CONTEXTUAL RESEARCH: Julie Marsh

Although Julie Marsh has been invaluable as my tutor throughout this entire project, she is also a huge inspiration as an experienced and successful practitioner where she covers themes and notions similar to those I am investigating in this work. This was evident last night where I was privileged enough to, along with the girls from our tutor group, attend a presentation that she gave at London College of Communication on her PhD findings. Broadly speaking, her practice based research explores the methodology of using motorised rigs to critically evaluate the way in which experimental moving image can perform the materiality of site. Through her practical work and exploration,  she has contributed to new research by coining a a new term ‘Site Integrity‘; this is an idea that can be understood and experienced through her practical pieces which are made and displayed in the very site of their making. In this sense, her work is performance as much as it is experimental as placing the audience at the site is absolutely integral to the experience.

Furthermore, Julie’s work also sits within the contemporary context of space and time in the sense that her installation pieces encourage participants to re-examine their position in relation to the site that they are experiencing it within. Extending this further, viewers are empowered to collaborate in a performance where ‘artist, place, machine and audience are inextricable linked‘.

Her work relates to mine in the sense that she explores and produces artworks that force the viewer to experience ‘a physical and mental repositioning‘, hence my installation seeks to evoke a physically and emotionally engaging experience for each participant.

The experiential understanding of place that underpins Julie’s practice work fascinates and inspires me in terms of the way in which she utilises investigatory approaches to capturing and re-presenting place. This includes the material and physical qualities of place and how these can be represented to a gallery audience. These aspects to her work relate to notions inherent in my installation as it is a piece that is very much site specific and can only be experienced in the specifically constructed place. Developing this idea, although the content of the installation (sound) isn’t recorded in this space, the physical and material qualities of this space redefine, shape and influence the way in which it is perceived by an audience. For example, the size of the container, what it is made out of (MDF), the speaker positioning and the participant positioning (lying on the bed) are all elements crucial to the experience as a whole.

Furthermore, the design and production of camera motorised rigs which are capable of capture moving image content that cannot be accessed by the human eye, thus producing installation pieces that are investigatory as much as they are documentary. Extending this ideology further, this methodology transforms the ‘viewing’ process into a performative, experiential exploration of place. Julie’s exhaustive and experimental practice develops this even further as the camera motorised rigs are both the form the context of reception and production as they enable the moving image film to be physically presented in the architectural space of which it was originally filmed. Theoretically speaking, this draws on

 

Practical Analysis:

Salat is one of the pieces produced by Julie that best represents these notions and her investigatory work into how experimental moving image can perform the materiality of site. The motion and role of the camera motorised rig used in this piece had to adhere to very strict guidelines such as the peoples faces needing to be concealed due to the fact that it is a mosque during prayer, as well as the

 

This added an additional layer of complexity to the work in the sense that it heightened the fact that the camera motorised rig was recording an experience that couldn’t be accessed first hand, further accentuated by the fact that as a female, Julie wasn’t even able to enter herself.

analysis of specific piece and how it relates to theoretical concepts in addition to my work/project development 

References:

http://julielouisemarsh.tumblr.com

Contextual Influence: Anke Eckardt’s GROUND

Contextual Influence: Anke Eckardt’s GROUND

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  • This multi sensory installation explores the idea of motion and is participatory and interactive in the sense that it will move when visitors stand on it, henceforth the work itself is shaped in response to the way audience interaction with a moving platforms which forms the construction of the installation.
  • It is a sound and art piece which challenges the way in which sound can evoke a physical experience in the sense that ‘the rough sounds are mechanically produced through friction‘, acting as a symbol for the relationship between human movement and the environment
  • Stylistically, this installation comprises of a ‘long and thin cube placed within a narrow hallway‘ which the audience are encouraged to walk through. Through mechanical forces, the ground moves which is felt, heard and seen providing a physical engagement with the work, shaping and challenging the relationship between the individual participating in the work with their sense of what is real and what is not.
  • This work is a very physical experience and very much taps into the idea that sound is physical in the sense that is essentially a form of vibration. This physical, mechanical aspect of sound is also incredibly evocative and emotive by evoking a very visceral, raw and powerful feeling.
  • This is a purely aural experience however it is just as powerful as a visual experience, demonstrating the impact of sound in producing both a physical and emotional reaction in an audience.

In essence, this piece explores and investigates the emotional impact of sound as the audio utilised in the piece has a direct connection to the participant’s bodies, producing a ‘physical memory’. I am inspired and influenced by the way in which the sound of a physical space can influence how we feel both physically and emotionally. In this way, places/space have unique sonic signatures – as a result illustrating that the way in which space modifies sound produces emotional experiences associated with specific spaces. This links in with the way that my work is very much a site specific piece and I have cultivated a space which is appropriate to the piece and the experience of the work. For example, the decision to paint white, keep the layout minimalistic and simplistic in addition to the set up where the speakers are embedded in the bed. 

