August 9, 2019
Resonant Bodies is an online exhibition about the sonic reflections between bodies and their environments, and an extension of a physical exhibition which took place at the Toronto Media Arts Centre from August 11-17th, 2019. More information about the physical exhibition here.
The online exhibition consists of 6 new Constellations episodes, featuring new works by participating artists Aliya Pabani, Chandra Melting Tallow, Cheldon Paterson, Kaija Siirala, Jon Tjhia, and Phoebe Wang. Episodes will be released weekly on Fridays between October 25th and December 2nd, 2019.
Resonant Bodies was curated and produced by Aliya Pabani, Michelle Macklem, and Jess Shane.
Aliya Pabani goes to a vocal coach to look into the extent of her vocal cord damage, and the contours of the voice she has left.
Originally constructed as a four-channel audio installation, this piece played back on four speakers fabricated from four balloons. Now in online and podcast form, Singing on the Line comes to life as a close-listening stereo experience that places the listener as a fly on the wall during a singing lesson.
“This piece comes out of a desire that I've had for a long time to map out the damage to my vocal cords. As a kid, I used to scream a lot and throw a lot of tantrums and I think that might have caused stress to my vocal cords and that's why I have the voice that I have right now. And although I really like my voice, I can't actually sing very well. I have a really limited range. And so I wanted to speak to a vocal coach and do a vocal lesson to see what my voice could do.”
Singing on the Line was produced by Aliya Pabani, and features her voice alongside the voice of vocal coach and musician Kritty Uranowski.
How is a business phone call like a folk song or jazz standard? How much are non-words, and part-words, involved in how we communicate? Is it possible to speak into the void; to use our voices to communicate nothing at all?
In Thing-Like, Jon Tjhia has created a suite of 'exercises' – basically analogous to piano études, or studies, for edited sound works. Taking Walter Ong's preoccupations with the 'immersive' and vital nature of oral culture as a point of departure, these pieces tease and critique the heavy burden of speech and its value: as social currency, blunt instrument, monetary resource and point of connection.
This collection of short works is composed for speakers – inviting, intrusive, implicating the passer-by; and headphones – individual, interior. Traditional interviews, aimless conversations, paid celebrity dedications, forgotten sing-alongs, free improvisations, custom voice synthesis and chance murmurs become material for a process that is both informal and entirely formal. Speakers’ words are manipulated (‘say that again, but opposite’); license agreements are breached. While Ong argues that thought and expression have been fundamentally reconfigured by the technology of writing; Thing-Like suggests ways in which voice and speech have been reconfigured by the technology of money and how it structures time.
“I’m generally interested in thinking about sound as a material and time as a material. Speech acts, and the way most examples of speaking make no sense without at least an implied listener. But the key idea which informs Thing-Like as a title and a work is Ong’s insistence on writing as a technology, and how that’s bled back into the realm of speaking. It’s not just writing that’s become standardised. And, if you think of it in certain ways, the recorded voice is very similar to the written word.”
Thing-Like, by Jon Tjhia, was adapted for stereo from a four-channel installation. It features Carolyn Connors, Ahmed Yussuf and Montell Jordan.
“Where is the Cloud located on Earth?” Reflecting on the disembodied lexicon of virtual space, Kaija Siirala’s Hamina, Finland situates listeners at an unexpected nexus between digital and physical gathering places: the Hamina sauna. A relic of a retrofitted paper mill, this sauna is an employee perk at the Hamina Google data center in Southern Finland. Uniquely, seawater is channeled here to cool Google’s vast, active server bodies. Simultaneously, human bodies in the neighbouring sauna heat up after a day of work. The piece considers the often-obscured physical consequences of virtual activity by mapping it onto a visceral sauna experience.
A watery world emerges through a whispered choir of google search histories, including Siirala’s own Hamina sauna research. Sauna is a central component of Finnish culture and is a lifelong practice Siirala inherited from her family. Her field recordings from these times together — sounds of breath, camaraderie, eruptions of laughter — underscore the piece.
When water is tossed onto the rocks atop the stove, the löyly — steam in Finnish — mounts the heat to an intolerable crescendo forcing participants out of the sauna and into the same cold sea cooling the Google servers. Löyly shares the same etymological root as the Finnish word for “spirit”.
