Appreciating the art of listening at “Systems for a Score” with Tashkeel, Dubai

Modern and Contemporary Artspace had an opportunity to Skype with new media artists-in-residence Fari Bradley and Chris Weaver from their residency studio last week, where they are showing “Systems for a Score”, an art of listening exhibition on visual and aural compositions at Tashkeel, a studio site with an exhibition space in Dubai.

The exhibition is an interactive “once in a life time” experience about interpretation of sound within space and finding the relationship between architectural spaces and sound. They also talked about up and coming works, commissioned by Tashkeel, at the next edition of Art Dubai and how they would interact with the audience this year through the use of sound, space and live performance.

chris and fari in collaboration in model studio

Chris Weaver and Fari Bradley in collaboration A Model Studio (Photo by Jerry Balloch)

What is sound art?

Fari: In those years before 2006, even internet was quite new. Sound art didn’t start being really in mainstream attention until 2010. That’s when things really changed for sound art because of the biggest British prize for art, The Turner Prize. In 2010 it went to a sound artist called Susan Phillips. And that really changed the whole world perception about what art could be and how sound art could work. But many, many people had worked in sound art before, and suddenly all these attentions came from everywhere about “what is sound art” and “who’s doing sound art”. And because she won The Turner Prize, that changed it for everything.

There is quite a number of new media art that came into Asia sometime late of last year, and about the beginning of this year.

Chris: Yes.

What change would you like to bring in the region?

Fari: I also ran a residency for 5 Iranians. I wanted to bring Iranians to UK to do sound art, to learn about sound art. So, we did open calls in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia. The funder said they didn’t want to include South Asia, and I said “no”. It is very important to include South Asia, because they always get forgotten. MENASA becomes MENA. Because of that open call, I met Iranians doing sound art in Malaysia and I also shortlisted one girl who was on a sound art residency in Japan. She is an Iranian sound artist, and all the sound she is making are heavily influenced by being in Japan.

How do you become an artist?

Fari: I started out as a musician. Later I studied radio and manipulated sound digitally. Through Resonance 104.4 FM, it really introduced me. Before 2006, I taught myself to DJ.

chris and fari studio inspired by atari code

Bradley and Weaver’s ‘A Model Studio’ inspired by Atari code (Photo by Darwin Guevarra)

What does the sound sculpture that was made out of salt mean?

Fari: It is about audio trying to escape the visual language. Let me show you around the gallery.

salt

Systems for a Score a Sound Art exhibition at Tashkeel (Photo by Jerry Balloch)

Fari: We got one this here, which is a light box and the map of The Gulf, and on these strings voices coming through and sounds are coming through on the strings. It is quite difficult to make and Chris knows how. He does the all main technical stuff.

And then there is this one, which are DJ mixers that we made in white. They are speaking to each other through the strings that have been made with no details on them, and sound coming out. There is actually no sound coming into them at all but they still make a sound together.

dj mixers

Systems for a Score a Sound Art exhibition at Tashkeel (Photo by Jerry Balloch)

Fari: We also have huge cassette cases and a drum that rings their tones. The drums that have pollutant in them before, and we put them standing position and one fallen down. The one fallen down doesn’t make any noise, but the others do.

How do you interact with these sound sculptures?

Fari: You are supposed to lean in, try clear your mind, clear the sound in the space, and you can hear a very tiny sound. If the environment is noisy, it is pollution and stress on you. You need to focus, stillness and self knowledge in order to be able to hear a sound properly. In 1997 I started meditation and I haven’t really stopped. I let all my thoughts settled down, so that I can be at a place where I can be in the present. To perceive any art, and really understand it, good visual art should pull you into the present. You should be really, really be in focus of the present to understand it; because it is another language.

What messages do these sound sculptures convey?

Fari: Each sculpture has its own concern, but in a group, it a combined concern. You can find the score anywhere. You can look at a train track and think of a music that would be decisive by the train track. It is not traditional music. It is a graphic score.

Chris: The curves that suggest the music as opposed to write the individual notes you geometric state in them. These pieces are very recent.

Fari: Then there is that kind of democracy in that; because the performers are allowed to interpret this ever more abstract type of musical direction. And this got to be much more communication than that just the mechanical reading of notes; it is more sense of interpretation.

Why do you call your solo exhibition “Systems for a Score”?

Fari: This whole show and we call it “Systems for a Score” is because we want to tell the audience that they can find their own language anywhere but have to be so present to be able to think creatively about the things that are in front of them.

What are your perceptions when art is being used?

Fari: When people find a use for art, it is really difficult for them because that implies art isn’t useful. There is a place where the art starts, and the viewers have to meet it. If the art is passive they will never meet the art; but art can’t come all the way to the viewers, not like we can give the people a medicine. It’s like we have to give it something and people have to come and meet it half way. There is a saying in this, “If you are a really good artist, you are poor”.

Chris: They (the artists) have to produce the workings, the perception and the interpretations. There is no language that is absolutely precise. Translation is a classic example, where we translate one language to another. When you use a form of languages, abstract is art, meanings are going to be completely lost. There is almost a gap where stuff is creating in between the work and the viewer.

