Contact Zones and Elsewhere Fields: The Poetics and Politics of Environmental Sound Arts

Contact Zones and Elsewhere Fields: The Poetics and Politics of Environmental Sound Arts

PhD Research Degree

Mark Peter Wright

Completed 2015

How is agency distributed “in the field” and how can the practice of field recording critically manifest the relationship between humans and non-humans?

This thesis posits an original art practice of field recording based on a perspective I am calling “Inter-agential”. Employing the self-reflexive anthropological turn of the 1970’s as parallel critique throughout, I argue environmental sound art has ignored the politics of observer-subject relations and instead engaged place and sound through divisive legacies of conservation and composition.

I propose a hybrid conceptual framework from contemporary sound and anthropological studies that foregrounds issues relating to ethics, agency and representation. These subjects are examined in practice by converting “the field” into a collaborative and contested arena for intervention and performance. The result is a unique and formally diverse body of work that seeks to actively disrupt, critique and re-imagine the ontological foundations of field recording through an original and politicised aesthetics.

All practice-based experimentation has been conducted in one fixed location along the North-East Coast of England called South Gare. It is an industrial and ecologically embroiled site, both in terms of its history and present day impact. I situate this site-specific setting through artistic legacies found in Land Art. This context helps to re-imagine modes of documentation, production and subjectivity within field recording and builds a nuanced understanding of the field in relation to the representation of place and sonic experience.


A digital copy of this thesis is available from the UAL Research Online repository. A hard copy is also available at the LCC Library as a reference holding, visitors can arrange access to the Library by appointment.