“I started thinking about the language that is used when talking about the digital space, the internet. And I started noticing that a lot of this language centers around these disembodied spaces. The cloud somehow implying that the digital space is somewhere out there in the ether, is in the air and doesn't have any physical on earth consequences. So I started to think about what that meant. And I started looking at, you know, where does the cloud exist on Earth? Where where is this data stored?”
Thank you to the google whisper chorus (Aaron, Alessandra, Alex, Curtis, Erin, Finn, Julia, Kalli, Marie Sarah, and Zoe; Micah Smith for sauna recording booth session, Kari Siirala for Finnish lexicon and Julien Charbonneau for his hospitality at the Lac.
Forests, rain, traffic — all seem to sound louder in the dark of night. For sighted people, hearing is the center point of attention only when visual input is absent or unclear. Cheldon Paterson’s Transport Station, composed as an audiovisual diptych (though is also released via podcast as audio-only) plays with this tendency through spatial isolation of the audio and visual components of the work, so that they can be experienced both together and apart.
In video form, Paterson’s audio comes first, setting up hearing as the primary mode of perceiving one’s environment. Listeners hear field recordings from urban and natural environments that have been twisted and turned on themselves through turntablism and sampling. The second half of the piece is accompanied by video, which employs the kaleidoscope as a visual metaphor for how the transformation of familiar sounds affects the imagination.
While the interaction of sight and sound is usually clarifying to the senses, Paterson’s approach refracts memory and imagination, forcing the viewer-listener to succumb to the current of sensual input or become an active participant in meaning-making.
“Transport station is the starting point of a fantastic voyage deep into your imagination. There's a wooden bench with headphones hanging above so you can wait for your ride. Sounds are constantly entering our bodies through our ears or by vibrations felt everywhere. Our brains have this amazing ability to cancel out familiar frequencies like the humming of a fan, fridge noise, and even the steady flow of highway traffic. With my installation, I wanted to examine what happens when familiar sounds are manipulated with the absence of sight as a reference and taken out of context.”
Transport Station was composed by Cheldon Paterson aka SlowPitchSound.
In her critique of romantic love, bell hooks writes, “This illusion, perpetuated by so much romantic lore, stands in the way of our learning how to love. To sustain our fantasy, we substitute romance for love.” In Protect Me From My Protector, Chandra Melting Tallow pierces the fantasy of romance to reveal the sharp, tense and dark edges of harm within intimate partner relationships. Dropping us into the emotional inner world of the artist, this work explores the intensity, confusion, and disorientation of living within the confines of abuse, including the cycles of trauma and cognitive dissonance that occur when one’s protector is simultaneously inflicting harm.
The piece extends past personal relationships to confront power relations, particularly between the state as a protectorate and marginalized communities. When these communities are depicted as irrational and hysterical, the state reasserts power to remove their agency. As a result of such abuses of power, the world is heard and experienced differently by marginalized communities, so that music that once signaled romance can be recast as a tool of manipulation.
“The topic [of intimate partner violence] makes people uncomfortable. Regardless of how much people say they want to believe in support survivors, it’s still taboo. So I wanted to make something that would dismantle the isolation that survivors experience as well as people who are still in that situation.”
Protect Me From My Protector was composed by Chandra Melting Tallow.
Stepping inside Isn’t it lovely?, Phoebe Wang asks the audience to leave the known territory and comfort of the white-walled gallery space to become immersed in an isolated environment. Here, sights and sounds of walls, carpets, speech and din create a faux-warmth that is at once invasive and curious. The listener then must subject themselves to the sounds that enter their ears.
The fragments of recorded memories that make up Isn’t it lovely? hover over meaning, never landing solidly. As the audio progresses, Wang prompts and engages in a series of conversations that attempt to ask, “why choose to keep going in a world that is not built for you?”
In Isn’t it lovely?, Wang constructs a refuge of sorts – yet the systems and histories she seeks to evade or emancipate herself from continue to be felt here, too.
