Have you ever Wonder how sound affects your perception of a certain place, your visual imagination, or even your memories? Two artists, Jacek and Ewa Doroszenko, have created „Soundreaming”, an audio-visual project considering these phenomena. In May, they will release an album of music from the series, containing immersive, well-thought-out, dreamy compositions based on field recordings from the time of their artistic residency at Fundació AAVC Hangar in Barcelona.
Anna Prokop: “Soundreaming” is a complex project created in stages; What does the whole process looked like?
Jacek Doroszenko: The project started during our residency in Barcelona in 2014. Fundació AAVC Hangar’s jury chose us as residents following an open call for international residencies. We arrived in Barcelona with the intention to observe, analyse, and find the best means of formal expression. We wanted to reveal potential alternate readings and the possibilities of observing beyond given conventions. We tried to create artefacts with many layers of meaning. I would say the majority of our time was dedicated to the research.
Ewa Doroszenko: In our study, we tried to show the atmosphere of Barcelona, based on our personal feelings, tastes and opinions. We have fallen in love with the city: it’s laid-back lifestyle, history, people, and all the available activities there. There is always something to do and for those with limited time, it is not so easy to choose the sonic locations. We didn’t have enough time to record every interesting tone, but we have agreed that this lack of time shouldn’t be an obstacle. Making art is a wonderful way to learn new things, digest, analyse, and interpret.
JD: I decided to allow myself to be freely inspired by the sound environment of the city, and then use my research notes and audio recordings as the source from which to build a suite of musical compositions. I have worked in this way before, so I could broadly perceive the result of working in this way, and possible difficulties. First, there would be a research phase, next a phase of sound gathering, and after that – visual interpretation.
ED: It was important to us that the artworks worked together as a series rather than as stand-alone pieces. We found ourselves playing with forms, mixing sounds with graphic pieces. The visual and graphic representation was inspired by the audio documentation of these places that we visited.
AP: What does the relationship between audio and visual looks like in your project, and how will it be presented in case of your upcoming music album?
ED: “Soundreaming” aims towards reconstructing and abstracting places using various methods of image production, making use of appropriated scanned material, digitally altered photographic images, etc. Photographic and graphic works are separated from their direct reference, opening new possibilities to become different images. We normally do not necessarily translate ideas in a direct way – we just keep on thinking, scribbling, looking at things, etc., and then every now and then, an idea emerges. The images are not direct representations of sounds.
JD: Using a variety of art languages, we wish to develop unique art forms, combining the different features of each medium with a strong emphasis on ideas and formal solutions. We studied painting, and we thought very pictorially in the way we created “Soundreaming”. We believe that projects based on collaboration are more inspiring than individual actions. Of course, each of us have our own roles to play. In our project, we can extract individual layers, sounds, images or videos that can exist separately. As a result, parts of the “Soundreaming” may be presented at various exhibitions depending on the gallery space – audio works were presented during an exhibition entitled. “The same horizon repeated at every moment of the walk” at the Wozownia Art Gallery in Torun, and selected graphic works were presented at Kasia Michalski Gallery in Warsaw during The Drawers show. Because the project has evolved and has found its continuation during our later artistic residencies, we have decided to release it as regular music albums and see how it works in this format.
AP: Would you define your project as a “musical” one?
JD: From my perspective as the ‘author’ of the sound layers and compositions, the project has been musical from the beginning. In my opinion, the kind of music I propose here can be treated widely and freely; it can also not be music as well, if someone should prefer it that way. What is interesting to think of here, is the interpenetration of two worlds: the visual and the audible. In music, there is a score, and a musician playing these notes is obliged to use the score as direction for his actions. For me, all I see could be a score that has been given to me, deliberately as well as coincidentally.
AP: In the project description you invoke Robert Worby’s statement, that when we talk about sounds and try to name them, we are somehow doomed to refer to the object that made them, so to materiality. Did you try to avoid direct kind of visual representation of the sounds while creating the illustrations?
JD: I appreciate Robert Worby’s texts and music. The reason we asked Robert for a few words was the fact that he could precisely describe the way a listener usually tries to figure out a sound, or ambience of an environment; that it is a way of searching for sources and connections. I have learnt that it is better not to focus on any particular source of sound, but rather on the sound itself, on its variety and richness. For us, experiencing a sound is like dreaming – an ambient sound is telling its own story and appeals to the imagination in such a way that you want to close your eyes and just listen.
