Running With Concepts: The Sonic Edition

Feb 23 - 24, 2013


Marc Couroux (composer, Associate Professor, Time-Based Art, York University), Marla Hlady (artist, lecturer at UTSC) and Brandon LaBelle (Berlin-based artist, writer, professor at Bergen National Academy of the Arts, Norway).

Moderated by Steph Berntson (PhD candidate, Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies, UofT). Hosted by Christof Migone (artist, lecturer, Director/Curator Blackwood Gallery).

*Part-workshop, part-conference, part-crit session, part-masterclass, part pechakucha (but longer), part ignite (but longer still).


This hybrid event is part-workshop, part-conference, part-crit session, part-master class, part pechakucha (but longer). The event is founded on the following questions: How do ideas take form? How does one embark on the process of extracting, editing and distilling an idea into a presentable format? These types of questions are found in all disciplines. In the second edition of this annual event, we will focus attention on sound, not only on its own but also in conversation with image, text, performance. Silence is also welcome. And so are other projects from disparate ­fields, the hybridity of the event is integrated in all its facets—inclusionary rather than exclusionary.

The conference is connected to the exhibition VOLUME: HEAR HERE held concurrently at the Blackwood Gallery (UTM) and the Justina M. Barnicke (UofT) galleries from January 16 to March 10, 2013.


FEE: $40 for both days
Free for presenters and free to current U of T students
(Includes lunch and transport from downtown Toronto)

To register please email:

RUNNING WITH CONCEPTS: THE SONIC EDITION will take place on Saturday February 23 & Sunday February 24 (10 to 6pm) at the Blackwood Gallery, Kaneff Centre (UTM).



10:00 - 11:00: Marla Hlady
11:00 - 11:30: Duncan MacDonald
11:30 - 12:00: BREAK
12:00 - 12:30: Sandra Volny
12:30 - 01:00: Annie Martin
01:00 - 02:00: LUNCH
02:00 - 02:30: Ido Govrin
02:30 - 03:00: Mitchell Akiyama
03:00 - 03:30: Henry Adam Svec
03:30 - 04:00: BREAK
04:00 - 05:00: Marc Couroux

*On Saturday only, from 5 - 6PM, there will be FREE performance by artists Vikas Kohli and Erin Sexton at the Blackwood Galleries. All are welcome! For more info, click here.


10:00 - 10:30: Matt Griffin
10:30 - 11:00: Tyler Kinnear, Mark Nazemi & Maryam Mobini
11:00 - 11:30: Aynsley Moorhouse
11:30 - 12:00: BREAK
12:00 - 12:30: Atanas Bozdarov
12:30 - 01:00: Erin Gee
01:00 - 02:00: LUNCH
02:00 - 02:30: Heather Nicol
02:30 - 03:00: Dipna Horra
03:00 - 03:30: BREAK
03:30 - 04:30: Brandon LaBelle
04:30 - 05:00: Asounder
05:00 - 06:00: FINAL REMARKS

*The Justina M. Barnicke Gallery, which is part of the exhibition VOLUME: HEAR HERE, will be open until 7:30PM.

About the Mentors

Towards Indisposition

In a world where rapacious capital is endowed with seemingly unlimited capacities to metabolize the resistant into more precise, pervasive modes of abduction, a concerted focus on sound and its relationship to the political and the social provides a front according to which action can be envisioned. Given the role sound plays in stealthily sustaining the mechanisms of control essential to a post-disciplinary society—through the embedding of earworms afflicted by sonic brands, and the quantum modulation of mood effected by background sound (among others)—a preliminary analysis of the manners by which capital hijacks aural modalities constitutes a first step in the elaboration of a praxis. How might cognitive and affective dissonances regain their traumatic, antagonistic capacities? By which contemporary modes is an individual disposed to pre-emptive, normalized predation and by which consequent methods might an active positioning against clarified targets take root? While tracing the genealogy of one work, I hope to show how mechanisms of capture and escape operate concurrently within a hallucinatory eternal present and might be productively seized upon to reactivate embodied historical continuities, by forging singularities that stick in the craw and require delayed and protracted digestion.

The work of intermedia artist Marc Couroux is f­irmly rooted in experiences developed while active as a contemporary music pianist. His early works were centered around a reformatting of the audience-performer dialectic, challenging the orthodoxies of transmission and reception within the sociopolitical con­fines of the public event. Couroux founded and directed Ensemble KORE (1997 2010) in Montréal with composer Michael Oesterle in order to recreate a living relationship between the composer and the listener. He has lectured on music and video art at the Dartington College of Arts (UK), Princeton University, the State University of New York at Stony Brook, the Eastman School of Music, the University of York (England), the Royal Conservatory (The Hague), McGill University and Concordia University. Couroux is presently Associate Professor in the Department of Visual Arts at York University in Toronto.


