Artistic research is based on the assumption that artistic practice can make epistemic claims. However, there has been little effort to consider artists’ own practice as a significant mode of knowledge production. In the last few years, the field of artistic research has emerged and gained currency by a gradual recognition in academia. But most of these revered academics and scholars are not artists themselves, and often the process of knowledge production and transmission remain hierarchical and largely dominated by non-practitioners in the arts. Artists proper remain marginal in this institutional hierarchy of academia. The paper advocates for a change in this situation and asserts that artists need to claim their work as research-creation in the arts through various methods, materials, and media. The paper argues that this growing need for the artists’ active intervention in the arts-based research and pedagogy incorporating their inherent real-world knowledge and processual understanding of spaces, sites, materials, and objects, is what requires adequate and sustained attention in the future of artistic research. The presentation will focus on the field of sound art. It advocates for a change in the current (academic) situation of artistic research and asserts that artists proper need to claim their work as research-creation in the arts through various methods, materials, and media, with a focus on the field of sound art: installation and performance.
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In a recent keynote, sound scholar Salomé Voegelin used the coinage “Unperforming” in the context of contemporary socio-politics. She explained unperfoming as a feminist resistance. I take this position further and read unperforming as a resistive action to underscore the socio-political commitment an artist may have towards contemporary crises, such as climate breakdown and mass migration. How can an artist unperform a work in order to draw the attention of the audience towards the raw materials of the artworks that are derived from the socio-politically contaminated subjects. Such position might be considered subversive and marginal, but nevertheless a defiant act to open up the discourse around the crises.
This performative-presentation examines the content and context of a sound artwork in order to shed light on the aesthetics of responding to the current flux of urban migration and the condition of de-territorialization through an exploration of the poetic capacities embedded in the medium of sound. The paper engages with the artistic matter; namely, the field recordings and on-site writings – the practice of poetic contemplation performed over the course of this migrant artist/listener’s progression from urban-alienation towards self-understanding. The aim is to critically examine the specific methodology employed by the artist, who is experiencing migration, hyper-mobility, placeless-ness and nomadism in his own work and life, from a poetically detached perspective for self-reflection. As a methodology in this piece, such self-critiquing manifests in performative intervention on behalf of the artist into revisiting select texts from the project. This sense of detachment in artistic research offers a contemplative distance, which allows for locating a language that is able to articulate the artistic process as well as its layers of conceptualization. The approach of thinking through sound and mobility in this way may help to interlink ideas of sound and listening with the experience of urban migration and social estrangement. In this artistic research, the rapidly emerging discourse surrounding migration, mobility and nomadism (Braidotti 2012; Deleuze and Guattari 1986) is addressed within the practice of performing arts. Unpacking of the project through its live performance facilitates the examination of how enhanced mobility infuses the artistic practice with an affordance to involve an alien subjectivity, endowing a “nomadic listener” with a context to exercise poetic elevation, contemplative transcendence, endurance and emancipation in the contemporary post-global milieu.
The work responds to the present indisposition and a world of conflict emerging from mass-migration, hyper-mobility, placeless-ness and nomadism, which are considered to be the impulses of a contemporary condition. The work assumes that these conditions manifest by blurring the sonic perceptual boundaries between the local and the global, the digital and the corporeal, the private and the public, or the intimate and the dehumanizing spaces, instilling a sense of semantic fatigue (Demers 2009). Based on these assumptions, the interactive and generative artwork intends to develop a fluid sculptural form of sound in a closely mediated interaction with sound-generated quasi-abstract and asemic textual patterns. These textual patterns are derived from the scribbles and notes taken at various auditory situations as part of the project’s fieldwork whilst navigating through a number of cities in Europe, Asia and the US. These notes are made vulnerable to their sonic environments through artistic intervention in order to form generative live visuals, which serve as the digital artefacts that aim to make visible the intangible and ineffable contemplations of a nomadic listener. The artwork incorporates multichannel live projection of the generative live visuals on multiple screens that are augmented with multi-channel sound installation. This specific method of artistic intervention examines the way in which the memory, imagination and subjectivity of an itinerant listener become sensitized to the everyday sounds found within the context of an intensified urban interaction and navigation in the contemporary conditions of migration, hyper-mobility and nomadism. The work relies on the intuitive and poetic capacities of listening rather than the ontological and epistemological reasoning, evaluations and deducing involved in academic sound studies to decipher the immediate meaning of sound. As such, the poetic suggestions allow for an inclusive interpretation of the intersecting sonic environments in contemporary cities. This belief in the inward contemplation and subjectivity available to the wandering urban listeners enables the work to explore the transcendental estrangement from the immediate here and now to counter the neurosis of contemporary urban living. Particular emphasis centres on the suggestion that the ineffable yet poetic attributes of an expanded mode of listening provides a context for exploring the unexpected splendour of everyday urban sounds and their transcendental potential. Emergence of contingent moments in the urban listening experience expands the Cagian idea of chance composition towards the creation of certain fertile conditions, which facilitate fluid and nomadic interaction with urban sounds in the contemporary cities in Europe and across the world. In doing so, the work essentially explores the introspective capacity of mindful listening to transcend the barrier of immediate meaning and touch upon poetic sensibilities in order to create a sense of wellbeing in the midst of a disorientating and volatile time. By unperforming the artwork, the discourse embedded in the artwork and its process are exposed for evaluation, rather than using the work as an artistic end product for performative entertainment and audience consumption by defying their expectation. This opening up may enrich the discourse by engaging with the artistic research.