The ideas at the root of this installation piece is to question, confront and challenge where sounds come from, what they mean to us, and most importantly, if we hear sounds in our minds? This targets the area of how sound can alter our interpretation of space and place, relating to ideology from the semantic field of Sound Art which is typically defined as covering ‘installations that can be experienced in a unique, physical space that can’t be replaced‘. This resonates with the way my work seeks to investigate how Sound is linked to a physical experience which is a huge area that is crucial to exhaustively explore and delve into in relation to my work. 
Evaluation:
  • I am interested and influenced by the way in which this installation explores and demonstrates the power of sound in producing a physical experience and connecting to the body. I am particularly intrigued and fascinated in the way that Eckardt experiments with frequencies in ‘temporarily destabilizing our habitual and consensual states‘. This is a technique that I can utilise to produce sounds and vibrations that evoke a physical response.
  • The way in which this work is an embodiment of the idea that the aural is just as powerful and emotive as the visual and that not every piece of work requires a visual component in order to be engaging. This underpins one of the most important decisions during this project which has been making it a purely sound and vibration piece rather than introducing visual elements.
  • Building on this idea, I am inspired by the way in which a simple formula of sound, vibration and movement can be used to evoke a visual, auditory and physical response in it’s participants, further validating it’s impact and power. This relates to ideology intrinsically linked to my project in the sense that I am utilising a similar formula with the intention of cultivating a physical and emotional experience for participants.
Next Steps: 
  • Extensive theoretical and contextual research into how Sound can be utilised to produce a physical experience and how sound shapes our perception of space and place
  • Expand this research by analysing how these theories and works inspire, challenge and influence the development of my project
  • Practical tests using frequencies and experimenting with various physicality options in order to evoke a physical, emotive, powerful experience that relates to my intention
References:

CONTEXTUAL REFERENCE: Elisa Artesero

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Analysis:

  • A light and shadow installation which seeks to ‘puts the subconscious and the ethereal on display

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  • Stories Under Our Feet, demonstrated below, is a light installation where passerbys are encouraged to interact with the ‘shadows of letters that formed words under the benches’. This transforms the public space into a canvas for art, giving a multitude of opportunities in exploring the subconscious and dream world. I am inspired by the way in which the artist creates an atmosphere in this piece that make participants feel ‘disorientated or disconnected from reality’. This relates to my installation in terms of producing a piece that investigates immersing an audience within an environment that enables them to explore their own personal and bespoke subconscious states.

‘Dreams are places where our desires manifest, where anything is possible. I play with and create spaces I imagine/dream and place them into a real world for others to explore’

This quotation responds hugely to the aims and ideas central to my project which is to create a space and an experience that is publicly exposed to a comprehensive audience, thus blurring the boundary between the public and private sphere. In this way, my installation reveals one persons personal, intimate and uncensored Night Terror experiences to a gallery audience, facilitating a physical and emotional engagement. In the context of this particular piece, Artesero explores and investigates the way in which passerby’s interact with a public space, representative of the documentary, anthropology slant to the work.

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The essence of her largest scale piece ‘Dreamers’ (pictured above) is that visitors are encouraged to interact, creating their own shadows, their movements transforming the Japanese paper screen-inspired letters, each individual adding something new to the composition. I like the way in which each participant produces a visible unique and bespoke experience of the piece, based on their own personal movements, empowering them to become producers in this work. Additionally, this body of work is evocative and emotive in cultivating intriguing, fascinating and complex installations and environments.

‘It’s the ability to elicit or facilitate these sensations and emotions that drive my work. We take a lot of our daily lives and experiences for granted, letting internal thoughts and concerns stop us from fully engaging with experiences as they happen. If my installations can undo our autopilot and create an experience to engage with, then that’s one of my major motivations.’

This quotation is absolutely key to my project aims in terms of evoking a physical and emotional experience through the creation of an installation that forces individuals to interact with their own Sleep behaviour, which for the majority of people, adopts some form. This idea of creating an immersive piece that targets an audiences subconscious forms the basis of my work in terms of tapping into these experiences through an experiential, visceral, emotive and physical piece.

 

References:

https://creators.vice.com/en_uk/article/immersive-dream-installations-elisa-artesero

Research: Embedding Speakers into Bed

This is an idea that I am really excited and interested by as it develops the initial surround sound proposal that the sound travels around the room by having it contained in the bed. Conceptually this is compelling as it facilitates a more immersive, engaging experience in terms of feeling the vibration of the sound as it passes through your body, creating a gradient of sound that is experienced through a bodily aligned arrangement. 

In order to explore the ways in which I can utilise, develop and apply this technique effectively and in terms of realising the intention of my work, extensive and meticulous research is crucial. Practical experimentation also forms the basis of this technique so that I can test what works in the context of my installation and what doesn’t, particularly in conjunction with additional elements. 

One of the most prominent issues for this is the fact that embedding five speakers into the bed has the potential to create a lumpy quality to the bed which could have an adverse effect on the experience as a whole. Therefore, I am going to investigate works and artists that incorporated speakers concealed into art pieces in order to explore ideas in regards to how to accomplish this successfully.

Research into embedding speakers into Art Installations (with annotations analysing how these ideas relate to my project development and overall intention):

  • A common technique utilised by Sound Artists to transform surfaces into speakers
  • Contextual Reference: Sonic Bed – This art piece has speakers built into the bed frame, producing a Sonic Bed where ‘the vibrational frequencies simulate your whole body‘, cultivating a multi sensory experience. This relates to my work in the sense that the set up facilitates a multi sensory experience of the sound as it is a physical feeling of the vibration in addition to the auditory aspect. 

