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EchoSonics Education Resource

Teachers: Thank you for your interest in UTS ART and our Education and Outreach program. This resource was developed by UTS ART Education and Outreach for the UTS Gallery exhibition EchoSonics, which was part of ISEA 2013, The 19th International Symposium on Electronic Art. It is intended to provide some extra information and insight into the works and artists in the exhibition and suggests some classroom and independent learning activities based on the show and its related themes and concepts. This resource is written with both the NSW BOS Visual Arts and Science Stage 4 and 5 Syllabi in mind. It is however, designed to be easily adaptable for other educational frameworks and age groups, for students with non-English speaking backgrounds and with specific needs. We hope that this particular resource reflects the interdisciplinary nature of sound art by making strong cross-curricular links. It can both support a visit to UTS ART Gallery and be used independently. The booklet includes space for note taking, and key words are highlighted in a glossary to support understanding, vocabulary enrichment and literacy development. Green boxes indicate questions for discussion, which could also be used for extended response writing practise. For NSW teachers and students, activities are structured around the Frames, Conceptual Framework and Practices. We hope that you and your students enjoy working with this resource.

Students: Whether or not you have visited our exhibition EchoSonics, we hope that you learn some new and interesting things from this kit about the artists involved and their work. There is space through this booklet for you to record notes and ideas. Sometimes we have highlighted new or important words in bold. These words, ideas and concepts are explained in the glossary at the back of the booklet. This resource should help you learn a little bit about some contemporary artists working with sound, and why they are so interested in making work that uses more than just our visual sense. The last part of this kit suggests some other artists whose work you might want to find out more about. You may have heard of some of them. Our culture these days is so dominated by the visual. While this is of course very important, we hope that this kit will help you think about how our other senses contribute to our experience and understanding of the world. Happy learning and happy artmaking! <3 UTS ART

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Mark Brown MetaHorn Drone Spin 2013 Performance documentation


ISEA 2013 The exhibition EchoSonics is part of ISEA 2013, The 19th International Symposium on Electronic Art. The symposium happens every two years in a different country. This year it was held in Sydney. A symposium is a large meeting or conference in which specialists from a certain area gather to share their work and ideas. ISEA 2013 was made up of talks, workshops and other events that took place over two weeks. Aside from the conference, it became a major electronic art festival, with exhibitions in various public museums, large and small galleries across Sydney. Hundreds of people came from around the world to share their ideas and to see the work of other artists using technology, new media and other electronic forms.

Minoru Sato Thermal Acoustics 2013 detail

Have you come across electronic art before? Perhaps you have seen or experienced works that could be described as ‘electronic art’. What are the different types of electronic art you can think of?

Many fascinating and diverse projects took place in Sydney as part of ISEA 2013. Find out more about this year’s symposium and the people involved. You may find that they come from a range of backgrounds. Choose one project that interests you to research. Share your findings with your class to build a bigger picture of the festival and of contemporary electronic art practices.

we live in a culture that is incredibly visually overdriven, and our sense of hearing is typically underrated and undervalued.

â&#x20AC;&#x201D; Nigel Helyer


EchoSonics EchoSonics is one of the exhibitions in the ISEA program. UTS ART Gallery collaborated with DABLAB Research Gallery to stage the show. It was curated by Nigel Helyer, also a sound artist himself. There are two local and two international artists in the exhibition. You may want to think about what they all have in common, other than working with sound. Helyer has described the exhibition as exploring “ecologies of sound”. By this he means that all the works explore an ecological system, or an environment. Sometimes this is the natural environment, and sometimes a man-made one, sometimes an artificial one constructed within or as part of an artwork. One of the artworks he says explores a “social environment” through “its own ecology of messages”. After all, we experience our environment not only through what we see, but through the sounds that surround us, and the vibrations in which we are continuously immersed. As an artist and curator, Helyer is interested in how our experience is actually very narrow, as what we perceive can only fall within the limits of what we are physcially able to see and hear. In fact, he believes that the whole human world is constructed around a very small window of visual and sonic frequencies

UTS ART Gallery and DABLAB 4 June - 12 July 2013 Mark Brown Jon Drummond Ed Osborn Minoru Sato Curated by Nigel Helyer

within a much, much broader spectrum. Who knows what is happening on either side of the range we can actually see and hear! You can close your eyes and instantly switch off the visual world, but you can’t close your ears! In fact, the vibrations in the air that cause sound are actually constantly around us, whether we can hear them or not, immersive, moving around and even through our bodies.

