Sound on my radar

Since being given the broad theme of “Sound” for our collaborative project, I’ve noticed so many examples of exhibitions, art and projects that are related or based in sound/s.

Here are a few of them that I’ve visited or that have caught my eye or ear:

  • Sounds Like Her, a wonderful exhibition at New Art Exchange, Nottingham
  • Season of Sound at the British Library, celebrating their sound archive, includes an exhibition, 140 Years of Recorded Sound (must try and visit)
  • Let’s Play Vinyl, a photographic exhibition of UK sound systems and their operators. These are fantastic portraits which I happened to see while visiting another exhibition at The Attenborough Centre, Leicester. It’s touring to Huddersfield next year
  • Me and My Whale: a work in progress that sounds lovely – who doesn’t enjoy whale song? Coming to Leeds on 2nd Dec
  • The res-on-nant sound and light installation by Mischa Kuball at the Jewish Museum Berlin looks incredible, filling a void with projected light and music.

((Re)Sound) is the title of our group curated show, it will open at Leeds Arts University Studio Gallery, Blenheim Walk on 7 Dec 5-7pm. More info to follow soon.


Sounds Like Her

Sounds Like Her leaflet

Excellent curator and artists talk as part of Sounds Like Her exhibition at New Art Exchange, Nottingham (18.11.17).



From the website, I think this is a good description, it’s a fantastic exhibition:

Sounds Like Her is a groundbreaking exhibition, set to broaden existing approaches to sound art, and to contest Eurocentric and patriarchal frameworks that have informed sound art practice and, arguably continue to dominate the scene today.

The talk yesterday was chaired by the exhibition’s curator Christine Eyene, following on from another exhibition and as part of her interest, and research into contemporary African art.
“In Cameroon, music and art was a way for us to assert our identity”.

Eyene became intrigued by the similarities between the electronic music she was listening to and Cameroonian music, and part of the exhibition gives a bit of a background story.

Interesting, if not surprising, to hear from artists Cathy Lane, Linda O’Keefe and Ain Bailey, about the under-representation of women in sound art and experimental music. Each of these women came to their field by a circuitous route, and suspect this is the case for many women in this area. For men, they are more likely to be supported to learn about music technology and then to study it further. So they are practicing straight from university.

Whereas women have picked up the skills via different routes, such as being in a band, adult education, other art forms. So by the time they have built their practice they might be older. “Slow burners”!

Sexism within the field. A woman might be included in a festival or conference programme, but is unlikely to be invited back. A series of different women will be invited in subsequent years, but only once. This despite the fact that many men are invited to present at events year after year.

O’Keefe set up the Women In Sound event herself in response.

Now developed into Women In Sound Women On Sound website:

We heard excerpts of full pieces from all the artists, which was wonderful. The importance of listening had been stressed, so this encouraged us to do this.

  • Cathy Lane – Hidden Lives (1999)
  • Linda O’Keefe – May’s Song (part of a larger project) (2007)
  • Ain Bailey – Furtive Furtive Suspicious (from the Wellcome archive) (2016).

Noteable that all these pieces used voice, sometime’s the artist’s own voice. This is perhaps more common for women sound artists, observed Lane.

While women might be slow burners in this field, they are catching up. Lane pointed out that on courses at Creative Research into Sound Art Practice, University of the Arts London of which she is co-director, at BA level the vast majority of students are men, at MA it’s about 50:50, but at PhD the majority are women, with only women applying this year.

None of these artists were keen on the use of headphones: a lot of use of headphones is for the convenience of the curator. It should be an immersive, whole body experience.

Although caretakers will always turn the volume down!


Sounds Like Her (2017) [Exhibition]. New Art Exchange, Nottingham, 14 October 2017 – 13 January 2018.

“There’s nothing like a low tech interaction”

What a huge treat and privilege to learn from US curator Ileen Gallagher‘s vast experience in our session on 2 Nov, followed by a lecture to a wider audience.

My notes from her workshop to our course group are below, this is a long post as I wanted to capture the mini handbook that Ileen gave us, as well as a bit of background.

ExhibitionismYou may not know her name because most of her work is in the US, and, as she says, “I don’t think of curators as the stars. It’s about the work.” But notably, she worked with the Rolling Stones to curate Exhibitionism (2016) at the Saatchi Gallery, an exhibition not just about their history, but about the band’s effects on culture.


