The 2016 Electronic Literature Organization international conference and media art festival is the first to consider sound as a form of electronic/generated/computational (EGC) literature. A sound strand was designated as part of the festival with a theme of “storytelling.”
Theorists and practitioners were invited to explore this theme through a variety of sound-based forms, including soundscapes, sound walks, sound collages, sound art, sound maps, phonography, field recording, radio-audio drama, radio transmission art, and audio performance. They were encouraged to consider storytelling based on sound sources other than the human voice, combined with sound effects, silence, and imagination to convey sound-based narratives that operated without screens and were designed for careful listening experiences. The conference theme asked artists to consider new opportunities, new horizons for theory and practice with EGC literature.
One new horizon is the elevation of sound in/of/as EGC literature. With a focus on sound, and increased opportunities for its assimilation into future works of EGC literature, we might ask questions like . . . . What conditions of and for new listening experiences are emerging with the continual development of new media, both as a technology and as a system for communicating new ideas in new ways? Can we expect new, unheard (of) sound(s) that, very quickly, will challenge our ability to listen and configure sonic narratives?
The artists and works curated in this exhibition have addressed these questions in different and interesting ways. Judy Malloy’s “The Roar of Destiny—Twentieth Anniversary Version” adds her own voice recordings to several lexia in her pioneering work of experimental web-based hyper fiction. Through the addition of voice, Malloy, explores new opportunities for engaging with the image-rich text of her work, for communicating their ideas, and for challenging participants (nee “readers”) to engage with their narratives.
“techne_lab: a journal of practice-based research” by Ryan Wade Ruehlen and Mark Amerika, features a series of sound recordings sampled from lectures and talks by faculty of the Doctoral Program in Intermedia Art, Writing and Performance (IWAP) at the University of Colorado at Boulder. These voices improvise and articulate the experiential qualities of multi-authored and/or hybridized forms of transmission as well as practice-based research methodologies currently emerging from the digitally expanded intermedia arts and writing of contemporary culture. In the end, Ruehlen and Amerika foreground sound, specifically the sound of human vocalization, as articulation of abstract thought, itself fundamental to art and writing.
“Audio Metaphor,” conceived and developed by Miles Thorogood, Jianyu Fan, and Philippe Pasquier, all from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, is an autonomous soundscape generation system that transforms an utterance into a soundscape. Users are invited to enter an expression or sentence as a prompt for the creation of a soundscape. This interactive audio installation questions the ubiquity of information, be it real or fake, actual or synthetic. Through its generation of sounds, and the requirements for listening, this work points at issues around big data, artificial intelligence, machine learning and other techno-scientific advances, and their impact on our perception and experience of the world. The requirement, and often joy, of listening to these generated soundscapes reinforces their ability to convey sound-based narratives that are engaging, as well as immersive.
“Tomorrow, Today Will Be Yesterday — Angles and distance, time and perspectives” by Portuguese sound artist Rui Almedia combines video and audio responses from international artists to the work’s title. More than an obvious exercise connecting imagery and sound, the installation explores and experiences the way in which the sounds shape visuals and vice-versa, even without an apparent connection, except that with the work’s title. The result is a collection of seemingly decontextualized images that could become a suggestion of different perspectives within the time frame of each sound piece.
“In Memoriam Decio Pignatari” by Brazilians Janete El Haouli & José Augusto Mannis is a sound poem for radio in honor of Decio Pignatari, creator of concrete poetry in Brazil in the 1950s along with the brothers Augusto and Haroldo de Campos. Sound is the central concern for this work: its broadcast via radio technology, room acoustics, and listening practices are part of the larger story. Combined with video, the work might easily be seen as simply multimedia, but instead Mannis explores gesture as central to the practice of concrete poetry.
Each work is engaging in its own right, as a unique work of sound art, or the creative addition of sound to EGC literature. As a group, a strand with this media arts festival, they require our thoughtful listening and continued reflection. Rather than augmenting EGC literature, these works represent new opportunities, new horizons for our theory and practice with this creative genre.
- Rui Almeida, Independent Artist, “Tomorrow, today will be Yesterday – Angles and distance, time and perspectives” [See Artist Site]
- Janete El Haouli & José Augusto Mannis, Universidade Estadual de Campinas–Unicamp / Instituto de Artes, Laboratório de Acústica e Artes Sonoras–LASom et al, “In Memoriam Decio Pignatari” [See Artist Site]
- Judy Malloy, Independent Artist, “The Roar of Destiny – 20th Anniversary Version” [See Artist Site]
- Ryan Wade Ruehlen & Mark Amerika, UC Boulder, “techne_lab: a journal of practice-based research” [See Artist Site]
- Miles Thorogood, Jianyu Fan, & Philippe Pasquier, Simon Fraser U, “Audio Metaphor” [See Artist Site]