Close your eyes and listen to the sounds around you right now. See if you can identify 10 different types of sounds. Write them down while your eyes are still closed. Write a poem illustrating all the things you can hear.

Unlike the specific and intermittent focus of the eye, the ear never sleeps.

â&#x20AC;&#x201D; Nigel Helyer




Sound is a type of energy caused by vibrations. Often we think about sound in terms of vibrations through the air.

The human ear can register frequencies roughly between about 20Hz and 20,000Hz or 20kHz. So we can only hear sound waves that fall within this range. Hearing mechanisms are extremely delicate, and over a lifetime it is quite common for this spectrum to narrow. So this range can vary from person to person.

Air is made up of molecules. We can imagine that if we move an object, it pushes around all the air molecules surrounding it. Sound works in a similar way. The vibration of an object or vibrating source causes the molecules around it to vibrate. It bumps them at a certain pressure and rate. These molecules then bump into the molecules next to them, and so on, creating a wave of vibration. The wave keeps going, like a Mexican wave in a stadium, until the wave runs out of energy. The number of times this wave moves per unit of time is known as its frequency. Frequency is measured in Hertz (Hz). A frequency of one Herz means that over the course of one second, one complete vibration takes place. One hundred Hertz is when one hundred vibrations occur within one second. The measurement was named in honour of German Physicist Heinrich Hertz, who was a pioneer in the study of electromagnetic waves.

Many other creatures hear very different ranges of frequencies to us. Dogs for instance can hear up to 35,000Hz, and at much greater distances than humans. Unlike our senses of sight, smell and taste, which involve chemical reactions, hearing is a purely mechanical process. The outer part of your ear, or pinna, acts as a funnel. All the different curves in your outer ear help you detect which direction a sound is coming from. The sound wave travels through your ear canal into your middle ear, where it hits your eardrum, causing it to vibrate too. This vibration is then passed on through some tiny bones in your middle ear into the cochlea in your inner ear. This is a tiny spiral-shaped organ filled with liquid and lined with thousands of tiny hairs called cilia. The cilia then trigger nerves that send impulses to your brain to tell you that you have heard a sound. All this within a fraction of a second!

Vibrations such as sound waves do not only move through air. Conduct some research to find out how underwater creatures communicate. In what other ways have humans been able to harness this system?

What do you think the moon would sound like?

Find a Tone Generator online. This will play you tones at various frequencies. In pairs, play around with the frequencies to measure your own hearing range. Create a class frequency spectrum, and map out the hearing ranges of your group Brainstorm in groups what animals have the widest hearing range, Map these out on your frequency spectrum too.

Nigel Helyer Re-defining Function(alism) 1991 Installation view.


Nigel Helyer

Redefining Function(alism)

Nigel Helyerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s conceptual piece Redefining Function(alism), 1991, proposed to change the frequency of the Alternating Current across the entire UTS power supply from 50Hz to 12.5Hz. This would disrupt all electrically powered activity on campus, causing percussive noise, rhythmic lighting, and a great deal of equipment to fail entirely. In this artwork, Nigel Helyer has cheekily suggested two options for the realisation of his piece: to go through with the project, or to hang a brass plaque describing his idea in the foyer of the main Tower building of UTS. The university went for Option 2, and it can be now seen affixed to a pillar in the lobby. He probably knew already that the university would not go through with changing the power frequency supply to the whole building. On the other side of the same pillar is another plaque commemorating the opening of the university.

This artwork encourages us to think about the invisible things in our daily life that we take for granted, such as the energy being used to power the building that we work and study in. Although we canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t see or hear it, this energy has a very powerful effect on how we live our lives.