How do you move this project forward after this show?

Fari: After this show, we would be doing the commissioned work at Art Dubai. We are picking up on previous works, where we have some architects to sing to the building. Chris is arranging the speakers and microphones so that the building would ring its own sound, like the white mixers in the gallery. They are playing the sound of silent again and again to each other. The sound of silence increases and it amplifies and become a sound – the same concept of the space ringing its architectural tone.

How often do you run the performance and, where about at Art Dubai?

Chris: We are running it everyday, as a piece in a certain section of Art Dubai, playing it live, where the sound is the space that is ringing it back to itself continuously during the art fair.

Fari: We would do that with the building. We would empty the building, put the speakers and the microphones, the building would, according to its shape, the architecture would define the sound. What would happen, when the building does this changing sound, we train some architects and engineers who didn’t normally sing to walk around the building, and sing back to the building. It will be a performance, where the building and the architects are interacting with their voices.

We are able to pick a closed space which is a stair case that has no windows, and only one door way. We are able to install the sculptures and turn the lights down, so that the sculptures are ringing continuously in this space. There would performances in front of the sculptures which we think is really important.

How do you think the performance is important?

Fari: People don’t make the time. They have too much going on. A performance brings everyone around for an experience. Experience is really what art is about. In a way we are focusing on the art, the live on the moment on the present. We can’t buy a performance and can’t really capture it. We can phone it but it won’t be the same as being in the performance. It about valuing the present and making something that happens that is important where people there would experience themselves – on their skin, in their ears. We always love live.

Chris: Performance allows you to bracket a piece of time and say this section of time we want to elevate every day. It allows a kind of focusing on that particular moment. It is a good way to link the previous work that we have done.

Tell us your other involvement and experience during the residency.

We tutored at Art Dubai Campus. Last time we were a project, now we most enjoyed being as artists, doing sound sculptures

Will there be any extension after this exhibition?

Chris: No plans at the moment.

Are you the people behind Six Pillars – the platform for MENA digital art, sound and music?

Fari: I am. That’s my project.

Last question, have you been in Asia?

Fari: Asia, so far, is like the other end of the world for us. I have been to Vietnam, Chris gave some talks in China, and that’s it. We would love to come to Singapore and do some installation!

That would be nice!

For more information about the exhibition, please visit www.tashkeel.org

Address: Tashkeel, PO Box 122255, Nad Al Sheba 1, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Tel: +971 (0) 43363313

Email: tashkeel@tashkeel.org

Opening Hours:8:00AM – 10:00PM
Open: Saturday – Thursday
Closed: Friday

About the artists and their residency with Tashkeel

Bradley and Weaver, on residency since June 2014, were commissioned with an experimental site-specific installation and performance at ISEA which explores the relationship between architectural spaces and sound. They curated a series of public talks on sound in the gallery space and on film, and gave workshops on the DIY culture of sound art and radio. Signifying the close of their 11 month residency, the artists will present a major work during Dubai’s art season in March, inside the art fair, as part of Art Dubai Commissions. For any questions about sound art, please email fari@resonancefm.com.

About Fari Bradley British-Iranian musician and sound artist Fari Bradley composes and creates sound sculptures. A seasoned, experimental improviser, she has performed live and composed commissions for orchestral performances at the V & A Museum, Parasol Unit and the London Festival of Architecture and was 2013 artist in residence with Sound and Music. Bradley DJs fringe genres live on London’s arts-music radio station Resonance104.4FM and at electronic music festivals, from Beirut to Glastonbury.

About Chris Weaver Named by the British Academy of Songwriters as ‘Sonic Artist of the Year’ 2013, Chris Weaver is a sound artist, performer and audio hardware hacker. Weaver specialises in broadcast and architectural installations, and has participated in festivals from Glastonbury Festival to The Wellcome Trust. Major works include “Suspension of Belief” a five hour live radio broadcast for rock climber and musicians and “No Such Object” for 880 synthesisers, installed on the summit of an extinct volcano in Scotland.

About Tashkeel Established in 2008 by Lateefa bint Maktoum, Tashkeel is a contemporary art organisation based in Dubai committed to facilitating art and design practice, creative experimentation and cross-cultural dialogue. Placing the artist at the core, Tashkeel supports the UAE’s creative community through studio facilities, artists’ residencies, international fellowships, a programme of exhibitions, events and professional as well as recreational workshops.

Tashkeel currently runs up to three residencies a year, along with 6 residencies in conjunction with partner entities – Delfina Foundation London, Dubai Culture and Arts Authority and Art Dubai, with artists benefiting from on-site facilities that include darkrooms, photo studio, digital labs, printing studios, textile studios and 3D workshops. Residencies generally culminate in an exhibition, accompanied by activities such as talks and seminars, aiming to introduce the general public to international artists and their practice.

Tashkeel’s exhibition space accommodates up to six main projects a year, as well as a series of small-scale events. The programme includes solo and thematic exhibitions, screenings, workshops and seminars, fulfilling Tashkeel’s commitment to bringing art and culture to a wider audience and engaging the local community.