“I got into installation art is because I was really excited by the idea of surrounding people with a world that they could enter into. And the reason I was excited about sound was that sound can also go inside of you. So as an installation artist, and also a sound artist, I can create a world around you and then also have sound go inside of you. And it's the most immersive experience possible in my mind. So that's really exciting for me.”
Special thanks to Mitchell Akiyama, Sholeh Asgary, Niki Boghossian, Julia Bosson, Henry Faber, Grace Finlayson, Sarah Geis, Sarah Hallacher, Anne Sofie Kluge Hedegaard, Monique Ligons, Michelle Macklem, Aliya Pabani, Heather Raquel Phillips, Jenelle Pifer, Bird Reynolds, Lydia Rosenberg, Robin Luckwaldt Ross, Jess Shane, Siel Timperman, Mitch Trachter, Andrew Verlander.
This work was supported in part by the Wassaic Artist Residency Program, and commissioned for Resonant Bodies by Constellations.
Cheldon Paterson aka SlowPitchSound is known for experimenting with music, visuals and live performance. He is the 2018 TD SoundMakers Composer in Residence and the Co winner of the 2018 CMC Toronto Emerging Composer Award. Paterson has been developing his own style of music composition over 20 years and has released 7 studio albums. His work has been featured at Classical and New music events, popular indie music festivals, world renowned electronic festivals, theatres, museums and many creative spaces. Paterson's passion for presenting fresh ideas has allowed him to perform works around the world with established artists from a number of genres. He is currently based in Toronto, Canada.
Phoebe Wang is a multidisciplinary artist and works primarily in sound, sculpture, and installation. Phoebe formerly produced live events at The Moth, was a member of The Heart (an audio art project and podcast), and was Senior Producer of The Shadows podcast (CBC). In 2018, she earned an NLGJA Excellence in Journalism Award and was named Best New Artist at the Third Coast International Audio Festival.
Kaija Siirala works in documentary media as a picture editor, sound designer and educator. Most recently, she edited a short piece, We Became Fragments, which was published as a New York Times’ Op-Doc. Kaija has worked as a sound editor on films that have screened at the National Gallery of Canada, True/False Film Festival and AFI fest. In 2015, she travelled to the Faroe Islands as part of the fluid states: performance of unknowing conference. She has been teaching as adjunct faculty at Hunter College and Pratt Institute the past three years and was a member-in-residence of the Meerkat Media Collective from 2016-2018. In May 2018, she completed her MFA in Integrated Media Arts at Hunter College (CUNY) and is now newly based in Hamilton, ON.
Aliya Pabani is a Tkaronto (Toronto) -based artist and audio producer. She hosted and produced an arts and culture podcast called The Imposter, which contained, among other things, an interview with two 10 year-olds about a film they made when they were 6, clips from her failed standup sets, a Jonathan Goldstein parody, noise meditations, instructions for setting yourself on fire, and a love song written by an AI program after it "saw" a picture of her.
She's also made audio works for Toronto Biennial of Art, Short Cuts (BBC), Constellations, and is a cofounder of POC in Audio. She likes sounds that you can feel in your body, and incidental, messy, unvarnished, repetitive or ugly ones that reveal things about how we tend to listen. She loves an om but will rarely namaste.
Aliya was a part of Constellations' 2020 Season programming committee.
Jon Tjhia is a radio maker, musician, artist and writer who's interested in people, time, music and expectation. He's a co-founder of Paper Radio. Since 2010, Paper Radio’s audio stories have been heard on the radio, at literary festivals, danced to and written about around the world. Jon has made long-form documentary podcasts, including Better Off Dead and the multi-award winning series The Messenger, with the Wheeler Centre, where he works as an editor and publisher of multimedia stories. His radio work has been heard on podcasts including Short Cuts and The Truth. This past year, his installations and collaborations have been exhibited in Canada, NZ, Australia and the internet. Tjhia is based in Melbourne, Australia. Find him on Twitter @serviceetc and @paperradio.
Chandra Melting Tallow is a musician, visual artist, film-maker and semi-professional lipsyncher of mixed ancestry from the Siksika Nation. Their practice often confronts the ghosts of intergenerational trauma and their relationship to the body, utilizing humour and surrealism to subvert oppressive structures of power.