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fixed or fluid

October 22, 2006

A friend of mine recently stated that he considered 9 Beet Stretch by Leif Inge the best piece of sound art to come out of Norway so far.

The topic immediately stroke me as exceptionally uninteresting and counter-productive. There’s no doubt that 9 Beet Stretch is excellent but I can’t see why there is any need for rating it up against other works that I also appreciate and consider important. Furthermore I can’t understand how anyone is able to define criteria that can be used for determined what works are “sound art” or not. Take Arne Nordheims pioneering work in electronic sound in the 1960s and his tape loop based installation Polypoly for the Scandinavian Pavilion at 1970’s World Exposition in Osaka. Is this contemporary music electro-acoustic music or sound art? The Sound showers at Gardemoen airport by Anna Karin Rynander should they be considered public art sound art installation design or minimalist sculpture? What about Lydmur (Sound Barrier) by Maia Urstad is it sound art sculpture or musical composition? “Concert for Greenland” and Fortellerorkesteret by Verdensteatret are these works installations performance stage works installations musical compositions new media art or sculptures?

Recently I got a copy of the catalogue for Lars Staffan Evjens exhibition at Bommullsfabrikken last summer. The series of charcoal drawings “Interiør i stillhet” (The silent interior) that he has been working on for more than 10 years strikes a very strong resonance with me. To me it is natural to consider this body of work in the above context. I am reading his work not only as drawings they are also conceptual sound art or virtual minimalist sculptures.

It is exactly this blurring of the boundaries working in a fluid non-fixed field that attracts me. Earlier this year there were a lengthy discussion at the SoundAsArt list attempting to define sound art. I lost interest along the way and I don’t know if it ever came to any clear conclusion but since then the list has been remarkably silent. The day sound art is firmly defined with a canon of essential works I hope to be working on something else.