59.59 (2019)

Installation, 118 transistor radios, 2 FM Radio Transmittors

Silence is a concept I constantly negotiate with. I think a lot about its weight, the space it creates. I think about its relation to noise, because it can only exist in that duality. And as the world around us has become increasingly chaotic, I’ve also grown nostalgic for it. Silence has become this precious, precarious state I willfully have to orchestrate.

 

I find it interesting to explore the different narratives surrounding our representations of silence. The sound of crickets chirping has become a universal cliche for silence. In films, it’s a common signifier for a calm, quiet evening, an indicator of time or place. In everyday use it has become an expression of awkward silence in conversation, when a joke isn’t funny and no one laughs, when one asks a question and gets no response. The phrase ‘radio silence’ has evolved from the idea of silence to make space for mayday calls, into a strict silence that one ‘performs’ to sever connection to another.  

 

In 59.59, 118 radios play an audio loop of crickets chirping, broadcast through 2 different FM frequencies, half playing field recordings of crickets in their natural habitat, the other half playing recordings from a farm that breeds crickets for human consumption.

 

Some years back I taught a sound design class and played different sound clips of natural ambiences to my students. I was hoping to demonstrate the idea that evolution has conditioned us to feel a certain way about specific sounds. For instance, birdsong should make us feel calm, a fire alarm played loud would trigger the body to produce cortisol, etc etc. But what I found out after talking to my students was that this is not as hard and fast a rule as sound designing cliches would have us believe. So much of our reaction to sound is also formed by personal experience, memories, from our own narratives.

 

I have always been curious about how I can bring my own sound design practice into the walls of the gallery, if it is at all possible to represent silence without trying to achieve silence. I hesitate to call this work sound art, nor do I see myself as a sound artist. What I love most about sound isn’t sound itself. I’m more interested in figuring out how our own personal narratives can be told through sound, in how sound is perceived, filtered, interpreted.