I was also struck with Gallagher’s extensive use of the first person in interpretation, so in Exhibitionism you hear / read the voices of the Stones and people who knew them. This gives the audience an impression of getting special insights, information that they wouldn’t get elsewhere, and is a great way to connect. Art exhibitions (rather than pop culture) tend to be third person, which can act as an intermediary, distancing the audience from the exhibits. It’s like “the voice of god” imparting expert knowledge!

HarleyAlso that she was a fan of the low tech interaction, to engage an audience, such as temporary tattoos at the Harley exhibition, which were hugely popular, especially amongst tattooed bikers!

The exhibition, unlike the cinema or theatre, is a place for people to connect and discuss. Hi tech gadgets and digital can get in the way of that, if not designed carefully. Although not a fan of headsets, Gallagher acknowledged their huge popularity.

Ileen was good enough to give us some down to earth advice about our collaborative project, reminding us to think of the audience and what is unique about our exhibition.

I’ll definitely look out for her work in future.


Gallagher started in arts museums, now popular culture.
Now freelance.

Harley11st client Harley Davidson. Travelling exhibition to celebrate 100 year anniversary, 2003. Went to raceways, festivals. Used mostly off the shelf tents (marquees) that could be hired everywhere.

Four thematic areas.

“There’s nothing like a low tech interaction” in an exhibition
Harley now have a museum.

Aesthetic experience because Harley prides themselves on this, as well as bikes.

Worked with Disney family on a museum about Walt Disney, the man, in San Francisco. Imp that voice of exhibition was directly from Walt or people who worked with him. No intermediary voice, “voice of god” telling you things.

Exhibitionism entranceExhibitionism about the history of the Rolling Stones.
Aimed to show their impact on popular culture e.g. film, fashion. They e always been involved in the zeitgeist of the arts.

Exhibition organised thematically.
Exhibitionism outfits scarvesMannequins had rock & roll poses, developed for rock and roll hall of fame. Steven Jones, the milliner, made head pieces for the mannequins, faces printed on fabric. Evocative of David Bailey album cover photo with scarves.

Challenge where nothing 3-dimensional to show eg Monterey Pop exhibition. Large screens and panels, furnishings etc to compensate.

What makes a good exhibition?
  • Recreation of Rolling Stones first flat at Edith Grove
    Recreation of Rolling Stones first flat at Edith Grove

    Physically, emotionally and /or intellectually engaging, preferably all 3. Plus visually appealing.

  • Adds to scholarship, innovative, newinsight, presents something new.
  • Creates and maximises 3D environment
  • Creates interaction between people, real objects, phenomena and ideas. People are looking at it from all different angles, perspectives. Can talk to each other about it (unlike cinema)

As curator, how do you facilitate this?

  • Good exhibition design and content development
  • Contact with real objects
  • Beginning, middle and end.
  • Sense of drama, high and low moments
  • Entertaining
  • Content is respected
  • Ideas are supported by objects and objects by ideas.
  • Objects without context have no meaning
Fundamental understanding of audiences

Exhibitionism2Who is your audience?

What do they bring to the exhibition and why do they come?


A knowledge of different learning styles.

Know your subject and organise the content


Core attributes and values

What do you want to be the takeaway from the exhibition? What is the one (or more) facts / experiences that you want them to remember


Content organisation. Only really two ways of organising content: thematic or chronological.

Chapters or acts. Divide up subject matter

Who is the voice of the exhibition? If possible, first person. Engages audience, makes them feel they are getting special insights.

Exhibition design phases

1. Concept

  • Research and content immersion
  • Project goals: scholarship, new insights, new point of view?
  • Practical things, parameters: size, budget
  • Title – nail down asap

2. Schematic

  • Content organisation and space allocation
  • Focal objects and big ideas
  • Traffic pattern and flow
  • Space plan and circulation
  • Quantify audio visual and interactive
  • Assess conservation and security requirements
  • Connect the content to the design strategies
    “The best exhibitits truly integrate content and design”

    3. Design development

  • Complete object lists and all objects placed
  • Test big ideas and prototypes
  • Audio visual rough cuts. 2 minute rule for standing and watching something.
  • Implement conservation and security
  • Colour and material selection
  • Audio visual hardware selection. Don’t just plonk a monitor on a wall.

4. Construction documentation

5. Construction fabrication

Mount making

Build audio visual, interactive

6. Installation

Sequencing is key

7. Evaluation and assessment

What modifications can be made to enhance the experience?

Exhibitionism outfits

References and links

Exhibitionism (2016) [Exhibition]. Saatchi Gallery, London. 3 April – 4 September 2016.

Harley Davidson Museum , Milwaukee

ISG Productions

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (pictured below), Cleveland Ohio