By Joe Ferguson
George Nelson, in How to See: A Guide to Understanding our Man-Made Environment, advanced the notion that the ability to decode visual messages was a skill. “Seeing,” he wrote, “is not a God-given talent, but a discipline.” He then famously referred to those who could not see, as visually illiterate.
Vision, of course, is only one way in which we perceive our environment--hearing is another. If we can have trouble translating our visual world, it seems to reason we may have difficulty understanding our aural environment. We are inundated by sound, so much so, that other than music, we may take it for granted. If we heard more--in other words, considered the various sounds around us--maybe we could develop an aural literacy. With that skill, composed sound--more than just music--could be understood and contextualized just like visual art.
Luca Forcucci is a sound/media artist, writer, and scholar. His work explores the convergence of dance, digital performance, poetry, architecture, and neuroscience. His latest work, Bodyscape, which recently premiered at The Lab in San Francisco, is an artwork that challenges the viewer/listener in ways that may lead to deeper perceptual understanding. He took time to answer some questions about his work and latest performance.
Your works incorporate dance, digital performance, poetry, architecture, and neuroscience. How would you describe your artistic practice?
My practice is mainly undisciplined--sound perception is at the core of my work. In my latest performance, Bodyscape, dance interacts with sound generated by biological data and micro-amplified sonic events where a dancer’s body becomes the sonic source for the composition. Digital performance is the immersive environment where an immaterial sonic architecture is created.
How do sound and space affect perception and consciousness? How does, or can, art impact our understanding of perception and consciousness?
Perception of space by sound is very different than sight. One has to close the eyes to perceive the dynamic relationships of sound and space. Then, perception relates to memory, which is unique for each individual. I think there is no consciousness without memory. The artistic research I conduct explores the triggering of such memory as a work of art totally immaterial, but it equally pays attention to free and higher functions. The notion of affect is essential in the exploration of perception and consciousness through the work of art as an experience, and furthermore by the embodiment of sound, space, and the artwork.
Your latest work, Bodyscape, incorporated data generated by a dancer’s touch, movement, spatial interaction, and biofeedback, using microphones and electronic sensors. Tell us about that.
The piece is a work in progress that changed during its five-day installation at The Lab gallery in San Francisco, where it was performed along with musician Cheryl Leonard and dancer Crystal Sepulveda. The main idea was to focus on the body of a dancer as the main sonic source. The information was taken via biosensors and microphones, which recorded movements and events generated by the body. In this ecosystem--where the dancer produces mainly inaudible sounds--we as composer and musicians amplified and sent them back to the performance space, where the dancer interacted with them as biofeedback. A member of the audience mentioned at some point that it was difficult to know who was producing what. In a sense that was an accomplishment, because I didn’t want to have a sound responding to a precise event, but instead an organized chaos in which we tried to discover the rules.
Bodyscape was a multi-sensorial experience. What do you hope a viewer can take away from such a performance?
The idea was to define an ecosystem between the data, the sound, the performance space, the performers, and the audience. I hope it became an immersive environment, an immaterial architecture in which the viewer/listener was included.
What are you working on now, and what can we look forward to in the future?
I am traveling to Brazil where I will present compositions with field recordings from the Amazon rainforest and the fog horns from San Francisco--the latter is released on the Belgian label Subrosa. Then I will move to South Africa to record soundscapes with biologist/composer Francisco Lopez and artist James Webb, and continue another series of concerts there.
Click here to see a video excerpt of Bodyscape.
Bodyscape was performed on August 4th at The Lab, and was coordinated by swissnex San Francisco.