Design a plaque that could be placed somewhere within your school. It could commemorate something that happened in that spot. It could pay tribute to another invisible thing you think we take for granted in our daily lives. It could also be used as a way to get people to think more consciously about their surroundings.

Mark Brown Detritical Re-Vibration / Techtonic Transfer 2013

Mark Brown Detritical Revibration Detritical Revibration is a kinetic sculpture and video installation. All the elements on the shelf are found objects that Brown has reconfigured and assembled in relation to each other. The bell and striker were part of an old fire alarm in the machine shop in the disused silo in inner Sydney where Brown has his studio. A small rectangular speaker faces upwards, and is filled with flakes of old paint that he collected in the landscape around the Kurnell Oil Refinery. A mysterious sound comes from the little speaker, gently vibrating the flakes of paint, and small flash appears intermittently on the LCD screen. At the same time, the bell striker spins around, sometimes striking the bell and sometimes just gently scraping it. Many viewers in the gallery find themselves focusing intently on the LCD screen to try to make out what the flashing image is. It looks like a very whispy, ghostly warm-coloured light. In fact, the video plays a fleeting, flashing sequence shot on a GoPro camera looking down into another, larger speaker filled with detritus, which Brown filmed while on residency at the Darling Foundry in Montreal, Canada. The sound of the video powers both the LED and the small motor connected to the alarm bell striker. So it is the sound itself that is causing the light to flash and the striker to spin.

Notes & Ideas:

The video screen, which we are normally used to bombarding us with images, is black most of the time. We are left waiting for that little snap. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a little mystery that teases out that relationship between vision and hearing. â&#x20AC;&#x201D; Nigel Helyer

Place or site is very important to Mark Brown. He is very interested in the history and function of architectural spaces. Think about the places Brown has collected the elements of his artworks from. How would you describe his practice as an artist?

There are five large smoke stacks located on the coast behind the Kurnell Oil Refinery. They are painted in heavy green paint which over time has been strewn all around the landscape by strong coastal winds battering the stacks and dislodging the paint. â&#x20AC;&#x201D; Mark Brown

Go for a walk around a place you are familiar with. See if you can collect some items of debris that could help tell the story or history of that place.

Mark Brown MetaHorn Drone Spin 2013

Mark Brown

Notes & Ideas:

MetaHorn Drone Spin This was a performance that Mark Brown staged in the large outdoor courtyard behind the gallery on the night of the exhibition launch. The MetaHorn consists of a large metal â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Check Hedgehog Barricadeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; rig with a spinning horn speaker on top. A proximity sensor was installed on top of the rig. On the night of the performance, pilot and co-performer Anthony Swinbourne flew a radio-controlled quadcopter drone above the courtyard. The sensor would detect when the drone was approaching, causing the horn to spin faster, and the sound to become louder. Brown had cleverly programmed various sounds into the audio of his electronic setup for this performance. What resulted was a really interesting and dynamic interaction between the barricade rig and the drone. Through the live pilot, the sensor mechanisms and dynamic, sometimes playful audio, the drone and barricade seemed to develop personalities of their own. In some ways the responsive audio of the performance seemed like a mechanical, electronic conversation between these two otherwise quite sinister military artefacts.

This work in particular crosses over into many types of artistic practice. Explain how Mark Brownâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s work could be described as interdisciplinary.

Mark Brown also has an interest in military history. What ideas do you think this work might be exploring in relation to warfare?

Jon Drummond Flowforms 2004 - 2013

Jon Drummond

Notes & Ideas:

Flowforms Jon Drummondâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s work Flowforms is visually very striking. As you enter the gallery you see a large projection of slowly swirling colour, occasionally punctuated by a new drop or splash of colour. Set before the projector is a plinth with a large container filled with liquid. Hanging from the ceiling above the container are some ampules of coloured dye, which are set to drip very slowly. Perched on the edge of the container is a small camera. Along the adjacent wall hang some headphones. If you put on the headphones you would be engulfed in a swirling sea of sounds of various pitches, tones and volumes. After a while watching the projection, you would notice that the changes in the sound correspond to the movements of the colour. Jonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s background is in music as well as art. He has long been interested in finding new ways to generate compositions in real time. In this work, he sonifies, or turns into sound, the very unpredictable, organic and random ways that the coloured dyes diffuse through the water. He has programmed certain sound profiles to correspond with certain colour profiles. When the camera registers a particular colour or combination of colours, the computer generates the sounds that reflect that colour. So when there is a new drop of dye, you can hear the new colour burst into your ears. In this work we see very clearly how our visual and auditory words can coalesce and enrich each other.

