Category Archives: collection

Sound Maps in the 21st Century: Where Do We Go From Here?

Sound maps are boring. Why? I would argue it’s because they’ve become stuck in a rut that began when the idea of ‘sound map’ became synonymous with online, Google API-based or other forms of point-and-click, CD-ROM era interface design. If we want sound maps to become less boring, this needs to stop. But how do we as sound artists (or would-be ‘sound cartographers’) break free of the point-and-click model? Continue reading

Film Review: Francofonia

“All museums must be prepared for war,” states director Alexander Sokurov during his ongoing narration of his latest film, Francofonia, a meditation on European cultural heritage and conflict via the Louvre. Continue reading

The Exhibition Catalogue As Printed Echo

When a museum exhibition ends, all we’re left with are memories.

Well, that and a catalogue.

Museum exhibitions are collaborative projects, culminations of the work of many people with a variety of skills: Continue reading

Listening to Museums: Sound Mapping Strategies for Visual Environments

I presented this paper at the 2015 Ecrea Media & The City conference at the Faculty of Political Sciences at the University of Zagreb.

You can read the abstract below.


 

The multisensory experience of museums is becoming increasingly relevant to curators, the visiting public, and academics, with many museums even beginning to include participatory activities based on listening to their own soundscapes in their public engagement programs. But what does it mean to listen to a visual environment? What are some effective strategies for engaging with a museum soundscape? Could listening to museums lead to the development of new cultural institutions devoted to sound? In my artistic practice, I have spent the last five years making sound maps of several museums and archives including the Egyptian Museum in Cairo (shortly before the Arab Spring revolution), the British Library’s Sound Archive, the Art Institute of Chicago, Tate Modern, and The Pitt Rivers at Oxford. Eschewing a top-down, Google Maps API approach, my sound maps exist as immersive sound compositions that lead the listener through an audio tour of a different kind, a cognitive map that juxtaposes the sounds of objects and environments in new configurations and contexts much like museum curators juxtapose items in exhibitions. In addition to the sound maps, I also make blind listening sketches of museum soundscapes in situ, closing my eyes and drawing the sounds I hear for a predetermined duration using a system of mark making that is gradually becoming a lexicon of museum sound symbols. My research into the sonic experience of museums presents these soundscapes as cognitive maps, my personal journeys that are moving closer and closer to an attempt to define the authentic essence of what museums sound like. In this paper, I document the inspirations and thinking behind my museum sound mapping strategies along with a selection of their results, including sound compositions, videos, and drawings that map my acts of listening to various museum spaces, archiving them for the future.

Why Listen to Museums?

This is the text of a talk I gave during the Soundscapes Late event at the National Gallery in London on 4 September, 2015. You can also download and listen to a recording of the talk on my SoundCloud page. Continue reading

Cultural Heritage in the Age of 3-D Printing: Rise of the Intangible?

A year ago, I wrote a post about 3-D printing and its impact on cultural heritage in the museum world. Last week, I presented an expanded version of the essay as a paper at the tenth annual Arts in Society conference at Imperial College London.

You can now read the paper on Academia.edu.


Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Cultural heritage in the age of 3D printing

Egypt’s current Antiquities Minister Mohamed Ibrahim is planning to file a formal complaint with UNESCO, declaring that a replica of the Sphinx built at a recently opened Chinese amusement park “harms Egypt’s cultural heritage.” The life-sized Chinese Sphinx replica was completed in April 2014, but judging by a photo of it, I would be hard pressed to call it an exact replica of the original. It’s close enough, however, to have angered the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities. There appears to be no evidence of the Chinese attempting to pass off their Sphinx as the original, particularly since it sits within an amusement park instead of a pyramid complex, thereby cut off from any of the cultural context that would usually give the Sphinx its meaning.

Or is it? Continue reading

A Sound Map of the Art Institute of Chicago

A Sound Map of the Art Institute of Chicago

I have a new album of museum sounds that has just been announced for release on 1 July 2014 by the 3Leaves label. If you’re at all interested in listening to museums, this album is an hour of nothing but. Below is the short text I wrote to promote the album on the 3Leaves website; the CD comes with a much longer essay detailing its making. The album is currently available for pre-order, and you can hear a ten minute preview on SoundCloud.

“For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by museums — not just as places of looking and learning, but also of listening. To me, the soundscape of a museum resonates with the active sounds of history, the nexus between a museum’s contemporary sonic world and the historical objects housed within it. In my view, these sounds exist in the realms between documentary and drama, awe and aura.

This is the second installment of an ongoing series of psychogeographic sound maps of museums. Several hours of source recordings chronicling my interactions with and observations of every public space in the museum were secretly captured during the spring and summer of 2013, using only the built-in microphones of an Olympus LS-10 portable digital recorder. These sounds were then edited down to a highly composed, but unprocessed, hour-long impossible journey through the Art Institute of Chicago’s original building and its 2009 Renzo Piano-designed Modern Wing addition.”