To conclude, this performative intervention might enrich the field of artistic research and performing arts. Artistic research is generally based on the assumption that artistic practice can make epistemic claims (Rogoff 2009; Schwab 2014). However, there has been little effort in academia to consider artistic practice as a significant mode of knowledge production. In recent times, artistic research is gaining currency by a gradual recognition in the academia (Rogoff 2009; Schwab 2014; Borgdorff 2011; Biggs and Karlsson 2011). But most of these academics are not artists themselves, and often the process of knowledge production and transmission remain largely in the hand of the non-practitioners in the arts. Artists proper remain marginal in this institutional hierarchy of academia. This presentation at its core advocates for this situation to change and argues that more artists need to claim their work as research creation in the arts thereby contributing to the production of new knowledge. A growing need for the artists’ active intervention in the arts-based research (and pedagogy) incorporating the artist’s inherent real-world knowledge and processual understanding of spaces, sites, environs, materials and objects, is addressed here.
26 Media Art History Research conference RE:SOUND, Aalborg University: www.mediaarthistory.org/resound/keynotes.
27 A term I coined in the article: Chattopadhyay, Budhaditya (2014). ”Object-Disoriented Sound: Listening in the Post-Digital Condition”. A Peer-reviewed Journal About volume 3, issue 1. aprja.net//article/view/116093.
28 Asemic writing is a visually abstract and semantically loose, impressionistic writing. See: www.asymptotejournal.com/visual/michael-jacobson-on-asemic-writing.
29 The errant listeners interact with various intersecting places during their everyday navigation, often considering and/or perceiving them as spatiotemporally evolving but gradually disorienting “auditory situations” (Chattopadhyay 2013, 2015). The listener may relate to these situations through thought processes (Barwise and Perry 1999; Wollscheid 1996) generated by means of cognitive associations in the context of psycho-geographic (Coverley 2010) navigation through the situated sonic phenomena. Essentially subjective, private and contemplative, the itinerant sonic interaction between listeners and these constantly emerging situations as cognitive processes of listening may arguably transcend the ontological and epistemological constraints of sound towards including the poetic contemplations of the listener.
Chattopadhyay, Budhaditya. 2019. “Uneasy Listening: Perspectives on (Nordic) Sound Art after the Digital”, in Ag, Tanya Toft. (ed.), Digital Dynamics in Nordic Contemporary Art. Bristol: Intellect.
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Chattopadhyay, Budhaditya. 2017. Exile and Other Syndromes. Rogaland Kunstsenter, Screen City Biennial. www.rogalandkunstsenter.no/2017/10/12/exile-and-other-syndromes
Chattopadhyay, Budhaditya. 2018. Orphan Sounds: Locating Historical Recordings in Contemporary Media. Organised Sound 23/2: 181–188, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
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Budhaditya Chattopadhyay is an award-winning media artist and researcher. He holds a PhD in artistic research and sound studies from the Academy of Creative and Performing Arts, Leiden University, and is currently a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at the Centre for Arts and Humanities, American University of Beirut. Chattopadhyay has received numerous fellowships, residencies and international awards; his works are widely exhibited, performed and published across the globe. budhaditya.org