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  • Contextual Reference: Listen,” installed by Rupa Dhillon – this works is an ‘immersive listening space‘ where sound is experienced through multiple parts of us including ears, eyes and the body, exploring the multi sensory potential of sound in affecting us. Practically, Dhillon has achieved this through the use of a ten channel sound system complete with six subwoofers inside a purpose built bed, enabling individuals to a full body surround sound experience which ‘allows visitors to feel the sounds through their body‘. This is an incredibly useful and relevant Contextual Reference as practically speaking, it embodies my installation in terms of cultivating a sound gradient that is felt through the body using a Surround Sound set up. This installation additionally utilises four speakers positioned throughout the space which is an idea that I have considered in relation to my project. However, after much deliberation and thought, it wouldn’t be supporting my intention as I want to entice and entrap participants in the bed at the same time through the cultivation of an experience that is completely focused around the body. One of the central ideas surrounding this installation is the way in which it immerses visitors into a sonic experience that in fact enriches a range of senses, producing a vibration embodiment of synesthesia.

 

 

Speaker Placement evaluative annotations:

  • Speaker placement is a spatialisation technique which can be utilised to cultivate immersive, sonic environments 
  • Placing speakers in precise locations means that artists are empowered to produce particular sound illusions, and spatial audio effects. However, this is also highly dependent on the positioning of the listener in terms of how they perceive and experience the sound.
  • One of the primary techniques utilised by Installation Artists in the context of immersive sound pieces is the positioning of both back and front loudspeakers so that there is sufficient distance for the sound to travel.
  • These ideas are, in essence, forms of creative techniques with the intention of experimenting with the potential and role of sound in space through physical distribution, extending beyond the conventional, stereo audio form. This is a method to add a multi dimensional, layer and depth to the experience, thus ‘heightening the listening experience for the audience’

How does this relate/influence/challenge my installation and project development?

‘Modern sound designers discovered the remarkable ability of surround sound to envelop their audiences in a newly discovered three-dimensional‘ (Thomas, cited in Brown, 2009: 181)

 

This quotation effectively communicates the power of surround sound in immersing an audience into a multi dimensional and layered, visceral experience, thereby validating the decision to utilise a surround system for my installation. This is because my piece seeks to envelop individuals within an audience into an immersive, physically and emotionally engaging experience based on one persons Night Terror encounter. Therefore, as a result of this, Surround Sound is an appropriately chosen technique; for instance, the omnidirectional nature of how sound functions within such systems is indicative of how it can effectively immerse an audience in a specified space or experience. Furthermore, the use of a system that

 

 

 

References:

Thomas Rick (1995) Theatre Design and Technology Journal 31(1): 16-26

 

http://people.brunel.ac.uk/bst/vol0901/karenlauke/karenlauke.pdf

Salome Voegelin – Sound Art Theory

Salome Voegelin – Listening to Noise and Silence: Towards a philosophy of sound art. This publication is a phenomenological study of the aesthetics of listening, where Voegelin explores the ephemeral quality of the sonic. This links in with my work in relation to why this is an immersive SOUND piece rather than a multimedia, visual based installation. 

In this study, Voegelin examines the way in which we engage with sound, particularly delving into listening as a perceptual engagement, as she claims that ‘the listener is always in a position of uncertainty‘.

Voegelin explores the ways in which sound seamlessly conjures up imagery,
emotion and atmospheres but can only be held onto through remembering its characteristics in our minds. The unique, powerful quality inherent in Sound Art is within the relationship between the listener and the sonic material in question. Extending this further, Voegelin engages in the discussion that through this process, ‘the listener creates the piece anew‘, illustrating this idea that sound conjures a personal, unique interpretation. Building on this evocative concept, sound is one of the most intrinsically emotive, evocative and powerful senses in terms of influencing, shaping and impacting our subconscious.
In this study, I will examine, analyse and delve into the way Voegelin’s theory forms the underpinning and is informed in my practical work, and other contextual references. 
Contextual Reference: Victoria Karlsson – Sound Artist investigating the emotional and subjective potential of Sound Art in terms of producing both an inner and outer experience, hence representing diverse and rich aspects of our consciousness and subconscious states. Her work seeks to question, confront and challenge how site specific sound environments shape and evoke experiences of different spaces. This is relevant in terms of these theoretical concepts and my project as a whole since the intention of the work is to explore the relationship between Sound Art and spaces of consciousness, similar to the way in which I intend to use Sound Art to target, evoke and experience the subconscious state. 
Scores for Silence is an exhibition that presents Karlssons work comprising of an installation which investigates the relationship between memory and sound, exploring the way in which ‘sound resides not only in the world around us but also within our own inner thoughts and memories‘. Objects are featured at the heart of this piece to trigger and evoke feelings, memories, thoughts and emotions that are unique and personal to individual audience members.
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This piece is a relevant contextual reference in terms of the development of theoretical ideas which form the basis of my work as this installation delves into the subjective and emotional aspects of sound as both an inner and outer experience’. Karlsson does this by studying inner sounds that are manifested in thoughts and memories that only exist in viewers imaginations, representing the bespoke, personal quality of ‘imaginary‘ sound types prevalent in emotion and memory that can be overlooked when compared to outer sounds. Extending this notion even further, Karlsson investigates how these imaginary, inner sounds affects, shape and influence our experience of outer, physical sounds. Thus, what impact do our personal memories, emotions and thoughts have on our experience of physical sound, and our surroundings. This is connected to a key objective of my project in terms of studying the way in which personal memories, emotions and experiences affect and determine how individuals engage in a physical experience.

