Ingeborg Entrop: Indexical Edge Thing – The Polyphonic Nature of Sound
Mentor: Alena Alexandrova
Independent reviewer: Brandon LaBelle
Arnhem, June 2012
My artistic interest is currently developing from the visualization of sound, via paintings, murals or installations towards the actual use of sound itself. This shift has to do with my wish to expand into space ever more, as well as – and this is much more important – with the urgency that I feel for representing multiplicity in present times. But why do I need sound for that, what then makes the aural so different from the visual expe rience? These are the leading questions in this thesis. A psychoanalytic perspective suggests that sound is considered to be an entity of the edge, operating between consciousness and unconsciousness and therefore very different from the visual. In a semiotic perspective , sound turns out to have deeply rooted indexical qualities and hence rel ies heavily on its context. In a more materialistic approach, I see indications to consider sound as an 'abstract thing', the current status of the object in late capit alism. My interpretation shows clear cross -connections between these different views. I let them resonate with each other as in a polyphonic piece of music consisting of different melodic voices; sound as an edge-entity is indexical and closely related to the materiality of a thing. I.E.
The dissertation, "Indexical Edge Thing" sets out to query the tensions and discrepancies between visual and sonic experience, between representation and presentation, and how this comes to condition our understanding of art. To do so, it engages three areas of discourse, namely, the psychoanalytic, the semiotic and the materialist (in addition to aspects of art and music). Each section is well articulated, and openly discusses key points and reflections while keeping focus on the overall thesis. I find the candidate's use of select sources and authors well formulated, allowing for important discoveries along the way. For instance, her use of Lacan's triadic system leads to a number of critical observations as to sound's "pre-symbolic" quality, as well as to the notion of sound as an "edge-entity", which I find very interesting. (For future reference, I would highly recommend the work of Friedrich Kittler, in particular his "Gramophone, Film, Typewriter".) The formulation of "edge-entity" also leads the candidate to the central concepts of "polyphony" and "multiplicity", and the importance for promoting a "pluralistic" worldview. Her use of Deleuze and Guattari here is nicely articulated, and allows for a consideration of the aesthetic and how sound operates as affective material.
I applaud the candidate for exploring such a dynamic range of critical discourses, and for her ability to investigate each with keen interest. Though as a point of criticism, I found the section on semiotics to be the weakest. While I greatly appreciate the candidate's attempt to get at the tensions of signification surrounding sonic experience, I felt the use of Peirce and Krauss did not serve the arguments: if the thesis argues for deepening our understanding of sound as an entity in the world, and full of affective becoming, the thesis would have been better supported by "linguistic" research specifically tied to sound, for instance, through the topic of onomatopoeia (earlier mentioned), or the work of Roman Jakobson and Allen Weiss, and the relation between speech and writing. Such work would have lent a much greater opportunity to query sound's complex relation to meaning. Further, that sound is put forward as "contextually specific" is an important critical point, and one that furthers the thesis. (Here, I also greatly appreciate the notion of the "caption" put forward.) Yet, in following the previous "psychoanalytic" section, and the work of Dolar, we might ask: is not context made uncertain by sound also? If sound, as "edge-entity", as polyphony, moves between the conscious and the unconscious, reality and fantasy, subject and Other, then is not the indexical more problematized than supported by the dynamics of listening?
I fully support the candidate's very engaging analysis of the relation of sonic and visual experience. I find the thesis full of ambition, and I congratulate her on being able to weave together extremely critical examinations while keeping in touch with more personal experiences. I sense the candidate's work and thinking was greatly enhanced through this discursive research, and I look forward to discovering her work in the future.
Brandon LaBelle is an artist, writer and theorist. His artistic work explores questions of social life and cultural narrative, using sound, performance and sited constructions. This results in situational and contextual projects that create forms of intervention in public spaces, acts of translation and archiving, as well as micro-actions aimed at the sphere of the common. He is also an active theorist and lecturer working with institutions around the world addressing questions of auditory culture, sonic and spatial arts, experimental media practices and the voice. Current research projects focus on "voicing and the choreography of the mouth", "sonic materiality and auditory knowledge", and "the aesthetics and politics of invisibility".
His artistic work has been presented at Image Music Text, London (2011), Sonic Acts, Amsterdam (2010), A/V Festival, Newcastle (2008, 2010), Instal 10, Glasgow (2010), Museums Quartier/Tonspur, Vienna (2009), 7th Bienal do Mercosul, Porto Allegro (2009), Center for Cultural Decontamination, Belgrade (2009), Tuned City, Berlin (2008), Casa Vecina, Mexico City (2008), Fear of the Known, Cape Town (2008), Netherlands Media Art Institute, Amsterdam (2003, 2007), Ybakatu Gallery, Curitiba, Brazil (2003, 2006, 2009), Singuhr Gallery, Berlin (2004), and ICC, Tokyo (2000).
Also a prolific writer, he is the author of Acoustic Territories: Sound Culture and Everyday Life (Continuum, 2010) and Background Noise: Perspectives on Sound Art (Continuum, 2006). Through his work with Errant Bodies Press he has co-edited the anthologies Site of Sound: Of Architecture and the Ear Volumes 1 & 2 (1999, 2011), Writing Aloud: The Sonics of Language (2001), Surface Tension: Problematics of Site (2003) and Radio Territories (2007), along with a series of monographs (Critical Ear series) on sound and media artists.
His ongoing project to build a library of radio memories was presented at Casa Vecina, Mexico City in 2008. He has numerous audio releases on international experimental music labels, and regularly produces works for radio, notably for Kunstradio in Vienna (1999, 2001, 2007, 2009) and Deutschland Radio (2009). He received a Masters degree from Cal Arts, Los Angeles in 1998, and completed his PhD at the London Consortium in 2005. Following his doctoral work he undertook a post-doctoral project at the University of Copenhagen from 2006 to 2009, in Modern Culture and Sound Studies. In 2008-09 he worked as Guest Professor at the Free University in Berlin, holding seminars on acoustic territories, spatial practice and the male voice. He lives in Berlin and is currently Professor at the Bergen National Academy of the Arts, Norway.