AP: I’m sure you know many sound maps. How do you think your project corresponds with them?
ED: Our project is not exactly a sound map. In most cases sound maps are focused on the documentary aspect: the recorded sounds are tagged with precise location and date. We have a more artistic approach, so we prepared a more subjective, interdisciplinary project. The aural part of the project came in the first place, while the visual part has been created to fit the soundscapes, and the website is carefully designed and prepared for a more visual-arts-oriented audience.
JD: We do put quite a strong emphasis on the visual side of things. The project does not present the most characteristic sounds of the cities. We think about the reconstruction of memory in virtual worlds. We would like our work to move smoothly between reality and the screen. In the aesthetics of our work, we are interested in the idea of imperfection and the allowance of error, which makes us think about the fact that modern technologies have built-in flaws and imperfections. We try to examine ways of deconstructing the digital pieces; we like the aesthetic of glitches, of textures, damaged photographs, and defects in the virtual world.
AP: Your approach to the sounds of the environment that you are embedded in is by far more complex than simple recording or sampling… Also you don’t try to present the „real” soundscape of a certain location. What’s the role of “the place” in your project? Did you try to capture the uniqueness of the city in which you work?
JD: We usually begin by deciding which city we want to visit and then determine a destination that we feel may yield interesting sounds. Sometimes we scout the area we are planning to work quite thoroughly online and with Google Maps to create a sort of loose plan, but very often spaces need to be thought of as a raw material to be interpreted and potentially recorded. This allows for higher level of spontaneity.
ED: Our work attempts to relay the emotion of a space, not necessarily an accurate depiction of it. Spaces we explore are structures with aspects of time and change, which you look at through memory. For us it is also about how we remember spaces and even more about how sounds themselves can hold memories and relay narratives.
AP: What I particularly liked about your project, separate from the compositions on your album of course, is that you considered the role of human memory and attention in the contest of listening / being in a place. There are so many factors that can affect the way we perceive, so many different configurations of factors, that it’s extremely difficult to catch „the general impression”, because it’s very personal and ephemeral… How did you cope with it?
JD: “The general impression” is a kind of layer covering every other thing – we try not to stay on this level. There is this movie, “Smoke”, written by novelist Paul Auster. At the centre of the movie is a guy who takes a photograph of the same Brooklyn’s street corner at the same time every day for more than a decade. He compiles albums with thousands of pictures, and of course, every picture in this collection is different. Light, cars, weather conditions and other factors are constantly changing. I think I may compare this example with the perspective we took in “Soundreaming” – incessant change is a conditio that might be interpreted as the “general” state of our experiences. And from this point you should rather focus on every small detail in this constantly changing reality.
AP: Can “Soundreaming” – the mix of sounds of telephones, motor vehicles, guitar, electronics, toys and other random objects – become a sonic alternative for photography, or even a form of diary?
ED: Interesting question. Yes, for us it is a sonic alternative to photography. Soundscapes have taken the traditional place of photography as the dominant documentary element at the core of the work. When traveling, most people take photographs and use them to communicate a sense of what the experience of being in that place might have been like. There is a strong need to create countless stacks of pictures and image files to cover reality itself (…) Today, it is very difficult to experience reality without any associations to emorized visual scenes.
AP: What are your future plans?
JD: Many things. Our website will be developed during our future residencies in different cities in Europe. We would like to prepare an exhibition with a huge section dedicated to works from the “Soundreaming” project. In 2016 we had a really great show titled “Exercises of listening” in Fait Gallery in Brno, in the Czech Republic. The show consisted of videos, graphic prints and sound installations from “Soundreaming”. Also, we are pleased to announce that we will release the next album from the “Soundreaming” series with the patronage of Contemporary Lynx. This time, we will present a suite of sounds that has been produced in the context of Artist-in-Residence in Atelierhaus Salzamt, Linz in Austria. More information will be available soon on the official website for the project: soundreaming.org.
ED: I am also working on a new painting installation; it will be a combination of geometry, feminism and the internet. Moreover, I am happy to share with you that soon we are going to Lithuania and then to Portugal in the framework of different Artist-in-Residence programs. You will just have to stay tuned to see what is coming up next!
Interviewed by Anna Prokop
Edited by Alexander Cellmer