“Vibrant, physical, meditative…”
The term Auroculis was initially used for a digital release of three of my pieces on the web label, Deepwhitesound (http://deepwhitesound.com/dws167/). However, both the name of the release and the description of it, written by curator D B Amorin, suggested the potential for further exploration:
“Louise Harris’ Auroculis is a collection of video works that serve as translations of digital audio compositions. Harris’ visual-aural explorations into synaesthetic experience made possible through digital technologies hint at a mimicry of the generative process of looking. The result of her investigations are works that rely on projection, location and duration for full contextual consideration. Here she presents in digital download several fixed examples of this process, a mere glimpse at the potentiality of immersive visual music through expanded cinema installation.” (Amorin, 2015).
This description of my work represents an intriguingly accurate reflection of how I have wanted the pieces to be perceived by viewers, without my having discussed the works with Amorin in any real detail. Consequently, I decided to use the term, Auroculis, as the name for a recent solo exhibition of three of my dual-screen, quad-speaker audiovisual works, pletten (2014 – which also featured on the Auroculis digital release), plexus (2016) and callicassini (2017) (I will also return to the specifics of Amorin’s description of the pieces later in this discussion).
Though composed independently, these three works were presented together under the Auroculis heading as a single installation work for Alchemy Film and Arts – the first exhibition in their Hawick art space. Alchemy has a history of supporting and championing experimental artist film nationally and internationally, most recently curating Scotland’s selection for the 2017 Venice Biennale, Rachel Maclean’s Spite Your Face, in collaboration with the Talbot Rice Gallery and the University of Edinburgh.
The Auroculis exhibition ran for two weeks in May 2017, during which a considerable amount of audience feedback was gathered, ranging from survey responses, post-it note comments and quick audio interviews. This feedback was almost universally positive, with 89% of visitors rating the installation as Good, Very Good or Excellent, and 97% rating it as either Very or Extremely Unique. Comments included:
“Bridget Riley on acid”
“Strangely captivating. I found myself returning again.”
“I really enjoyed the exhibit… it took me a little bit of time to get my eye straight and feel in the space and the right-hand side image would be for me the dominant one to start off with so I was transfixed on that, but also I could see on the periphery of my vision what was happening on the left hand screen and the shapes were just beautiful. It was kind of magnetic, you couldn’t look at both at the same time fully, but yet you could in a way. And then as it progressed and all these wonderful shapes were taking place on the left hand side, still watching the right. And then all of a sudden, I felt that the image on the right, which was to me the dominant one to start off with, was somehow being transported to the other side, but in small forms and mixed with other shapes as well, and the light and shade that was pulsating as well in the image was just wonderful.”
Though not initially conceived as a work of three movements, these three pieces complemented one another extremely well in installation setting; consequently, they have now been grouped together under the banner heading of Auroculis, and will be presented as a single work where possible in future.
The three constituent pieces are as follows:
pletten: squash, crush, flatten.
pletten is a dual screen audiovisual work that is intended for playback on two opposite walls of a dark, square space but can also be exhibited side by side.
The work is an exploration of simultaneous compositional process and the development of complementary sonic and visual forms on a micro- and macro-structural level. The two screens should be displayed opposite one another, with the audience situated in the centre of the two, allowing them to engage with the sonic and visual structures being formed in a variety of ways.
Previous significant performances/installations/prizes:
- Winner – First Prize, 2016 Fresh Minds Festival.
- Toronto International Electroacoustic Symposium, August 2015 (installation)
- Sonorities festival launch and concert, London and Belfast, April 2015 (performance)
- Honorable mention in Sound and Space Reciprocity, CMRC 35th Anniversary Festival, Athens, February 2015 (installation) https://cmrc35years.wordpress.com/2015/01/12/open-call/
- World premiere, GLEAM festival, Glasgow, October 2014 (performance)
plexus: braid, interweave, entwine.
Initially conceived as a companion piece to pletten, plexus is another dual-screen, quad-speaker audiovisual work that is intended for playback on two opposite walls of a dark, square space but can also be exhibited side by side.
- Sound/Image, London, November 2016
- Seeing Sound, Bath Spa University, April 2016
- Sound Thought, CCA, Glasgow, March 2016
The newest of the three works, callicassini is a dual-screen audiovisual work made in response to NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope. The piece uses the honeycomb shape of the telescope as a reference point, and is composed using sound recordings made publicly available by NASA, primarily those of radio emissions from Saturn recorded by Cassini, in combination with computer-generated visuals.
Auroculis represented the world premiere of callicassini in dual-screen, quad-speaker format.
Each of these pieces is part of a continued research trajectory in my fixed media work, exploring the following key themes:
- simultaneous compositional process and the development of complementary sonic and visual forms on a micro- and macro-structural level.
- The use of data sets for simultaneous audiovisualisation in the context of generative, fixed media artworks.
- The use of Expanded Audiovisual Formats (EAF) in both the conception and exhibition of audiovisual installation work.
The three pieces are each the result of the construction of bespoke software patches for processing and puredata, which will be released for distribution under a creative commons license on github once properly packaged.
I have begun to discuss the increase in prevalence of works for Expanded Audiovisual Format (EAF) in recent conference papers, including at Sound/Image in London, November 2016, and this also forms the basis of an upcoming chapter in a collected edition on the Sound/Image conference, due for publication by Routledge in 2020.