This resonates with theoretical notions underpinning my project as sound is applied and explored with the intention of cultivating an emotional engagement between individual participants and the story of her Sleep Paralysis experiences, hence exploring the potential of the sonic in terms of shaping a physical, bespoke, emotional experience.
Extending these ideas further, this taps into the question of how sound is experienced corporeally through a bodily engagement, which links in with the key intention of my installation. I will be conducting investigatory theoretical and conceptual research, backed up with critically analysed contextual references, that explore and examine this notion that Sound is interpreted by our physical selves. I will then build on this by challenging how sound presents more complex and insightful approaches and methods for filmmakers to tap into the subconscious state. An example of a filmmaker who explored this concept is Hitchcock as he utilised sound as a key component in his work to ‘instil in their audiences a particularly corporeal experience’.
Contextual Reference: The Forty Part Motet – Janet Cardiff
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  • A fourteen minute Sound Installation which explores a sonic experiential response
  • It comprises of forty high-fidelity speakers positioned on stands in a large oval configuration throughout the Fuentidueña Chapel’
  • Visitors are encouraged to walk among the loud speakers and hear the individual voices, evoking a sense that they are surrounded in a choir of forty voices/live performer
  • The audio component is split into an 11 minute segment which comprises of singing, and a three minute section which is an intermission. In terms of the singing, it is the audio from forty singers performing Spem in Alium Nunquam habui, played back through the forty loudspeakers.
  • The arrangement and layout of the speakers is also very important to examine – they are positioned in a large circle so that when the audience walk across the space, they are given a unique combination of sound and harmony at different positions, cultivating a bespoke experience of this installation. One possible way to experience the work is to ‘stand in the middle of the installation and hear all forty voices as they unify into one musical piece’
  • Alternatively, by moving closer to an individual speaker, participants cultivate an intimate connection and encounter of the installation with a specific voice. Thus, representing how this installation produces varying yet equally powerful ways to interact with the work. By doing so, individuals are able to hear a fresh, unusual and unique interpretation of sound in terms of richness and depth. 
  • You can hear the sound move from one choir to another… and then experience the overwhelming feeling as the sound hits you”
    • This quotation describes the process of surround sound as the audio travels between the speakers and the way they are positioned in the space. It also touches on the way the sound produces a visceral, corporeal effect that is key to the objectives of my project.
  • This piece is an example of how Cardiff uses sound to create emotional experiences based on space and intimacy – I really like the way in which it is up to the individual participant the type of experience and interaction they have the work – for example, they can create a very intimate interaction with one voice/speaker in the installation, or, they can engage in a considerably more harmonic experience. This relates to ideology from the semantic field of chance and control (which I have previously analysed in this blog), in the sense that viewers are empowered to choose the way in which they interact with and experience the experimental piece
  • This piece is an investigation of how sound is a spatial form and the way the installation, both physically and emotionally, connects our bodies to the sounds that we hear, and a result of this, facilitates us ‘to climb inside the music‘. My response to this element of the work is the way sound is so deeply entrenched in our subconscious states and can be used to cultivate a visceral experience that connects to our physical selves. Hence, Cardiff creates a physical relationship between the sound and the audience, enabling a further dimension of engagement with the choir.
  • An additional element to this piece is the way that participants can observe other individuals engaging in the experience, producing a shared gallery experience. The beauty of this aspect of the installation is that you are all immersed and contained in the same space.
  • The volume varies between the speakers, cultivating a richer, more enchanting experience. For example, some speakers contain children’s voices which have connotations of being angelic and are of a softer, gentler, quieter amplitude. As a result of this, these speakers contained a combination of children voices in unison to add more power and impact. 
  • By closing your eyes and immersing yourself into total darkness is really powerful as it heightens your other senses, and your imagination. For example, the sound is heightened and has a much more effective impact as the visual sense is removed. 
  • There are eight groups of five speakers positioned together which transforms the piece into a journey type installation and helps simplify the structure considering the amount of speakers. There is also logic to this as they are arranged that for each speaker, the sounds/voices are positioned from low to high pitch in ascending order of each soprano, alto, tenor, baritone and bass. This gives participants an indication of how to explore and discover the work however it is totally up to the individual where they stand which in turn produce a completely unique and bespoke encounter of the sound hence the installation. There is also a huge degree of independence, self discovery, exploration and experimentation in this approach as it is not set out to individuals how they should experience the work which enhances the potential for an audience to move throughout the space of their own accord and at their own leisure, cultivating an intimate relationship with the piece. 
  • Theoretically, this installation explores the potential that sound, audio and music has in transporting ‘the listener beyond the ordinary world we inhabit, to connect us with something larger than ourselves‘. Thus, this piece uses sound to influence an audiences perception of space, transporting them into another space purely through sound. Building on this further, this installation seeks to investigate how sound physically constructs and shapes a space sculpturally.
  • By positioning yourself up close to an individual speaker, you will feel a piercing and high amplitude sound that is full of intensity and character. However, positioning yourself in the middle cultivates a peaceful, gentle sound and experience. This piece encourages viewers to experiment with the ways in which they can interact with the work based on what is best for them; in this way, it is a very experimental and evocative installation. There is no set time period or structure to the piece, henceforth, it empowers participants to explore it in their own way. I am inspired and fascinated by the way in which sound physically constructs a space in a very sculptural way, so that individuals can physically feel the sculpture, structure and shape of the space. This exemplifies one of the primary ideas that I have been exploring where sound has the potential to shape our perception of space.
  • Resembling a concert in many ways, this piece seeks to challenge some of these associated ideas in opening up the installation to a more contemporary and unique way of perceiving sound by offering an audiences the opportunity to experience sound from every single viewpoint. It is a multi dimensional way of engaging with the sound. 
  • The design is very simple and minimalistic but at the same time effective and powerful, providing evidence to validate the idea that less is more.

