Announcing a Rite of Losing Audio Virginity: Thoughts on Lacking Sound and Listen 48
Text: Ko yu jia
Translate: Yvonne Kennedy
First, I must admit, using the written word to describe "voice", "sound", "resonance" or any audible collision or friction, is essentially absurdist behavior. As such, the following should be read with a conceptual preparedness in mind to dispel any ludicrousness or preconceived notions in order to preserve any intrinsic value in the writing.
In Lacking Sound Festival Listen 48, two teams perform works that are stylistically and conceptually divergent. HUANG, Chung-Ying presents a field survey that includes spoken interviews (recorded audio) and written records (printed booklets) to explore the concept of sound art. From this proposition, the author of sound art seems undetermined, undefined, and perhaps unsolicited (as the author points out, “Taiwan’s sound art is contextually a European or American derivative, without a domestic point of view”). Sound art is pulled back to its origins in this work, from the point of departure of defining what sound is, with the intent of reconstructing content for sound art. However, the contents of the questions and answers gradually unveil an awkward ambiguous status occupied by sound.
So, what is the "awkward ambiguous status occupied by sound”? The performance by the second group gives an apropos interpretation.
Monkey Sun appears with a setup that combines the role of the video jockey (VJ, in charge of visual mapping) with that of a disc jockey (DJ, in charge of music). If spotlights at the venue are replaced with fluorescent lights, and if the use of alcohol, cigarettes and recreational drugs are permitted, the atmosphere would resemble the sort of unwinding in the wee hours of the morning, chilling out after a night out. The origins of the DJ and VJ combination most probably arose from two scenarios. The first being the evolution of music videos; and the second is software and hardware advancements in digital technology. Ultimately, sensory wires are crossed, or more plainly, an extreme pursuit of “feel”. On the one hand, this pursuit is ideational, with works that emphasize human and sensory components; on the other hand it is technological, with works that require manipulating a quantity of complex digital software and hardware. Combined, the two aspects create a Marshall McLuhan-esque massage. Of course, I must point out that this massage is purely neutral, because in the process, whether this massage is pleasant is completely subjective. Judging by the standards of a beat party, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, but for some of my peers it was overly tangy and failed to climax.
At the conclusion of the performance, the “awkward ambiguous status occupied by sound” reemerges. The status of sound is not merely awkward, it doesn’t even make it as a tertiary participant. Since the performers define themselves as VJ and DJ, it is not far-fetched to label this as an electronic music performance. I’ve always imagined a fighting stance for “Sound Art” in an independence movement in field of music to regain the right of interpretation; perhaps even more so to establish a major narrative where sound plays the central role. This sound will be the “sound” referred to in the title of the series “Lacking Sound Festival” (inadvertent noise will also suffice); but not voice, or music, and It would never enter into a discussion on electronic music, video art, or even digital art.
But the drama, of power staying in power and the weak staying weak, is replayed time and again. This is a digital age; an age of compounded sensory enjoyment. Electronica without a visual component is not cool, not hip, lacks feel. Sounds without electronic effects don’t seem avant-garde enough or thrilling enough. Cornered by music, visuals and digital technology, sound is surrounded by aggressors on all fronts. I think that the sound of sound art has no other possibility than to be content with its role as mistress, as a tertiary participant.
So, let's cut our losses and re-group:
Firstly, what is the sound?
Secondly, what constitutes a good / nice sound?
And thirdly, what is sound art?
(The above are the three questions asked in HUANG, Chung-Ying’s work.)