May 27, 2008

Academy of Fine Arts Vienna presents Utopia of Sound

Academy of Fine Arts Vienna

Utopia of Sound

Academy of Fine Arts Vienna

A cooperation of the Department of Theory, Practice and Communication of Contemporary Arts and the Department of Art and Digital Media of the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna in collaboration with the Austrian Film Museum.

Organized by Diedrich Diederichsen and Constanze Ruhm.

Participants: Nora M. Alter, Michel Chion, Christoph Cox, Diedrich Diederichsen, Caryl Flinn, Barbara Flückiger, Florian Hecker, Tom Holert, Brandon LaBelle, Constanze Ruhm, Christian Scheib, Terre Thaemlitz, Hildegard Westerkamp.


In the last two decades there has been a significant boom in the cultural sensibility towards sounds and noise – a kind of sonic boom that can, following the second meaning of this term, be seen as a breakthrough of the sonic itself. In the wake of this phenomenon, the relationship between Fine Arts and sound as a material of production on the one hand, and the field of Sound Art which emerged since the 60s on the other hand was recalibrated. Questions surrounding issues of spatiality in the Fine Arts that gained in importance with the surge of intermedia installations were increasingly posed on the basis of experimental sound. Pop music has recognised its specific relation to the materiality of sound as its primary source and positioned it at the core of self-reflective projects. Through the ubiquity of individual and ever-present sonic markers such as mobile phone jingles and sound installations in public space, everyday life has become the scene of a continuous sonic semiosis. Undoubtedly, corporate sound design on the one hand, and advertising/branding machinery geared towards “sound logos”, on the other, have long since reacted to these novel sign systems. In cinema, the individual existence of the film soundtrack has developed in increasing detail in recent years – either by moving contrary to the direction of the tempo of actions on screen or to the montage structure, or by orienting along pre-existing music as well as cultural resonances beyond cinematic immanence. By now, those techniques have reached mainstream cinema as common means of production.

The official cultural establishment has responded to this rise of the sonic with a whole range of major exhibitions, such as, Sonic Process (Centre Pompidou, Paris 2002), Frequenzen: Audiovisuelle Räume (Schirn Kunsthalle, 2002), Sonic Boom (Hayward Gallery 2003), Phonorama: Eine Kulturgeschichte der Stimme als Medium (ZKM 2004), Bring The Noise (Genf 2000), Invisible Geographies (The Kitchen, New York City), the Sonambiente-series in Berlin, numerous other shows and events at institutions like the Renaissance Society in Chicago and the Kunstverein Köln. Symposia and new magazines are but one symptom of the surge of interest in this subject throughout the academic world. Three different programs of study were recently planned or introduced at German universities alone.

The Symposium, however, does not just react to this increase of attention, but aims to provide a platform for critical and antagonistic discussion, that should not be limited to solely uncovering the causes of this phenomenon followed by a distinction into its eligible and less eligible aspects. To the contrary, the Symposium focuses on two central and distinctive qualities of sound which will be discussed both in regard of their fundamental political-aesthetical references and – in order to stake out a horizon – their
utopian contingencies.

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