“By mentioning the notion of memories and nostalgia I have a funny anecdote that happened to me recently: during my last exhibition in Paris, some spectators told me that my work reminded them of North African mundane landscapes and the funny thing is that my grand-parents lived there and my father was born there. That sounded like proof to me that there is a transmission beyond sounds and shared memories.”
Let’s start by you telling me a bit about yourself
I am half French/Spanish and I was born in the south west of France. I studied for five years at the Villa Arson in Nice and got graduated three years ago. After doing an artistic residency in Colombia I settled in Paris in 2017 where I keep working on my practice in a studio that I share with 9 other artists. My work is part of both a sound practice and a sculpture one. I create sound-supportive environments.
You are almost like a sonic architect, building environments with sound. Would you say there is a genre to your worlds? If so, how did you arrive here?
My installations almost always resonate with the places in which they are presented. I think we can call my compositions soundscapes. In each of my installations I try to create an immersive environment with organic and electronic sounds. I design my sound compositions and my sculptures in the exact same way: collages, layers of different materials and sounds etc. I like the idea of « sculpting » a sound, I record sounds and collect objects. I think both practices are co-dependent in my work.
I read that you are inspired by observation and listening to everyday life. What is it about the mundane that fascinates you?
I have always been very conscious of my surroundings and especially of what I could hear in and from my environment. Since I was a little girl, I had this ability to aurally memorise things. I have always been fascinated by sounds, the ones you catch and make you picture in your head something different from what they are really coming from. I have always intensely experienced this disconnection and many of my pieces were born from those sound experiences.
For example, somedays ago I was cooking pasta and the pan overflowed. Everyone knows the noise of water drops burning on a hotplate, this well-known sizzling sound. It got me stunned. It felt like hearing rhythms and I could imagine the rain falling down on some burning concrete. This personal experience afterwards turned into a hybrid machina I made that is called « Resistance ». It has its own rhythms and autonomy.
It is this kind of random and daily experiences that I cherish… This sound awareness helps me paying more attention to my environment and what is happening around me and I feel like I get to approach the places I go with a differently.
There are strong links to nostalgia in your work. Where do you see this strong relationship with past memories and yourself, or your creative focus on this, coming from?
Recording sounds is, for me, the best way to remember places I have been visiting. When travelling I take pictures, but I always have a recorder with me, and I spend days recording cities. I feel like I build a deeper connection using this tool. There is a short story by J.G. Ballard « the sound sweep » that I like to refer to, it is about a man that goes to people’s homes vacuuming sounds with his machine and by night he sorts them in different containers. I sometimes like to think that I do the same job. I found myself having loads of sound libraries on my computer and by relistening to them later on and pouring myself back into the memory that they refer to, I get inspired for new sculpture ideas. And that is what I am trying to pass on to the audience.
What initially made you want to question or experiment with exhibition spaces and the viewers perception?
…Living and experiencing nourish the desire to recreate soundscapes and to bring the audience to experience them like I do. A lot of my sound installations are to be taken in [with the] relationships between them and with the space they are in [in mind]. I like to create a sonic architecture within an existing one.
What brought you to first start using collected objects as sound filters?
I am recording sounds and collecting objects. I have been collecting all kind of objects for a while now and they all have different properties, but I always choose them for the way they will serve the sound and its symbolism. When I find an object, I always try to picture the way it would resonate. I first started to work in such way when I was in my third year at Les Beaux Arts. I would spend time broadcasting sound through different objects or putting microphones within them etc. And from one object to another depending on the size, the shape or the material it would sound very different. For instance, in a glass I would hear something like a thud quite indiscernible in its whole.
In my last installation, I got inspired by the shape of hookahs that I recreate into ceramic pieces. Sheeshas always reminded me of some sort of weird music instrument; the glass tank would be a sounding board where instead of breathing in we would exhale to make it sound. That’s where the idea took its first place. I built hookahs that interact and transform the sound depending on their shape, height etc. That is what I mean by using them as sound filters. When I compose sounds on my computer, I don’t add any filters or special effects, the sculptures would be in charge of it just by being the way they are.
Where has this technique taken you; what developments has it facilitated in your creativity?
This allows me to experiment a lot. I like the idea of using a new material I haven’t used before, understanding it and taming it. I think, to be able to build a dialogue between sculpture and sound helped me to be free in my way of approaching my art and help to go further in the experiment.
Do you have any creative rituals that you take part in to produce your hybrid sounds?
… When I am making my soundscapes, I am trying to focus on an emotion or a feeling. I am listening to sounds, noises or musics and I start building them up. I need to reach an almost meditative state and my soundscapes are often quite deep and dark and oscillating between organic and industrial ones.
What inspired your silk scarf collection?
During a trip to India I got so fascinated by their big silk factories that I wanted to work with the fabric. I also remember my mother wearing silk scarves when I was a child. I like the idea that one can wear a scarf as much as just pin it on a wall. I wanted to repossess the scarf but with a more modern twist. I replace the infamous Hermès chains you can find in their scarves with razor wires and I use motifs from my childhood and teenage years. I am currently working on new ones with printed photos on them.
You have a range of creative outlets – sculpture, sound, garments. How do each or all of these outlets particularly entities appeal to you?
To me, being an artist nowadays is being able to be a multidisciplinary one. I think that it is very important to allow oneself to try out things and go find inspiration everywhere. My practice is diverse but all the mediums I use serve the same dialogue. And sometimes If I get stuck on one medium, I can easily put it on stand-bye for the moment and work on another. Being able to juggle between many practices is very helpful and gives me the opportunity to stand back to go further in the process later.
Do you see your art as having a wider message amongst the landscape of artistic debates (for example), or is it more focused?
I see my work as a will to think on the transmission and saving memories using the sound, I like to convey emotions and poetic instants to the audience. But I’m thinking of having a more political perspective. Feminism is the cause I am the most emotionally invested in and I am trying to find ways to add it in my work.
What is next on the horizon?
I am currently working on a new sound installation made out of blown glass inspired by hearing aids. My scarves will be integrated within, but I won’t say more…
courtesy CLARICE CALVO-PINSOLLE
interview KATE KIDNEY BISHOP
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