Draw a schematic diagram showing how you think this piece works, and how all the objects and elements relate to each other.

There are many artists who have had an interest in music, and whose artistic practice relates strongly to it. Find out about some of the different approaches artists have had to exploring music in their work. There are some artists in particular who have also looked at the relationships between colour and sound.

Jon Drummond Twittering Machine 2013

Jon Drummond Twittering Machine What comes to mind when you first hear the title of this work? Twittering Machine also deals with sonification, and with the idea of real-time composition. Though this time Drummond uses data from social media feeds. The work is very peaceful and meditative. In fact, it uses singing bowls to generate very gentle chiming sounds that echo through the gallery, even though the work is partially hidden behind a wall. The singing bowl is a type of bell that has as used in many traditions and cultures, including signaling the beginning and end of silent meditations in Buddhist spiritual practice. As you turn the corner to see the work, you notice that be bowls are being struck by fine, wispy lengths of balsa wood connected to little motors. In this work, a series of tiny computers register social media activity and strike the bowls in response. The continuous hum of activity flashes in bit mode on tiny LED screens. The data that the computers are sourcing is invisible, so we are never sure what exactly we are tracking. In a way this doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t seem to matter. The twittering going on is the sound of people interacting online, like birds twittering away in trees.

Notes & Ideas:

This work could be said to be exploring our relationship with technology. What do you think is the place of technology in our culture and society? Does it influence how we interact with each other? Analyse this artwork from a cultural perspective.

Research the spiritual and cultural practices associated with singing bowls such as the ones used in this artwork.

Ed Osborn Albedo Prospect 2013 Still Image

Ed Osborn Albedo Prospect Ed Osborn created this work from footage and recordings he took while on residency in in the Arctic. He travelled with a group of other artists and scientists to the Svalbard archipelago, which is the northernmost point of Norway. Ed Osborn’s artwork is an immersive soundscape. It is intended to give you a sense of the environment; of being in a very specific place. What is particularly interesting about this place is that for most of us it only exists in our imagination. While creating this work, Ed Osborn was particularly interested in and inspired by the work of Hungarian-British writer Arthur Koestler’s. In 1931 Koestler was asked by the newspaper he worked for to accompany an expedition of a Graf Zeppelin on its first Polar flight, and to telegraph regularly with reports back. His reports were broadcast live on radio, and said to be magnificently vivid descriptions of this amazing region. While there are no remaining recordings of Koestler’s broadcasts, Osborn was very interested in the idea of seeing this spectacular and alien landscape for the first time. He wanted to similarly convey a sense of the tremendous isolation, hostility and beauty of the Arctic.

It’s an audio portrait of an environment stripped back to it’s bare bones both in visual terms and in terms of its acoustics. - Nigel Helyer

How does soundscape relate to landscape? Use examples to illustrate your thoughts.

How does Ed Osborn’s work relate to the environment?

In small groups, see if you can construct a soundscape of your school. Make some field recordings that you think could build up a sense of what it is like to be in that environment.

Ed Osborn Albedo Prospect 2013 Still Image

Minoru Sato Thermal Acoustics 2013 Photographed by Viktor Donker

Minoru Sato Thermal Acoustics Minoru Sato’s work Thermal Acoustics explores the physical properties of sound. Like sound, heat is also a phenomenon of particles and molecules in motion. Sato believes that, similarly to the light and sound spectrums, our experience as humans is limited to a very narrow temperature range. He is interested in the very precise conditions under which we live, and which allow us to exist. We can be aware of extreme temperatures such as the core of our planet or the surface of the sun, and yet we can never actually experience them. Sato’s work consists of a series of columns, tubes and vials of air, some of which are carefully heated. In some of the tubes, the air is heated by water in a larger tube around it that boils at various intervals. Through a clever electronic and audio set up, Sato creates a series of circuits that generate harmonic tones based on the temperature of the air inside the vessels. Using microphones and speakers he creates feedback loops that respond to the changing temperatures. The sound is an almost continuous, immersive harmonic experience. The larger columns produce a low frequency, almost like a beat, and the smaller tubes generate a higher pitched tone that slowly pulses through the space.

