 3rd Edition @ Hong Kong and Malaysia

Hong Kong is a metropolis of sound; a favorable playground of experiments and inspirations for sound artists because this city offers tons of sound around the clock that no one can deny its capacity.

There is a general belief that “Artist” is one of the most creative and gifted spiritual species on earth. Since I am one of them, I will not repudiate this saying. However, despite the talents, artists cannot be self-sufficient. We need nutrients to grow. Part of the key nutrients comes from the communication and exploration with other fellow artists, mentors and the world.

SoundPocket offers an unparalleled platform for Hong Kong artists to the sonic world. Every year, its Mentorship programme will feature different areas of sound to allow artists to absorb & exchange ideas, reflect and polish one’s practice and direction in a relatively free flow yet carefully planned setting.

“Writing as Collecting” is the theme of the 3rd edition of “SoundPocket Mentorship program 2018”. The programme was planned to emphasize the connection between “Sound” in the relationship of “Listening” and “Writing”. Under the guidance and sharing of the Artists-Mentors, Catherine Clover and Sai Lok Chan, the program ran throughout the first half of 2018. Participating artists include sound artist, stage director, professional writer, multimedia artist and visual artist, namely, Wayne Choi, Donald Chung Siu-hei, Jacklam Ho Tsz-yeung, Li Hiu-wa, Sean Wong, Fizen Yuen and me, were invited to contribute each of our individual artistic aptitude to the programme. Frankly, it was a good time for me to unlearn and relearn with all these talented artists. Without much knowledge of this program, I entered with my hands empty but came out full.

Workshop with Catherine Clover in Kuala Lumper.

Writing and sound workshop with Chan Sai-lok in Hong Kong.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Besides reading assignment and reports, the group went through a good number of workshops, site visits, sound walks, presentations, and discussions, both in Hong Kong as well as in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The process was intensive yet productive. It was a challenge especially at the beginning as we all spoke a different language of art. The time the group spent together to interact, process ideas and renew knowledge was a matchless experience. Somehow, art accepts a kind of “Out of the Box” cogitation. Taking what we had acquired in Hong Kong and traveled to Kuala Lumper provided an opportunity for the team to shake off some of our own mental restraints to the uncertain sonic possibility in a new environment.

The RAW Art Space runs by Malaysia curator & artist Tey Beng Tze at Kuala Lumpur

82 Jalan Rotan, Off Jalan Kampung Attap, is a newly renovated building offer spaces for studios, cafe, shop, archives, library and more.

Inside the art building, there is a music store with huge collections of old and new Rock music.

The Ricecooker Archives features Asian Rock’n’Roll music

I cannot represent all the artists here, as for me, I did enjoy very much the process of internalization, development, and execution from audio experience to the visual practice. I believe that attitude is the key to every successful project. As one of the participants, I am happy to witness selflessness, pleasantry, respect, care and earnest coordination presented by all the artist friends in the group. The group dynamic and cohesiveness are excellent. Truly, gathering a group of artists is no easy task, pure interest for sound art may not be enough for the SoundPocket team to run such a program, it must be more than vision, passion, and belief that keeps the team moving forward.

When sound is transferred into a visual presentation – a page of my sketchbook.

In the mid of Catherine’s busy teaching schedule, she shared with us loads of useful concept, knowledge, and skills of sound art appreciation and creation. “Birds” as the subject matter this time mainly because Catherine is a bird expert that her interest in these feathery species in terms of their sounds can literally build a good archive.  She started the workshop with one of her latest site-specific project “Confab” in 2016. That is a text-based artwork demonstrated the study and presentation of Catherine’s interpretation and transcription of the sound of birds and human voices from a gallery and a sculpture park. During the workshop, we tried to pronounce the excerpts of the written voices on the card. It was an amazing encounter to discover the subtle correlation and intimacy between bird and human through sound & words.

Confab (2016) (detail)  Catherine Clover
Vinyl lettering on glass    Dimensions 5.4m x 2.7m
Commissioned by Janine Burke for Human-Animal Artist McClelland Sculpture Park and Gallery, Melbourne Australia    Photo Credit Christian Capurro

Additionally, with his abundant experience in art writing & workshop, Chan Sai-Lok led our group to another kind of unique sound art path. We played with “words”, “writing” and “pronunciation” in some well-prepared exercises. In the end, the sound works spit out from our mouths transformed into something unexpectedly interesting. Lots of laughers broke out during the workshop.  His tutorship in workshop planning and guidance facilitated an affirmative acquisition towards both the artist group and the public participants. That was extraordinary.

Sounds and writing are closely related, aren’t they?

“In One Ear and Write Out the Other” — Public Workshop by Sound Pocket Hong Kong

A public workshop was held in June as a result of the Mentorship programme 2018.

“Education” is important in the art world, this is one of the access to pass on the information to the community. After the completion of the mentorship programme, our group required to leach the material and ideas from the prog, then re-create situations in a public-friendly way to interact with the participants. The full-day workshop was meant to allow sonic waves move from and interact with oneself and to the outside world through a series of listening and writing activities included “Sound & Body”, “Sound Walk”, “Sound and Writing”.

This program had opened my mind to sound art, an area with everchanging fascination and possibility. It also brought a certain level of healing to my bird phobia. This time, I had offered all the courage in my tank to go into the bird parks not only once but several times. I got to give myself a pat on my shoulder for taking such a big step to conquer my anxiety.

 What can sound art do to us next? What you think??? …pondering the answer with a big grin on my face.

Photo Credit: JC Jessie

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