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Some Notes on Locus Sonus and the Podcast Workshop


Both Jerome Joy and Peter Sinclair are sound artists who live and teach in the south of France. They decided to instigate an experimental sound art program for post-graduate students in between their two schools (Aix-en-Provence and Nice). I was invited to do a workshop about podcasting for Locus Sonus at Villa Arson, the art school in Nice.
The idea was to have 5 students from Aix and 5 from Nice who were interested in sound art create sound works and put export them as podcasts.

The workshop was an intense, four day-ten hours a day affair that produced around 100 separate works. The range is quite interesting. Some students approach was phenomenological. They created sound recording of commonplace occurrences such as a walk through the courtyard at school. Other’s dealt with the idea of physical displacement, of the body being displaced or a sound made by the body being displaced such as chewing or breathing through one’s nose. On the one hand there was the notion of realistic footfalls with the imaginary body in a stereo left to right motion. This was fairly standard fare except that the intimacy of the headphones or the tinny speakers of a laptop computer coupled with the client/server relationship of a podcast create a whole different idea of what is private, and how social space is created via the networks.

Indeed, a group of students made separate recordings under the category (geopod) that referred to different places. The idea was to assemble a sound map in the mind with these. One student decided to use these recordings as raw material for an algorithmic piece that assembled and distorted the sounds with a flash player. This was a bit of a problem because the work was not really a podcast although it was an interesting piece. It did point out the idea of networks of data and the possibility of changing the author’s singular relationship to a unique piece of art (recording). This position is part of the current sampling cultures’ debate on mass media, copyright and the re-purposing of recorded material.

It’s always a problem to ask young artists who have not really dealt with market forces to create art that goes around the market or is given away in a gift economy manner. The desire among the young is to prove their worth in the market. There was of course the inevitable question of whether or not one can charge for a person to access the podcasts and why we were giving them away for free.

Creating emotional events was also in evidence in a bracket of the comedic on the one hand and pathetic on the other. The comedy was a speeded-up promo voice of a person explaining the brave new world of podcasting. The pathetic was an endless recording of a whining dog that was apparently locked in a room. We laughed at one and cringed at the other.

There were also many polished musique concrete style works that showed total command of the formal aspects of sound. These works were perhaps better-suited to a cd or a concert format. Indeed there was a lot of probing and exploring the aspects of the podcast environment. The questioning seemed to be about how to organize and present the material created. For this the group created a series of categories that could be searched via movable type.

Of note is the fact that two additional members of Locus Sonus participated in the workshop, Bastien Gallet a philosopher who lives in Geneva and Paris and Phillippe Franck who lives in Mons and is chief of CitySonics festival and publishes a magazine called Transcultures that deals with digital new media discourse. Both were there to add a critical framework to the works being created. They also good naturedly followed along and did the same lessons as the student to gain a hands on sense of the process. At the final presentation they both talked about their observations of the process of the past four days.

Bastien and Peter Sinclair decided to create a video with me talking about podcasting and memory and my ideas about time. Peter edited the sound in a layered manner and the results is a Borgesian style discussion about circular time. Cyrille C. de Laleu shot video of me and Bastien walking a circular hedge first one way and then the other. The finished piece should be quite interesting because she is a pretty terrific artist. In the meantime the sound piece by Peter does a neat trick of using stereo pairs to have me talking at myself. This is a further articulation of ideas I’ve been writing about in other posts on my blog.

I will say that all of the works done were of a high quality and delightful. One student who had seen a 1978 performance video of me as well as other young performance artists, created by Davidson Gigliotti and Jean Dupuy, actually referenced a performance by Julia Heyward from that video (Chant Accapela). The notion of an updated Lettrist sound piece/ Punk video performance was quite interesting. I was decidedly impressed by this. Although everything old is new again, it is interesting that a young artist can elucidate and amplify ideas from 25 years ago and make them new.

France is having a resurgence of interest in Fluxus artists in particular Robert Filliou. Filliou did many sound pieces that relate quite directly to the phenomenological sound pieces the students did in this workshop. He was however working to break down the traditional definitions and forms of art where anything done with sound or the voice was either poetry or music.

By the way, Locus Sonus, will be coming to the U.S. to be part of the iDigit festival Aug. 19th-26th in upstate New York. They will be doing sound works at the Roebling bridge on Saturday August 19th and will be building a networked open source live sound jamming network for the DVAA in Narrowsburg, New York Aug. 25th.