Think / Pair / Share – Make a list of three places that you think you would find the coldest and hottest existing temperatures. Compare with your neighbor, then in small groups come up with a top three for hot and cold. Research the actual temperatures of your six objects or locations and map out each group’s findings together on a large temperature scale. What was the temperature where you live today?

Notes & Ideas:


Sound Art The term ‘sound art’ is used to describe a wide range of artistic practices involving sound. It is a very exciting and dynamic area of art that has had a long and fascinating history, crossing paths with many other fields. Here are just a few examples of artists and artworks you might like to find out more about. You may have heard of some of them.

In 2010, Susan Philipsz became the first sound artist to win The Turner Prize, a very well known and prestigious British art prize. Her piece was a sound installation called Lowlands. It consisted of three recordings of Philipsz singing a Scottish lament in which a drowned lover returns to haunt their sweetheart. Each of these was played beneath one of the three bridges in the city of Glasgow during a major arts festival. The sound would echo under the bridges and reflect off the gentle waves of water. People passing over the bridges would hear the singing as if they themselves were being haunted.

Sound artist Christine Sun Kim has been deaf since she was born. Her practice involves very playful explorations of sound and its effects that enable her to experience sound without hearing it. She stages performances and makes recordings in which she experiments with the effect of sonic vibrations on different materials, in the same way that she is exploring the non-auditory effect they have on her. She says that through her work she is ‘reclaiming sound’.

Bill Fontana’s fascinating sound pieces relate both to site and to the acoustic potential hidden inside large, often manmade structures. In his piece Harmonic Bridge (2006), he installed vibration sensors all along the London Millenium footbridge, which leads across the river Thames to the TATE, a major public museum. In this way he turned the bridge into an enormous instrument that was played by the pedestrians walking across it. The wires of the bridge vibrated like strings. Fontana relayed these sounds back into the TATE’s large exhibition space, the Turbine Hall. Visitors to the gallery then listened as others came and went, across the bridge, but from within the belly of the museum.

One of the earliest people associated with sound art is Luigi Russolo, an Italian Fururist composer. He wrote a manifesto in 1913 called The Art of Noises. He believed that in the modern world humans had become so accustomed to the sounds of industrialised urban life that a new type of music was needed. He called the new music ‘noise-sound’. Here he is with his assistant Ugo Piatti, with a set of mechanical instruments he invented, called Intonarumori. (Below, John Blatter, Moments (2009-10).

Make up your own extended response question linking one of these artworks to one of the themes or artworks in EchoSonics. Swap with your classmates to practise your writing!

In 1952 composer John Cage wrote a piece called 4:33. The score, some of which you can see here, instructs the performer to not play his or her instrument for four minutes and thirty three seconds exactly. Cage said that his idea was not so much to achieve silence, as to refocus the audience’s attention on the subtle sounds around them. Many consider this piece a very influencial work.

Susan Hiller’s artwork Witness (2000) consisted of over 400 speakers hanging from the ceiling. Each speaker played the voice of a person descibing an encounter they believed they had had with UFOs.