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Evaluation of how this relates to my project development:

  • Multiple speakers are positioned in an oval arrangement cultivating an atmosphere of immersion for participants – different positions within this configuration create diverse experiences of the installation – offering individuals opportunities to explore and engage in a multitude of ways
  • It is a physical journey and the way that visitors actively engage with this journey hence the installation is up to the individual – they are given full choice as to where they stand/how they weave through the work  – although a shared gallery experience, it is personal, bespoke and individual the ways in which participants explore and investigate the piece
  • There is an overwhelming feeling as the sound hits you – it is visceral, physical, evocative and powerful – this links to the physical and emotional impact of sound – feeling the physical impact of sound is a key objective of my project, enhanced by the recent decision to embed the individual, surround speakers in the bed and cultivate an immersive, physically engaging, bodily experience where participants will be able to feel both the physical and emotional effects of the sonic. 
  • Visitors are encouraged and empowered to make their own journey and find their own place within the space – there is no guidance or set of experiences as to how they should experience the installation – This is an idea that I really like as it enables each participants to engage in a bespoke, unique encounter of the installation that is unconstructed, uncensored and raw. This relates significantly to my project ideology in terms of the theme Night Demons which is incredibly intimate and personal to the individual and the intention of the work is for one persons experiences of the 
  • The way in which the volume varies between the speakers cultivates a richer, more enchanting experience – this is an idea that really resonates with my project in terms of having different speakers producing a different combination of sounds, hence each part of individuals body will experience a diverse and unique mix, shaping and volume of audio. This enables sound to travel through the body as opposed to being a static, stationary experience. This suits my subject matter as night terrors, particularly Sleep Paralysis, is a multi sensory immersive experience and therefore doesn’t just affect one part of our bodies. My intention is to entice and entrap participants into the bed, hence ‘her’ Sleep Paralysis experiences which are personified in the bed. I will definitely use this technique in my sound mix by focusing on experimenting with volume automation, particularly in relation to the surround movement of specific sounds such as the cat or wave to cultivate a spatial, immersive experience. 
  • This links in to the technique utilised where, by positioning close to an individual speaker, you will feel a piercing and high amplitude sound that is full of intensity and character

Next Steps:

  • Further in-depth contextual research and practical application ideas
  • Additional theoretical work into the evocative power of sound and how the sonic can be utilised to shape perception of space
  • Further to this, contextual and theoretical analysis into how the sonic can cultivate a bodily aligned, physical experience 

 

References:

KEY THEORY: FREUD

 
  • Freud is a key theorist for my project as in his theoretical work, he argues that art brings subconscious desires and ideas to the forefront, hypothesising that dreams are tools that unlock our subconscious states hence reveal our repressed feelings, emotions, thereby breaking down the barrier between reality and dreams.
  • It is this thesis that is intrinsically important in relation to my installation as it explores and questions the ways in which night terrors reveal such involuntary and uncontrolled feelings and desires, by representing them across various forms of multi media. This reveals a vulnerable, personal, intimate facet to an individual that this installation seeks to tap into, as my work is an alternative, experiential approach to representing the subconscious state.
  • It is, essentially, a conscious surveillance of unconscious acts that not even the individuals themselves are fully aware of. A further example of the way in which Freud’s work as enabled me to conceptually develop throughout this exploration process is the notion that the unconscious consists of intensified emotions and instincts responding to ideology from the semantic field of automatism which explores the way in which involuntary, uncontrolled, inherent actions and processes emerge during our subconscious states. We have no control of them; my installation idea is largely based around this as it explores and portrays night terror experiences that are out of our control, responding to Freud’s theoretical work amongst surrealism and tapping into the subconscious. Freud states that nightmares are not properly understood or represented in Contemporary Western Civilisation – highlighting the appetite for better understanding and awareness of this issue that is almost a taboo. 
  • Psychologist Sigmund Freud, leader of this theory, explored the reasons why we dream. He states that our subconscious is a space in which we ‘release our repressed socially unacceptable desires’ [1]; therefore he argues that sleep enables the ‘unconscious’ to become ‘conscious’ blurring the boundary. This resonates with my project as the crux of my work is the conscious surveillance of unconscious acts, as participants are immersed into an environment and experience where they physically and emotionally engage with Carla MacKinnon’s Sleep Paralysis encounters. Thus, giving them an experience which taps into an individuals subconscious state and providing an artistic, experiential representation of a condition that is very Scientifically documented, and therefore, for those of us who don’t suffer from Sleep Paralysis, it seems a notion that is very disconnected to us. This installation seeks to dispel this myth as a lot of the facets of Sleep Paralysis experiences are in fact relatable, identifiable and universal. Henceforth, this installation additionally gives participants the opportunity to further tap into and access their subconscious states through the simulation of this experience.
  • Studying Freud has given me a greater insight into the content and functionality of our conscious states in order to portray them accurately through sounds. For example, the unconscious consists of intensified emotions and instincts, unusual and bizarre are motifs, it utilises various senses, distorting time and space (which can be reflected in experimentation with pace, rhythm of sound e.t.c).

