I’ve developed a series of works around a foundational and paradoxical question in my practice-based PhD research at UAL:
How does the “chatter” going on in our heads prevent us from being aware of any creeping, rising levels of noise pollution, and if we are unaware of or unable to control this chatter, how will we ever combat new levels and subtle forms of new noise pollution (as wireless signal density) that will come with Smart Cities?
Soon, new subtle forms of “noise” such as the projected signal density that will come with impending “Smart Cities” will be a norm. What little do we understand about corporeal (i.e. beyond the ear) hearing and our ability to tune in and out of inner monologues, and really hear in the present?
Can art be useful, in this case to suggest that we redefine hearing as phenomenological experience not just confined to the ear, before we hurtle into this new era of signal density and mechanised environments of signals and sensors?
I call it the auditorium of the mind where we replay noises and conversations. There in the ‘mind’s ear’, music plays out sometimes annoyingly as an ear worm, or as a recollected phrase, where different facets of memory replay as the vehicle for hearing sound on mute. These facets of memory are the act of memorising, nostalgia for past or holiday sounds, analysing conversations and worrying over things said).
It can also be asked of the same works, how might deaf people enjoy works about sound, and what role does visual memory play in hearing sound in the inner ear? The works are sign posts for these facets of inner listening:
- Regret, unpicking the past
- The act of memorising poetry or song by silent chanting (repetition)
- Actual heard soundscapes
- Unheard soundscapes that are possibly sensed on a subtle level, seemingly inaudible sounds on the radio wave spectrum
- Above all: the ability to choose what we tune into, any of the above inner voices, or actual sounds, to seek silence in observation, or be slave to an uncontrollable stream of inner chatter that ‘blinds’ us to changes in noise pollution.
And how much of this inner monologue or chatter keeps us from being truly in the present, i.e. able to listen to the world around us? I have made a short, silent video about sound with my deaf neighbour in the style of a cine film, home cam movie.
A critical positioning of our own self awareness is at the core of Hearing on Mute, which is themed in the vernacular of rough hand stitching, textile, found objects and widely accessible, seemingly antique polaroid.