Hearing America: Sound Art of Daily Life (2015-2016)
Sound Art is a medium wherein sounds - whether natural, created with instruments, or generated by computers - are presented as an aural art object no less than a painting, photograph, or a sculpture. It is part of what is presently termed “new media.” It is another way for artists to present the familiar in an unfamiliar way.
Every country has its own familiar sounds, sometimes referred to as “noise.” These sounds are culturally embedded in a country. They reflect the interaction of people within that society. As such, the everyday life of people is captured in societal sounds.
In the United States, we are living in 2016 wherein a presidential election is taking place. In the midst of this political event, life goes on for everyday Americans.
In order to realize our HEARING AMERICA project, a selected number of students in the Department of Art & Art History at the University of Colorado Boulder were asked to create sound art projects of everyday sounds in their lives, including video from their everyday lives. They were directed to record sounds and video separately, and thereafter to remix sound with video. Thus, the sound in each art piece is from one everyday experience, and the video is from a completely different everyday experience.
The objective of this project is to provide international viewers with a sound/video artwork that reflects what America sounds like. It provides international others with a contemporary glimpse of American culture through sites and sounds in everyday life found in private and public places.
We encourage art professors in other countries, especially where HEARING AMERICA is being exhibited, to conduct similar sound/video projects with students at their respective universities in order for all of us to better understand our global neighbors.
We need to reach beyond national and international borders to view ourselves as human beings who deserve dignity and respect. In many countries, this will necessitate justice and peace. Only then can we claim a common humanity where all human needs are fulfilled.
In a global community, we need to reach out to each other, we need to know each other, and we need to understand each other. In spite of all that is occurring around us to the contrary in our respective countries, we need to work toward building a better future for generations that will inherit what we have done to our planet and ourselves.
Paul Gauguin created an art piece entitled “Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?” Those questions resonated then and still resonate today. Art is a way for us to think about “meaning.” What does it mean to be a human being? What does a life mean in the context of living a full life? Art can help us look beyond our “selves.”
In a modest way, this exhibition of HEARING AMERICA aspires for us to listen to each other – to hear each other in our full potential as human beings. That is why we hope that other countries reciprocate with sound/video projects that allow us to hear them too. To wit, we would like to begin with international projects entitled HEARING SOUTH AFRICA; HEARING BOSNIA; HEARING PALESTINE; and HEARING COLOMBIA. Other countries could join us. Finally, we could post all of these HEARING projects on an Internet site hosted by the University of Colorado at Boulder.
We need to begin to hear each other better. This exhibition of sound/video art is an effort to encourage us to get involved in “deep listening,” as Pauline Oliveros advocates for sound art practices.
George Rivera, Ph.D.
Department of Art & Art History
University of Colorado