 

Freud inspired contextual work:

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  • A series of multi media installations relating to the unconscious within surrealism
  • Focuses on space – questions the space of our subconscious states
  • Emphasis on light to reveal ideas using visual mediums of Photography, X ray and drawing
  • Exhibited in an intimate space, listening the conscious to a personal, emotive idea
  • In ‘Spaces of the Unconscious’, space is used to represents the two states of consciousness. For the conscious state, the piece is well lit, illustrating domestic furniture which has a warm tone in addition to personal belongings. This contrasts to the darkened space which presents the subconscious.
  • The use of lighting in this context represents the mystery, ambiguous nature of our subconscious minds. This lighting also lends itself to abstract stylistic techniques in creating fantastic imagery which acts as a social or cultural comment as well as forming surreal juxtapositions which accentuate the contrasting nature of both the subconscious and conscious states. The darkened space also refers to the subconscious as fantastic and fictitious, connoting an ambitious, melancholic ambience. It also enhances the surreal quality, likening the pieces to dream ideology.
  • This work relates to my installation both on a thematic and aesthetic level as the space is Freud’s bedroom which is divided into two areas. From a lit conscious area housing Freud’s domestic furniture and personal belongings, the viewer passes through a membrane to a darkened area representing the unconscious. Here, through closer inspection via small apertures, the contents of the mounted boxes are revealed. Imaginative spatial dimensions are explored in each scenario where the participant is taken on a journey into a world of the dream or the unconscious. 
  • The installation questions the way in which the thresholds between the conscious and the unconscious are negotiated and how the viewer is impelled into spaces that are simultaneously real and imaginary. This ties in with my project in the sense that participants are immersed into someone else unconscious space and state, using light, sound and physical elements to simulate such experiences.
  • This work has inspired and enabled me to shape and develop my work in an innovative, fresh, imaginative, critical way. For example, the way in which she combines traditional forms of media with technology inspires me in terms of questioning and investigating the subconscious space by targeting the human imagination. This work is also purely about experience as opposed to defining the space of the unconscious, predominantly leaving meaning to individual interpretation.

 

 

THEORY: Sound for Film

Why study this theory and how does it relate to my project?

Although my project is categorically not a film, it sits in between two theoretical areas of sound for art and sound for film, as the piece is, at it’s heart, a storytelling project which employs an alternative approach to conveying an individual’s experiences of the effects of her Sleep Paralysis encounters through a physically and emotionally stimulating experience which is both visceral and intimate. 

As a storytelling project, it is essential that I have a critical, thorough and extensive knowledge of how sound can be manipulated and used to tell stories in an effective, emotion driven and real way. This is because, like the camera, sound is used to shape our storytelling experience. This is crucial in terms of being able to apply this theoretical knowledge to my practical work; for instance, how sound is utilised in psychological films such as Hitchcock’s work to create a strong sense of foreboding. A key aspect of this is the way in which sound is not bought in at the point of action which will be advantageous in terms of my project development, transforming it from a piece that is typically of a show and tell style, to a track that cultivates an immersive experience. In this study, I will critically analyse specific films and accompanying theories, those that both successfully and unsuccessfully utilise sound to create specific effects, convey emotion and tell raw, authentic and powerful stories. This is because, like the camera, sound is used to shape our storytelling experience. Although these are films, the storytelling focal point remains the same and this exploration will enable me a greater insight into how to utilise sound to convey the story in a creative, emotive, evocative, experiential way. 

Building blocks of sound for filmmaking:

In film, it is essential to be able to separate the three distinctive forms of sound that populate film; these are music, sound effects and dialogue.

  1. DIALOGUE: (Human voice) 

This is the basis of the narrative and tells the story, expressing feeling and emotion. The very texture of the voice provides character. Narration (which is what I will be using in my installation) is non-diegetic as the sound is used without a corresponding visual reference as the dialogue doesn’t belong to any person in the frame. Dialogue authenticates the narrator as an individual, giving them a genuine, real, raw quality rather than that of a character, enabling an audience to identify and relate to them. Story wise, dialogue is expressive in terms of feeling and emotion, conveying human, candid, heartfelt character. This is extended beyond the words to the tone of the voice, developing texture, depth and character. When the elements of voice texture and character interact effectively, the result is a character the the audience relate to and engage with to the extent that they stop being a character and start being a human beingThis is an interesting point that has definitely arisen throughout this project particularly in terms of Primary Research as during my interviewing process, it was important to consider the voice, tone and texture of the speaker and select one that individuals will engage with (central to my project aims) and that feels natural, genuine and relatable, accentuated by the intimacy, severity and rawness of the subject matter. For instance, during the initial stages of this research, one individual that I interviewed had a distinctly engaging, rich and detailed story which appealed to me in terms of it’s multi sensory potential in addition to her dedication to my project. However, one of the main critique that derived from the proposal presentation stage of the pre production phase was that her voice sounded am dram, constructed, artificial and was ultimately disengaging. 

The human voice contains three primary sonic attributes that are essential to understand in order to maximise it’s effect particularly in terms of evoking emotional depth. These are:

  • Volume – loud volume conveys emotional intensity – the connotations of a loud volume is an intense emotion – anger, pain, passion – quieter volumes are softer and symbolise more considered emotional responses – tenderness and fear are two examples
  • Pitch – This relates to a sounds frequency – although this quality is mainly associated with music or sound effects, it has a huge impact in terms of dialogue and voice. For example, a deep voice implies authority and power. 
  • Vocal Characteristics – The voice is incredibly evocative – the way a person speakers is very telling in terms of their character – tone, class, cultur

2. SOUND EFFECTS

These characteristics can be applied to sound effects in the same way. For example, in terms of pitch, a low frequency sound that has a deep, rich tone has connotations of ambiguity and mystery. Whereas, high pitched sounds have the potential to signify anxiety and drama. Non-diegetic sounds, which are what I will be using in my piece, are central in conveying a certain mood and atmosphere. It is very common for films to utilise separately recorded sounds rather than the actual soundtrack that accompanies the visuals, as this can be more convincing, realistic and effective in shaping the narrative.

