Inhabited Space transcends Geometrical Space

Trooping back into the space today i got a chance to snap the surroundings a little.  PICA is a great looking building nestled within the cultural centre of Perth, just beside the Western Australian Museum, the State Library and the Art gallery of Western Australia.  All great places to visit and definitely worth mentioning is the current show at the Art Gallery – Patricia Picinini’s beautifully horrible sculptures.

Here’s my entrance, which is also the fire exit.  So there are strict regulations with regards to opening and closing these doors.


I had a great conversation with SymbioticA resident Benjamin Forster this afternoon over lunch. (

Benjamin’s an artist at SymbioticA investigating avenues to include biological material into his drawing practice.  We spoke about the similarities in our approach to biological art, which felt like a little bit of camaraderie in the midst of our rather separate artistic researches.  Im really looking forward to what Benjamin comes up with!  We spoke a little about my project and Benjamin still had a great idea for me even after i was done running through my project jetting on fatigue brought about by a long night of world cup television.

Basically at PICA, the idea is to extend the use of the stethoscope from ‘Sounding Body’ presented at Waapa, plagiarising its use from the culture of medicine and diagnosis and working it both as a performance tool as well as an interface for defining the body through embodied sound.  There are two main components to the piece – the idea of the body as a container/box for data, and this data as a signifier of space/architecture/acoustics.  In a performance strategy, I was intent on modifying the stethoscope to include a amplified speaker that i could play into a variety of spaces – speaker cones, small tupperware boxes, light globes etc, constructing a single unit that recorded, amplified and projected hidden data wherever i wanted to get them into, effectively presenting these internal spaces through monolithic acoustically sensitive bodies.  Benjamin gave me the idea to make these ‘revelation’ machines wearable, that the audience could wear to amplify the sounds of their hearts that would contribute, or even make up the performance.

i should start working on these machines early next week.. and hopefully by the end of the July they’l be up and running.  I feel slightly worried with regards to the power of the amplifier that is necessary for the speaker, and if its a little too clunky to wear, but if i could get people to shove stethoscopes in their ears for half an hour, im sure their curiosity would get them through.

I started reading finally a book i had on the poetics of space since God knows how long ago, and found some passages really helpful.  In the introduction of Gaston Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space, he speaks about the inhabitation of space and the experience of it that transforms the meaning of that space from mere architecture to a platform for collecting and simmering  human interaction within – the inhabited space transcends the geometrical one.; and even talking in terms of memory and how a space remembers its inhabitants, he “moves through a house not as mere visitor. . . listening to the geometry of echoes dignifying and distinguishing every old house, every experienced house” (Bachelard 1994).

More of interest to my ears, this idea of the architecture embodying sound brings to mind the term “frozen sound”, where the mathematical models of music composition furnish the structural calculations in buildings and acoustical spaces like the Phillips Pavillion and other inspired architectural monuments by Iannis Xenakis;  but extending the metaphor, it also implicates architecture as resonating chambers within religious spaces and historical courthouses which poetically inscribe and reverberate the echoes of songs and stories played out within the walls centuries ago.  Noting the poignance of reverberation in the experience of space, Bachelard continues with the words of phenomenologist Eugene Minkowski:

for Minkowski, the essence of life is not a “feeling of being, of existence,” but a feeling of participation in a flowing onward, necessarily expressed in terms of time, and secondarily expressed in terms of space . . . we discover a new dynamic and vital category, a new property of the universe: reverberation (rententir).” (Bachelard xvi)

and later:

“Here to “fill up” and “plenitude” . . . is not a material object which fills another by espousing the form that the other imposes.  No it is the dynamism of the sonorous life itself which by engulfing and appropriating everything it finds in its path, fills the slice of space, or better the slice of the world that it assigns itself by its movement, making it reverberate, breathing into it its own life . . . In fact, our examples, the sealed vase, the forest, because of the very fact that they fill up with sounds, form a sort of self-enclosed whole, a microcosm. . . ”  (Bachelard xvii)

In the moments i was quietly reflecting in the space, i decided i would get to know the sonority of my new abode slightly better with a little resonance.. made a little noisy patch of frequencies that started massaging themselves into the walls and floor, rebounding off bricks and resonating internal harmonics.  It was a lovely experience, as it always is, to feel like you not just inhabit the space, but are an active participant by absorbing the waves of sound and vibration passing through.

Heres a short clip of what i was pushing into the space.. albeit equalized and compressed to suit conventional speakers.

More again soon. 🙂

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