Saturday, April 15, 2017

Imagining Sound at Central Features Contemporary Art

Photo by Suzanna Finley

My Sonic Fabric project (textile woven from cassette tape recorded with collages of sound) has been ongoing since the turn of the century. When it first began, I was adamant that it should be used to make things that can be touched and used in everyday life...I didn't want it to be treated like a precious object. 

(An aside: when I first moved to NYC with the original small pieces of fabric, I brought it to one of Louise Bourgeois' Sunday afternoon salons...when I showed it to Louise she said, "WHAT DOES IT DO?" I said, "It's for rituals!" She said, "THEN DO A RITUAL.")

The main idea for me was that each edition of fabric contained stored memory...trapped sound...a record of a moment in time that could only be accessed by imagining it. I would literally weave together sounds that might not otherwise be heard simultaneously...noises, music, spoken word from different parts of the highlight the idea that all of these things are part of a single fabric. 

But it quickly became clear that people WANTED to experiment with the fabric's still-magnetic properties...and if the garbled sound that the fabric emits when a tape head is drawn across its surface is of interest, who was I to say, "Sorry, no, that's not what it's really about"? It was a treat to me that other people were gaining enjoyment from it. And so the device that activates the audible properties of the material became part of the project. 

As I have learned and my ideas have evolved over the course of the past 17 years, I have realized that:

1. Pieces that have been made from Sonic Fabric are treated as precious no matter how much I might want them not to be. 

2. That the fabric emits sound is irrelevant, and actually detracts from the concept.

3. The project reaches its fullest potential as part of collaborative efforts. 

By far the most successful Sonic Fabric project thus far happened in Galicia in collaboration with Galician musicians, students, and only role was to supply the idea and facilitate the production of the yardage...the sounds and music contained within, as well as the resulting works (garments based on traditional Galician costume), were entirely the vision of others with whom it was a joy and an honor to work. 

Over these many years it has also been a delight to work with my dear and extremely talented friend Julio Cesar whose idea it was to make a wearable object...namely one that is worn by those who often find themselves in positions of power...from Sonic Fabric. Julio's elegant yet subtly subversive vibe-emitting neckties are infiltrating boardrooms, courtrooms, gala events, and ivory towers around the world. 

I have only a very small amount of Sonic Fabric yardage left, and no plans to make more anytime soon (it is woven at a small family-run textile mill in New England and its manufacture is quite a resource-intensive undertaking). So when the opportunity arose to include Sonic Fabric in the Imagining Sound exhibition at Central Features Contemporary Art, I decided to do something I've never done with Sonic Fabric before: I stretched it on bars like canvas. In this form it is a precious object on white walls, as I had never intended. But visitors are imagining the sound contained within, as I always hoped they would. 

The journeys on which each project seems to lead...the magnitude learned, paradoxes revealed, obstacles confronted, and alliances made along the way...are what one sees (or hears) in experiencing a creative practitioner's "work". For me these things constitute a driving force and are the impetus to continue.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Texas Design Now at CAMH

Three Sonic Fabric dresses are currently on display as part of the Texas Design Now exhibition at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston. I'll be there at 2pm on September 26, 2015 to participate in a panel discussion.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

re:purposed at the ringling

i'll be at The Ringling museum in sarasota, florida this saturday for a variety of re:purposed exhibition festivities, including a panel discussion and a site/time-specific performance in collaboration with fellow re:purposed artist Jill Sigman. it's really a thrill for sonic fabric to be in the same room with works by so many artists i admire, including Nick Cave - Visual Artist and El Anatsui.

the lovely catalog contains a series of interviews with the artists by curator matthew mclendon. interestingly (but perhaps not surprisingly...), it turns out there are many commonalities between the backgrounds and approaches of the practitioners included in the show...

while all of us do indeed incorporate repurposed materials into our work, several of us made a point to mention in our interviews that this is not necessarily intended as an ecological statement...rather, the impulse to repurpose is by-product of our ways of thinking and our lifestyles...many of us grew up in families where re-use and care for and appreciation of objects (and their associated histories) was a normal part of everyday life.

cassette tape, for me, has been a powerful and magical substance since the days of my high school punk band when we would record jam sessions endlessly. during the same era, we used strands from the broken ones on small racing sailboats as wind-indicating "tell-tales". it was a part of everyday life for us it continues to be for me today.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

jon hassell's MAP2

I recently came upon the legendary Jon Hassell's work for pre-recorded cassette tape square and hand-held magnetic reader device in a 1969 issue of SOURCE: music of the avant garde. More on the project, including a video of me "performing" the work, here:

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Rhythmanalysis: Atmosphere of Taos, NM

Julian Mock and I were invited to Taos, NM to create a sound collage for the inaugural Paseo Festival. Over the course of several days, Julian and I recorded samples from the local soundscape with some help from ten local school kids aged 8 to 14. On September 26th, the day of the opening, we installed a "listening station" marked by strings of sonic fabric flags beneath an overhang near the Taos Center for the Arts. That evening, hundreds of passers-by stopped to listen and discuss the sonic fabric of Taos.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Salon at Justice Snow's, April 6, 2014

I'll be performing a new piece for tape loops and radionic garment (OM-edition sonic fabric skirt with black velvet silence ruffle) at the Salon at Justice Snow's in Aspen, Colorado on April 6.

Also pleased to be able to offer the OM ruffle skirt by custom order.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


Introducing OM-edition sonic fabric neckties for Father's Day 2013! This edition of fabric is recorded with a single note: the OM tone (136.1 Hz). This is often the tone that Tibetan Buddhist monks chant the mantra OM to, and also the tone to which the Javanese gamalan is often tuned. These (ethically-produced, hand-made in nyc) ties are available for the sale price of $100 thru June 2013. Please visit the SHOP page for details. 

Friday, February 08, 2013

solo exhibition in nyc jan 10 - feb 16

Philosoprops & Ontological Apparatus from the Center for the Obvious & (Im)Permacultural Research on exhibit at Klemens Gasser and Tanja Grunert Gallery, 542 W19th St, NYC from January 10 until february 16, 2013. 

Tell-Tail Thangas (After Sandy) are a set of 2 sailboat sails (21' x 10' and 17' x 5') made of sonic fabric, a textile woven from cassette tape. The recordings contained in this edition of fabric include sound-samples collected on and under the streets of New York City during the 5 years immediately following 9/11/2001. The "Between Stations" album is available for free download.  Tell-Tail Thangas (After Sandy) were created in December of 2012 especially for the cathedral-like lower gallery at Gasser-Grunert, which was entirely submerged during Hurricane Sandy. The sails, pointing to the heavens, are symbols of resurrection, resilience, reverence, and cooperation with nature.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

slow numbers at show room in nyc

a 24' scroll made of sonic fabric is now on view as part of SLOW NUMBERS at SHOW ROOM, 170 suffolk street on the lower east side of manhattan until july 22.

very nice write-up in the "goings-on about town" section of the new yorker magazine:

"The standout is Alyce Santoro’s ominous-looking black scroll, woven from audiotape; stroke it with the provided device and it emits a white-noise whisper.'