3. MUSIC 

Background music is utilised for emotional and atmospheric purposes presenting an underlying tone and specific ambience to a scene or film. This type of music can also be used as a technique to foreshadow an upcoming event or development in the narrative.

Thematically (Using sound to create suspense):

In terms of psychological thrillers and horror films, aurally constructed elements are the main driving force for cultivating a suspenseful ambience due to it’s a ability to evoke emotion and richness compared to more traditional film sound tracks. This is predominantly due to the fact that acousmatic sound is used to enhance suspense, tension and ambiguity in the viewer by foreboding particular emotions, effects and events.

‘If you watch a horror film with the sound turned off, it isn’t scary’

The reason that sound is so crucial to the horror genre specifically is that ‘scary movies trigger more of a visceral, automatic, bodily reaction‘. This resonates so strongly with my installation, proving that the decision, to make it a purely sound and vibration driven piece instead of fusing these components with visual elements such as light and video which has been negated to serve the intention, was such a wise one. My project seeks to evoke both a physical and emotional engagement with the experience that at the heart of the piece. Therefore, this validates the importance of sound as the basis of the media used for this project.

Non-Diegetic Sound is the type of audio that is utilised in film to evoke suspense, tension, unease, anxiety and anticipation in it’s audience. This is because unlike diegetic sound, this type of audio is added in post production, and therefore manipulated with the specific intention of evoking and cultivating suspense and tension. For example, various tools and techniques are applied, by Post Editors, such as experimenting with volume automation, filters, reversing and stretching of sound in addition to layering effects. These devices are utilised to maximise effect with the intention of drawing the audience into the scene, using typical film techniques to build a gradual crescendo, immersing them in to the story as if they are participants as opposed to viewers. In a nutshell, non-diegetic sounds are described as ‘messages from the filmmaker directly to their audience’, manifested in the form of symbolism.  

Examples of these non-diegetic sounds that are used to great effect in Horror Films specifically include eerie footsteps, tense piano/orchestra music, big bangs, slamming of doors, water running and a telephone ringing. These are effective and powerful in this context due to the fact that they are atmospheric and evoke emotion and feeling, particularly in terms of tension, suspense and anxiety and fear; the key staples in Horror Cinema. These sounds play on ideas of gradual crescendos, or alternatively, a sharp sound that is utilised as a way to shock, instilling fear and anxiety in the audience. These sounds serve to evoke an emotional, physical reaction from the audience and are therefore identified as atmospheric sound. This represents the reason why these powerful sounds are the crux of my installation as they are evocative and experiential which is the essence of the project. Furthermore, in order for sound to produce a physical experience, audio needs to be manipulated and symbolic as opposed to literal as the focus is on feeling rather than understanding. It is all about connotation, not denotation, when it comes to experience and emotion – utilising sound in a way that heightens the senses, eliciting both a physical and emotional reaction. This is an idea which is extensively illustrated in the Horror genre as the very essence of it’s film’s is ‘eliciting a negative reaction from viewers by playing on their fears‘. Practically exemplified, rain isn’t utilised to make the audience think about rain, but it is applied to a particular scene or moment in the film to act as a symbol for feelings such as anxiety or melancholy. In this way, sound is used as a metaphor to evoke and simulate emotion. Extending this example further, the slow and gradual build of intensity of the rain signifies an escalating sense of tension, suspense, uncertainty and pressure. Although my work isn’t solely intended to simulate a negative emotional response from the audience, it is inherent in terms of my subject matter as nightmares and terrors feature largely within this genre as by their very nature, they elicit such emotions that are intrinsic to Horror. 

Analysis of Example of atmospheric sound used in film to evoke emotion:

Contextual Reference: Referred to as ‘The Master of Suspense’, Hitchcock is one of the most famous and acclaimed directors and filmmakers in cinematically producing films that impact minds, memories and emotions of the audience particularly in terms of cultivating an atmosphere of incredulous suspense. His incredible skill lies in having the ability to draw the audience in to an experience that is populated with tension, suspense, fear and anxiety right, keeping them engaged right until the last scene. In this study, I will critically examine the clever way in which Hitchcock crafts sound and silence to cultivate suspense. Although my work isn’t cinematic, it is a storytelling piece and my intention is for an audience to physically and emotionally engage with this particular story/experience, and therefore drawing each individual in and keeping them sustained, on edge and totally immersed in the experience to the end, through clever manipulation of sound, is vital. 

Analysis of how Sound is used in Psycho:

This film illustrates the way Sound Design staples such as creaking floorboards, the gradual opening of doors and the stabbing of knives are utilised to achieve sensations of anxiety, fear, tension and alarm. Sound is crucial in this genre as it serves to represent and embody the subjective qualities of state of mind as well as the emotional aspects which are more prevalent in Horror. Thus, sound is typically used to embody a characters subconscious state. This reflects the relationship between Sound and emotion, highlighting it’s importance in terms of my project. This is because the narrative of the installation itself is based on the story of an individual’s subconscious state, i.e. her Sleep encounters/Night demons, therefore validating the decision to pursue this work as a Sound piece. This is the case in Psycho where most of the unease and tension that the audience feel is as a result of the sonic disconnect in which the sound that they hear doesn’t have a visual correspondence. In terms of pacing, Psycho utilises a soundtrack that gradually builds throughout the course of the film, slowly progressing to evoke a raw sense of anxiety and fear in the audience, signifying the way Hitchcock famously uses Sound design and editing to play with the viewers emotions. According to Hitchcock, his objective was to use these experiential techniques with the intention of making the audience feel that they were part of the film. This idea directly links in with my installation in the sense that my aim is to create an emotionally and physically engaging experience of this particular account of an individual’s Sleep Paralysis encounters. 

