I began my journey as an artist as a painter, photographer, and publisher of ephemeral media. But lately I’ve been working more with sound and making that a bigger part of my art practice. With that, I present this sound-centric artist statement. I fully intend to continue my previous work, but now in support of my work in audio as a sound artist.
In my current art practice, I find it very helpful to approach the work as an investigation of ideas. Some artists approach their work from a different perspective, or prefer to do a serious research phase prior to starting the work. It may sound like or actually be a cliche of sorts to include the investigation of an idea in the work itself-to make investigation a key part of the creation process itself rather than something used to lay the foundation for a work…so be it.
What this means is that when it comes to sound art, I am doing research at the same time that the art is happening-my exploration of ideas, topics, attitudes, and approaches carries a discovery process similar to the viewer’s own discovery of the work. You could say that we are taking the journey together to learn things, but the only thing separating us is the timing of that journey.
If we took it together at the same point of time and space, you’d have to watch me create the work rather than experience it as a finished whole. But we take the same trip. I’m the person who went first, making all the wrong turns, missing the landmarks, doubling back, finding the right way again. My work spares you all of that in the interest of having the shared experience.
Joe Wallace Artist Statement:
Challenges To Be Found In The World Of Sound
Sound art can be a great deal like painting, with vibrating air molecules used instead of pigment. Painting and sound art part ways where the biggest challenge lies for those who work in sound. The raw material of the painter comes in tubes, gallon buckets, and bottles. But most of us don’t encounter these raw materials in everyday life unless we mean to.
The sound artist has the added challenge of taking something experienced on a daily basis and trying to alter it in such a way that it becomes as unique as a painting. Sound is everywhere. It is not unique in and of itself-it must be manipulated, recontextualized, altered, represented and re-presented…somehow taking this source material, these vibrations that are so familiar to anyone with the capacity to hear or feel them and giving them new life.
My earliest memories include playing vinyl records or having them played for me. When the needle dropped on a 45 rpm seven-inch single of Thank God I’m A Country Boy by John Denver, I didn’t really like the song that much, but hearing that first record was a step into a larger world.
What I didn’t understand at that age was that I wasn’t just hearing music-I was also receiving symbols, signifiers, and sonic clues that most of us take for granted. What exactly is the sound of a live recording? What makes it different than a studio recording with no audience? Even in my earliest memories as a three or four year old, I remember somehow understanding that John Denver was supposed to be singing in front of a live audience-the noises on that record told me so.
That early formative experience informs a great deal of my work in sound. A great deal of my work involves appropriating material from vinyl records and manipulating it. William S. Burroughs pioneered some of this work in his tape cut-ups and film experimentation with Antony Balch, but later John Oswald, Negativland, various members of The Church Of The Subgenius, and too many others to name would also push this sort of appropriation and manipulation forward.
My work is not just about generating noise, making audible collages, or creating “sound murals”. It’s also about cultural memes, outmoded ways of thinking, social problems, war, strife, sexuality, and similar issues as they relate or become related to generated/recorded sound.
Sound art is not music, though it may incorporate musical elements. Sound art is not filmmaking, though the artist may use film to reinforce the work. Sound art is not poetry, it is not storytelling, etc…all of these elements find their way into the process sooner or later. But these raw materials are not the same for the sound artist as the painter with her supplies. That tube of red paint remains hidden away until the painter chooses to manipulate it.
Compare that to the dilemma of the sound artist, who must take what we already live and work in-the sonic environment-and find a way to relate to the ordinary, the everyday, the mundane in this audible world and push it into another type of experience.