Mark Brown Detritical Re-Vibration / Techtonic Transfer 2013


EchoSonics Exhibition and performance documentation photography by Karolina Novak. Nigel Helyer Re-defining Function(alism) 1991 Photography by Karolina Novak Ed Osborn Albedo Prospect 2013 Film stills and documentation photography courtesy of the artist Minoru Sato Thermal Acoustics 2013 Photography by Viktor Donker John Blatter, Moments 2009-10 Image retrieved June 2013 from files/2011/11/story_3.jpg John Cage, 4:33 1952 Image retrieved June 2013 from http://classconnection.s3.amazonaws. com/542/flashcards/406542/png/4_33_1952.png Bill Fontana, Harmonic Bridge 2006 Tate Modern, London, (view of bridge) Image retrieved June 2013 from slide.jpg Susan Hiller, Witness 2000 Tate Britain (installation view) Image retrieved June 2013 from http://www. witness.jpg Luigi Russolo and Ugo Piatti demonstrating his Intonarumori Retrieved June 2013 from http://pascalleburton.files.wordpress. com/2013/02/4senses-promo-pic-for-wordpress.jpg Christine Sun Kim performing in 2011 image by Todd Selby, retrieved June 2013 from http:// ChristineCK-selby-portable21.png


Acoustic Related to sound or the sense of hearing. Adjacent Next to or attatched to something else. Alternating Current A type of electric current that changes direction many times per second (as opposed to Direct Current, which flows in a single direction). Ampoules A sealed glass capsule that holds liquid. Particularly liquid prepared for a specific use. Archipelago An area of water that contains many small islands very close to each other. Artefact An object, usually one that is particularly interesting for historical or cultural reasons.

Commemorate To remember something, often an event or person, and mark or celebrate it. Conceptual In art especially, this means related to or exploring an idea. Detritus Waste or debris, or left-over broken or disused bits and pieces. Diffuse To gradually spread out or become intermingled with surrounding matter. Particularly in the case of liquids. Drone A remote-controlled aircraft or missile with no interior pilot Ecology Refers to an environment as well as the interactions between the living beings within it.

Cilia In biology, tiny, hair-like structures that detect vibrations.

Frequency The number of times something happens within a given timeframe. In terms of sound, the number of vibrations within a unit of time.

Coalesce To combine or mix together and form one unified thing.

Harmonic Related to musical harmony. or matching together.

Cochlea The spiral structure inside the inner ear that produces nerve impulses in response to sound vibrations.

Immersive Surrounding you completely. Influencial Considered to be very important and to have had an impact on others.

Interdisciplinary Related to or involving more than one area of knowledge Intermittent Not regular or continuous.

Residency An artist residency is a period of time an artist spends living and working in a specific place, usually as part of an organised arrangement.

Kinetic Moving, or related to motion.

Schematic Symbolic and simplified.

Manifesto A public declaration of ideas and aims. A written document in which the aims of a person or group are stated, like a set of rules.

Sonification / Sonify To turn or convert into sound.

Meditative Relates to meditation or encourages peaceful, focussed thought.

Soundscape Arrangement of sounds that describes an environment. Sound wave A wave of energy that passes through a substance to produce sound.

Pinna The outer or external part of the ear. Plinth A heavy base that supports an object. Often found in museums and galleries to hold up sculptures. Proximity is how near or far something is from something else. Punctuated Interrupted, or happenning at intervals. Real-time The actual time that something occurs. If a broadcast is in real time it means it is live, happening right now. Reconfigure To shape or put something into a particular form again, perhaps a new one.

Spectrum A wide range of something that moves gradually through all the different components. A rainbow is a spectrum of colour. A frequency spectrum means all the different frequencies from lowest to highest. Symposium A large meeting or conference in which specialists from a certain area gather to share their work and ideas. Vessel A word describing any kind of hollow container, especially for liquids. Also a word for boat.

UTS ART Education and Outreach offers a rich and flexible program of activities tailored to specific student groups from a variety of backgrounds and ages â&#x20AC;&#x201C; from pre-school up to university level. These include events and workshops based on the Gallery and Art Collection exhibition programs, which are held on campus to connect students and their teachers with contemporary art and ideas in a warm, welcoming and supportive environment. Education resources that accompany our program, such as this one, are specifically aligned with school syllabi and available online for use in the classroom via the Education page on the Gallery website.

This Project supports the UTS Widening Participation Strategy (WPS), and is assisted by the Australian Government through funding from the Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP) distributed by the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education (DIISTRE).

UTS ART EchoSonics Education Resource  

UTS ART Education Resource for 2013 exhibition EchoSonics, part of ISEA 2013, The 19th International Symposium on Electronic Art.

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