Now that our hearing range is home bound and the streets are still eerily quiet we become more alert to the hum of our tech devices indoors and our neighbours' or the birds' conversations outside. We also mostly work from home- discovering new ways of communicating with colleagues and catching glimpses of their homes in the background. More often than not when I've had to call people who I would normally only contact in their work environment, I can hear their children, footsteps on stairs or their pets. We are developing new relationships with our own and others' domestic and intimate spaces.
An email titled Furniture Music I received last month had caught my attention probably because I have fond memories of drumming on furniture as a child. Earlier on in the planning of the exhibition, these memories inspired me to consider a sound installation of home made sounds. In a conversation with sound designer Simon Keep I learn about exciting ways to physically engage audiences in creating and amplifying sounds. Something along these lines is also present in Yuri Suzuki's Furniture Music exhibition. And although the pandemic dictates the exclusion of physical interaction in the gallery and my plans take a different course, I am nevertheless interested to find out what our homes' soundscapes are like, especially during these strange days we find ourselves in. Clearly I am not alone. Simon Keeps also tells me of an archive of home sounds he is compiling as part of his work with Clip- an experimental sound project, collecting sounds ranging from one's diner to the first sound heard in the morning- have a look here. Yuri Suzuki is also creating a participatory artwork Sound of the Earth: The Pandemic Chapter in which anyone can participate and upload your sound clips (check the link above).
While I work primarily from home these days I am aware that not everyone can work from home. I discover the most striking example through another e mail alerting me to an online iteration of an artwork, this time by the artist Taryn Simon, whose An Occupation of Loss , brought together professional lamenters from all over the world in a remarkably powerful performance staged in a cavernous space in London in 2018. With lockdown in place the world over, these musicians and vocalists can no longer mourn at funerals so Simon and her collaborators have added their Laments From Quarantine. Listening to these extraordinary voices lamenting from their homes offers a stark reminder, if one is needed, that death is part of life. But these are also exceptional times and death like most aspects of our lives are heightened. Nikos Menoudakis and Vangelis Kotsos who are the mourners from Greece observe that 'the quarantine... created an almost religious context where people, like monks, must stay still ... and face themselves, their lives, their truth'**, which succinctly echoes much of what I have been thinking and writing about. So if this amplified introspection, which can be challenging at times, offers unique and fresh insights into our relationships with our surroundings, might it also prompt us to re-imagine what life after lockdown will sound like?
*Furniture Music is the title of an exhibition of works by artist Yuri Suzuki at the Stanley Picker Gallery.