Sound Art as Public Art: performing the civic between listening and being audible

Sound Art as Public Art: performing the civic between listening and being audible

In this presentation Salomé Voegelin proposes that Sound Art, whether gallery based, or site specific, in nature or within the built environment, places us in a very particular way within what Chantal Mouffe considers the ‘democratic paradox’, and what Étienne Balibar calls within the notion of ‘égaliberté’, since it always engages the listener in the agonistic conflict between individual freedom to hear the invisible material in the formless shape of her auditory imagination; and the demand of equality, of a collective hearing, that aspires consensus and a shared vocabulary of what that formless form might be.

The ephemeral materiality of sound ignores the boundaries between the realm of the aesthetic and that of the public. It thus merges aesthetic identity and civic identity, and questions the politics of art, as well as the politics of citizenship, belonging and participation. This same invisible temporality also questions the veracity of experience and challenges the shared articulation of that perception, and instead invokes a sense of doubt in normative structures and values of reality that underpin and enable a straightforward exchange and identity.

In sound we are listening while being audible: we are performing a civic participation that allows us to consider the dynamic of the democratic paradox whilst constituting its very condition.



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The Role and Position of Sounds and Sounding Arts in Public Urban Environments conference:  Sound is among the most significant, yet least-discussed, aspects of public spaces in urban environments (Hosokawa 1984; Kang and Schulte-Fortkamp 2016). Architects, engineers, and urban planners invariably stress the visual and tactile aspects while (re)designing urban environments but often pay less attention to the aural consequences of their interventions; sound tends to be considered mainly as an inevitable byproduct of industrial areas, traffic, commercial centers, and/or human activities. If sound attracts the attention of policy makers and users of public urban spaces, it is often in a rather negative context: as noise pollution which should be avoided by somehow reducing the amount of decibels (Devilee, Maris, van der Kamp 2010; Elmqvist 2013; Kamin 2015). In contrast, this conference aims to increase the attention to the role of sound, sound design, and sounding art in urban spaces – with sound considered both as an epistemological tool and as an aesthetic instrument.