Today we had the opportunity to talk with Kelly Andres while she was at the Singapore National Museum meeting up with Artistic Director Guna, as well as reviewing the spatial setup for the Main-Juried Exhibition.
Kelly’s work is entitled Finally We Hear One Another, and involves a pair of participants wearing headsets that consist of a parabolic microphone and a speaker each, simultaneously sending and receiving audio signals through a bluetooth network, allowing each listener to hear instantaneously the auditory environment that the other listener is traversing.
Over tea yesterday we spoke about the conceptual engine underlying the piece, as Kelly described a walk on a fall day in at her abode in Lethbridge, Alberta, while she was plugged in to a recording of the Vancouver soundscape some time ago. The soundscape brought up memories and emotions unique to her experiences living in the city, which formed an interesting disengagement with the environment that she was actually walking in. Saying that she was always intrigued by the fact that listening to audio environments could actually bring you to another place, the inspiration of this piece was borne in a desire to rejuvenate the auditory experience as a crucial sensory tool by presenting a situation where listening (to a dislocation) became more important, and interesting than the visual environment.
Similar to the collusion of sound environments during her walk in Lethbridge, Kelly reveals that the disassociation that will be brought about through her ISEA2008 project, which involves a pair walking through different parts of the museum, could be scary, or strange because the association with which we are used to lies within the comfort zone of our experience. and the simulated audio environments brought about during the installation are displacing and potentially provocative – but it is important, she stresses, to take people out of these comfort zones, though not through extreme methods. Indeed her use of humour and sometimes absurd materializations, as can be observed by some of her past (and future) designs, these become very amiable entry points into the project topic. Did we mention that her headset incorporates the horn- shaped icon most commonly associated with the gramophone in its design?!
Kelly’s project arises from the conceptual shift in private to public gallery where art removes itself from conventional detainment in place of more quotidian environments, finding inspiration from the immediate environment, as well as presenting her discourse in a public sphere. Reminiscing on Sherry Turkle idea of the digital network tether that everyone is bound to, enforcing a displacement of identities even in a single social environment (e.g. people see you as a son when you answer a call from your mother at a gathering with colleagues), each instant of a personal moment in a public space becomes a sort of public performance, with the cell phone, or PDA as performance props. In this case, not only does the participant traverse the museum grounds as listener, he also becomes performer; and in so doing, makes every person and sound he experiences participants in this public art demonstration; allowing both an objective, and subjective experience of the piece.
In a world of quickly advancing media technology and electronics, Kelly’s work is simple, yet poignant in remembering the connections between perception and sensation, between people and communication and between technology and perception -connections that are sometimes ignored and/or fenced up, bringing a much needed human touch to the technological plethora.
Come witness this insightful, and fun-filled piece at ISEA2008, and be amazed at the perceptual dislocation as we listen, locate, and relocate ourselves through the ears of another!
Kelly’s ‘naked’ heads on display at the National Museum. Headgear will be included when the installation opens next week.
For more information about the artist and project please visit the ISEA2008 main site. Keep checking this site for latest updates and developments in the buildup to the exhibition.