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My art practice uses methods of mapping (the organization of space) and scoring (the organization of time) to explore the ambient and sub ambient soundscape, and more recently the skyscape.
I found myself captivated by the organization of sound1 while in the recording studio mixing my first solo album.1 In the years that followed I turned away from writing dominant melodies and crafting single-story narratives; instead I turned toward complexity, timbre and texture. For over a decade now my art practice uses methods of mapping (the organization of space) and scoring (the organization of time) to explore the ambient and sub-ambient soundscape, and more recently the skyscape.
The interactive installation Navigating the the Bay and the series Power and Ground are sonic investigations of the underlying, conflicting relationships that exist among animals, humans, and machines that inhabit a city.2 Similar observations are revealed in the sound installations Sounds of a Stone Home, a reflection on a new flooded habitat that emerged from the ruin of an abandoned Vermont granite quarry, and Released, an inquiry into the ruin of a mental asylum deemed uninhabitable after Tropical Storm Irene.
The Firehouse Bell Project and San Francisco Bay fog horn installations examine civic bells and fog horns as public art.3 These are sounds that characterize a place; they change as technology changes and foster public affection or loathing. The installation Your Attention Please! Ignore this Message identifies the confusion that results when personal cell phone notifications define the shared listening experience of the public square.
Sub Ambient Sound Lab excavates sounds from below the surface of the ambient commons4 and takes the form of participatory workshops, experiments, field work, phone app, wearable electronics, video and sound poems. This project is transportable and wearable, exploring the sounds beneath the ambient of anyplace.
My work in 2018 looks to the skyscape. Dancing Stars5 is a visual questioning of the dominant hierarchical narratives enfolded within iconic architecture and public places. Early sketches re-compose the basic geometry of these structures, suggesting reimagined rhythmic and dissonant arrangements.6 Time and gravity7 are suspended within each frame, each frame a map marking a moment of vacillation between monument and ruin. Listening to the skyscape the sound series Calls from the Dark is sculpted from the calls of satellites, radios and flying creatures; a document to the primal longings of animals, humans and machines.8
Technologies used to create these installations, experiments, 2D and 3D works include: CNC machining and cutting, 3D printing, programming with Processing, Max/MSP/Jitter, Arduino microcontroller, Ableton Live, Hypersonic Sound (HSS) speakers, projection, studio sound recording, field sound recording, video and simple animation, hand drawing, digital drawing, collage, braille printing and inkjet printing.
(1) “If this word ‘music’ is sacred and reserved for eighteenth- and nineteenth-century instruments, we can substitute a more meaningful term: organization of sound.” John Cage, Silence, 1961.
(2) “The more we forbid ourselves to conceive of hybrids, the more possible their interbreeding becomes” Bruno Latour, We have Never been Modern, 1991.
(3) “Public art forges a specific public by means of an aesthetic interaction.” Hilde Hein, Public Art: Thinking Museums Differently, 2006.
(4) “Continuity seems lacking in a world full of separately conceived physical entities all competing for space and attention, all without concern for what is nearby, and masked by portals, links, and signs to someplace else.” Malcolm McCullough, Ambient Commons: Attention in the Age of Embodied Information, 2013.
(5) “One must still have chaos in oneself to give birth to a dancing star.” Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, 1883.
(6) “As the sizes and shapes of the point change, the relative sound of the abstract point likewise is altered.” Wassily Kandinsky, Point and Line to Plane, 1947.
(7)“ I think gravity is the limit…right now a building has to land so you have to deal with the structure and engineering..how you design it, it could look very light it could also look effortless, but that takes a lot of effort and so on.” Zaha Hadid, from the film Zaha Hadid, 2016, directed by Carine Roy.
(8) A reference to the Dionysian in art. Frederick Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy, 1872.
Jenn Karson CV
Jenn Karson Portfolio Summary (20 images)