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Milieux Sonores 

Sound, Space and Virtuality

Photo by Lorenzo Pusterla

Publication and exhibition project

 

Edited and curated by Marcus Maeder and the Institute for Computer Music and Sound Technology, in collaboration with Kunstraum Walcheturm/Patrick Huber, Gray Area Foundation for the Arts, swissnex San Francisco and Transcript Verlag.

 

Version 1.0 of the Milieux Sonores exhibition took place at Kunstraum Walcheturm from 16. 1. 2009 until 21. 2. 2009. Version 2.0 will be opened on Friday, September 11 at Gray Area Foundation for the Arts, San Francisco  - in collaboration with swissnex San Francisco and the support of the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia.

 

Participating artists: Daniel Bisig/Jan Schacher/Martin Neukom, Jason Kahn, Yves Netzhammer/Bernd Schurer, Felix Profos, Jeroen Strijbos/Rob van Rijwsijk a. o.

 

Contributors to the Milieux Sonores publication: Daniel Bisig, Sabine Gebhardt Fink, Marcus Maeder, Yves Netzhammer, Martin Neukom, Mathias Oechslin, Nils Röller

 

 

The exhibition

The so-called „spatial turn“, the „topological turn“, has since the end of the eighties been a topic of cultural and social studies. Topological termini are broadly used in disciplines that deal with systems, entireties or groups of elements influencing each other. More recently, physical, social, geographical, psychological or physiological structures have been described using spatial categories; the concept of space has always served to define relations between things in our imagination, thus interpreting reality. According to Japanese philosopher Kitaro Nishida, space can be seen as a place that absorbs ideas and allows the expansion of our thinking to be grasped in linguistic terms.

 

Without any doubt, reasons for this stronger emphasis on the spatial aspect can be found in the increasingly important role spatially oriented media plays in our living environment. Whether it is the simulation of space used in almost every computer game, GPS navigation systems or space metaphors in the internet such as chat rooms: the large share of virtuality structured in analogy to space is defining of our discourse on the world. Furthermore, through recent media technology, a veritable topos of media related experience and acting is taking on form, an ontology of the virtual is in the making. With cinema, DVDs and computer games the spatial design of sound and the sonic design of space has gained importance. Surround technologies allow to simulate complex acoustical spaces: the „virtual“ acoustic space has become a widely discussed subject. If we view the fields of media and sound art, of electronic music, of game and sound design from such a perspective, it is striking that especially in these disciplines, topological terms become parameters in artistic and medial work. Furthermore, sounds do not only exist in a spatial relationship to one another, they are on a level of imagination and creation part of a consciously generated sonic and spatial milieu.

 

If we understand artificially generated sound spaces as fields of imagination that are composed of sound milieus structured in space and time, they are nonetheless primarily composed of technically generated signals that trigger sensations. The producer’s as well as the artist’s and the recipient’s imagination through acoustic sensations creates a space for association which brings into relation our knowledge about the real world and the simulation of the possible. Under the influence of our perception’s expansion brought about by media technology, the conception of reality begins to change. Space simulations created by artists, be it in films, in installations or musical works, create ­„hyper-natural“, surreal spaces of experience that are filled with strange sound objects, impossible or remote spaces, sounding artificial life forms – they create mental landscapes which become part of our environment. On this phenomenon, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari noted in the dawn of the computer age: „The real is not impossible, but it becomes more and more artificial.“

 

 

Photo by Lorenzo Pusterla

In the exhibition Milieux Sonores, we focus on artistic and musical designs of sound spaces, on working with sound and the visualization of imaginary space. Milieux Sonores presents five different artistic approaches, each of which either creates, in its own unique way, a world of sounds and a space for a framework of sounds or transforms and redefines space through sound. Two of the five works were developed at the music department of the Zurich University of the Arts, namely Vier Nebenräume by Felix Profos and Flow Space by Daniel Bisig, Martin Neukom and Jan Schacher from the Institute for Computer Music and Sound Technology.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The book

Milieux Sonores/Klangliche Milieus
Sound, Space and Virtuality

Editor: Marcus Maeder, Institute for Computer Music and Sound Technology, Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK)
Publisher: Transcript Verlag, Bielefeld
Authors: Daniel Bisig, Sabine Gebhardt Fink, Marcus Maeder, Yves Netzhammer, Martin Neukom, Mathias Oechslin and Nils Röller
Publication: May/June 2010

The idea for this book came up during preparations for the Milieux ­Sonores exposition. Inspired by the numerous reactions of a very interested public, the contributions in this book aim to reflect the multi-facetted aspects of sound and the acoustic space within the current discussion of virtuality. The examination of musical methods and practices in the virtual sphere as a veritable intersection of research and art has only just begun.

If we understand artificially generated sound spaces as fields of imagination that are composed of sound milieus structured in space and time, they are nonetheless primarily composed of technically generated signals that trigger sensations. The producer’s as well as the artist’s and the recipient’s imagination through acoustic sensations creates a space for association which brings into relation our knowledge about the real world and the simulation of the possible. Under the influence of our perception’s expansion brought about by media technology, the conception of reality begins to change. Space simulations created by artists, be it in films, in installations or musical works, create „hyper-natural“, surreal spaces of experience that are filled with strange sound objects, impossible or remote spaces, sounding artificial life forms – they create mental landscapes which become part of our environment.

This approach comes close to a long held dream of surrealists. Leading surrealist thinker André Breton wrote in his first surrealist manifesto back in 1924: “I believe in the future resolution of these two states—outwardly so contradictory—which are dream and reality, into a sort of absolute reality, a surreality, so to speak. I am aiming for its conquest, certain that I myself shall not attain it, but too indifferent to my death not to calculate the joys of such possession.“