If you’re walking by the northeast corner of the Accolade East Building, you may notice a disconnect between the sights and sounds around you. The highly atmospheric audio coming from a speaker near the entrance of the Art Gallery of York University (AGYU) has nothing to do with the hallway or performance and display spaces in the vicinity. What you’re hearing is the third edition of AGYU’s Audio Out broadcast: a loop of recordings created by visual arts students, running 24/7 until May 1.
These audio works are “field recordings” produced by students in the Sound for Artists course taught by Professor Marc Couroux in the Department of Visual Arts. Students are given free rein to either capture the sound of an existing space or to conjure one by editing or “preparing” the environment to create a sound documentary or fiction.
“Sound as an art medium is growing exponentially,” said Couroux. “Exposing Visual Arts students to the possibilities and putting recording equipment into their hands is adding York’s voice to an important international art dialogue.”
While the projects show a great deal of diversity, they all had the same starting point. Couroux asked the class a number of questions – How wide is the field? Where is the frame? – and suggested some possibilities and considerations, such as allowing or activating the environment do the work, creating folds and dips in time, background noise and the artifacts of capture.
As important as the creative process is, the artists also want their creations to be heard. In addition to AGYU’s Audio Out broadcast, this year saw several sound interventions in the Fine Arts Complex, including audio installations at the Visual Arts Open House exhibition Psychopomp and a dedicated show in the Special Project Gallery last December that made some serious waves in the Joan & Martin Goldfarb Centre for Fine Arts.
“People are still talking about that show,” said Couroux. “You could hear it throughout most of the building, including the painting and drawing studios. Sound art poses a bit of a challenge to visual media. It’s inherently temporal, and how the experience of the work unfolds over time becomes part of how you relate to the work. Sound is also very immersive. It’s harder to avoid than many other types of visual art.
“If we’re causing a disruption, I think it’s a positive one.”