Psycho was a key film in terms of revolutionising the process and effect of Sound editing and mixing. One of the most famous and illustrative examples of this is the shower scene in which we, as the audience, never visually see the knife make contact with the woman, but merely through the power of sound, we are convinced we have seen it. In order to heighten the anticipation, emotion and suspense of the scene, non-diegetic sound in the form of an eerie, spine-chilling music track is used at the beginning to forebode what is to come. The rhythm and pacing of this music track is crucial to recognise and examine as it gradually builds in a subtle, natural yet incredibly compelling way. The music, however, ceases when the shower is turned on; the effect of this is that the sound of the shower dripping is emphasised. As soon as the shower curtain is pulled, the music comes back on and it is a high pitched sound that, as discussed before, is indicative of anxiety, tension and a strong sense of unease. This high pitched, almost shrill and sharp sound is significantly louder and faster, reflecting changes in pace, rhythm and tempo. This acts as a method to foreshadow that something sinister is going to happen, thus representing how Hitchcock is utilising sound as a symbol. Symbolism in this scene extends further as the sound of the shower, similar to rain, is suggestive of danger, thus heightening the drama involved in the scene.  The music is then layered on top of this sound effect with the intention of cultivating a piercing, strong and penetrative audio mix that evokes suspense and fear in it’s audience.

From this point, the shower sound is continuous which serves to remind the audience that this murder is taking place in an intimate, personal and everyday location that is very relatable, heightening the fear. At the end of the scene, the music gradually gets quieter to reflect the fact that the woman is dying and the way in which this fades out to a silence. In this way, sound is continually used as a method to evoke emotion in it’s audience as the dying down of the music can be construed as a symbol for her death. 

There is a distinctive shift in the pace and tempo of the sound where at the beginning of scene the sound is gentle in rhythm and tone which lulls the audience into a false sense of security. Examples of this include the stepping into the shower and the water running as although these cultivate tension and uncertainty, they are also everyday sounds that tell a story of a straightforward shower process. However, as the scene builds towards a dramatic climax in the narrative, the sound reflects this as the volume increases, breaking the suspense that has been cultivated and instilling light and shade. The intense rhythmic quality and the high pitched sounds evokes discomfort in the audience; this is an element that I can consider emulating in my Sound Mix in the sense that different types of sound and audio can be layered and presented throughout the mix to convey a story which has a progression including moments of stillness juxtaposed with intense, climactic sensations. 

In the broader context of the film as a whole, Hitchcock also withheld sound information as a device to heighten ambiguity, uncertainty, hence suspense and tension for the audience, enhancing their engagement with the story. In a similar way, Hitchcock withheld visual information to accentuate the sonic components, where an off screen sound effect is applied. This is an idea that resonates strongly with my project in the sense that my installation is a sound piece without any visual elements in order to cultivate an ubiquitous, all consuming, immersive experience of a Sleep Paralysis encounter. This is a very interesting concept that I will most definitely experiment with and incorporate into my next testing period in terms of withholding sound at particular points that the audience will expect sound to further draw them into the experience and accentuate the sense of uncertainty and tension. However, in doing so, I will ensure that I am careful in terms of making sure that withholding sound in this way doesn’t disengage the audience; this is a fine line that I need to tread carefully and skilfully. As an initial idea, one possible avenue to explore would be to include very evocative, powerful sound effects but have a void or potential delay in the corresponding piece of narrative.

hitch-headphones

This was inspired by the scene in Hitchcock’s Blackmail (pictured above), where audio information in the form of a telephone conversation is concealed from the audience, instilling a strong sense of curiosity, ambiguity and suspense. For example, in Hitchcock’s The Trouble with Harry, whispering is used with the intention of intriguing and captivating the audience into the story. This is a technique that could be applied to my installation as whispering adds texture, tone and depth which would offer me creative potential in terms of creating a personal relationship between participants and the narrator whose story it is. 

Linking it back to Hitchcock’s aim, he wanted his films to impact an audience’s emotional and psychological state, with the intention of evoking an active reading where they are questioning, confronting and challenging in terms of both themselves and the narrative. This responds conceptually to one of the primary aims of my work in the sense that I want individuals to engage with the experience that they are being immersed in, but on a deeper level, I also aim for the installation to simulate feeling, sensations and emotions in them that they can relate to their own night demons as they are such a universal, identifiable, rich subject matter. In this way, I intend for individuals within an audience to engage, question, challenge and confront both Carla MacKinnon’s Sleep Paralysis experiences, but also their own night terrors. For example, how do these experiences relate to what they encounter? I am enamoured and inspired by the way in which Hitchcock utilises sound to tap into the audiences subconscious, psychological state in order to effect it. 

Summary of how Hitchcock uses sound to evoke emotion (with critically evaluative annotations of how these techniques can develop and shape my work):

Example of atmospheric sound used in INSTALLATION EXPERINETIAL ART for emotion

this is because my work sits between the two

evokes

Contextual Example – Analysis:

 

References:

http://theseventhartfilm.blogspot.co.uk/2007/11/whats-that-sound-sonic-suspense-and.html

http://www.euppublishing.com/doi/abs/10.3366/sound.2012.0037