Sculptural Sound

Alvin Lucier once said "If a room can intrude its personality on whatever sounds occur in that room, then any other size environment can do the same thing." Implicit in this statement is the body, present in relation to the space to hear, to embody the sounding experience. Sugar shakers as recording machines, record-sized suitcases being performed collectively in a bus being driven a specific route, a floor-object that rotates while sounding the bass of the subterranean basement of the building it's located in—all of these objects-as-sounding-spaces look to the embodied experience complicated by the comprehension of the organizing concept. Sound is an elusive, ephemeral material. This presentation will look at sound sculpturally, shaped through a functional sensibility that looks to technology as a means of sounding but equally as a means of shaping, structuring, containing and composing.

Marla Hlady draws, makes sculpture, works with sites and sounds and sometimes makes video. Hlady's kinetic sculptures and sound pieces often consist of common objects (such as teapots, cocktail mixers, jars) that are expanded and animated to reveal unexpected sonic and poetic properties often using a system-based approach to composition. She completed her BFA at the University of Victoria, and her MFA at York University. She currently lectures at the University of Toronto. She has shown widely in solo and group shows; and has mounted site works in such places as the ­fjords of Norway, a grain silo, an apartment window, a tour bus, the Hudson's Bay department store display window, an empty shell of a building, a roof top. Marla Hlady lives and works in Toronto and is represented by Jessica Bradley Gallery.


Shared Space

Sound supports a dynamic relationality between self and surrounding, imparting generative instances of contact and belonging, along with interruption and negotiation. From echoes passing across a given space to vibrations underfoot, disturbances from the neighbour to recollections of disappeared voices, this intense relationality can be appreciated as exceeding the sightlines of the architectural imagination, and the limits of the single body, to support alternative notions of shared space – of meeting the other. Following theories of distributed agency (what Jane Bennett terms "vibrant matter") and disagreement, I'm interested to chart out this "acoustics of sharing" by way of over-hearing. At stake is a concern for the potentiality of sound to foster collectivity in the (un)making, and how this may suggest new modalities of "being public

Brandon LaBelle is an artist, writer and theorist. His works explore questions of social life, using sound, performance, text and sited constructions. He is the author of Diary of an Imaginary Egyptian (Errant Bodies, 2012), Acoustic Territories: Sound Culture and Everyday Life (Continuum, 2010), and Background Noise: Perspectives on Sound Art (Continuum, 2006). As publisher of Errant Bodies Press, he has co-edited the anthologies Site of Sound: Of Architecture and the Ear Volumes 1 & 2 (1999,2011), Writing Aloud: The Sonics of Language (2001), Surface Tension: Problematics of Site (2003) and Radio Territories (2007). He lives in Berlin and is currently Professor at the Bergen Academy of Art and Design, Norway.


Steph Berntson makes noise. As a writer, she has penned for FLASHQUIZ, the CBC, DaPoPo, SurfCamp, and Nightwood Theatre. Steph has howled as an urchin for the Canadian Opera Company; recorded the theme song for the 1988 Calgary Olympics; and warbled in Life with Mikey (Phoebe Films). She has twice toured co-written original commissioned plays to Berlin. Steph has slammed poetry for the CBC, NCRA, and the National Wordlympics. As a designer, she has built soundscapes for The Washing Machine (Next Stage) The Proust Project (Canstage: Ideas and Creation), and Arm's Length (Summerworks). She is pursuing her doctorate, researching unusual vocal performance in public/digital space. Recent academic gigs: five research months in Singapore; a public sound project in Tokyo; and a research and recording trip to Fylkingen, the Stroget, and the Paris Arcades.


Christof Migone is the Director/Curator of the Blackwood Gallery and a Lecturer in the Department of Visual Studies at the University of Toronto Mississauga. He performs, publishes, exhibits and presents internationally. His recent projects include performances of Hit Parade at the Whitney Museum (New York), the 7a11d International Festival of Performance Art (Toronto), Send+Receive (Winnipeg), Trama Festival (Porto); a silent sound bookwork, The Rise and Fall of the Sounds and Silences From Mars (Parasitic Ventures Press); and a book on sound art, Sonic Somatic: Performances of the Unsound Body (Errant Bodies Press).

Selected Presenters

The following presentations were selected from proposals submitted in early December.

(Rat-)Running Through Concepts

Rat running, or cut-through driving, is using secondary roads or residential side streets instead of the intended main roads in urban or suburban areas. (Wikipedia)

Contemporary life is characterized by an overwhelming plethora of random, predatory, auditory hails, which variously impel, impede, modulate and condition an individual's passage through both public and private (commercial/corporate) spaces, preventing the latter from building a coherent spatial and temporal narrative, and establishing positions from which to act (instead of being reduced to affective dis-position alone).

The model of rat-running illustrates our concept-building process. Rats live in the margins of structures—institutions, knowledge-edifices, hierarchies, standard forms. The rat-runners of Asounder live off conceptual detritus, inconvenient contradictions and leakages, the details of everyday material life which exceed neatly-bounded concept-space. They burrow into the marginalia and minutiae which populate the background, where control structures stealthily operate, outside the range of conscious perception.

The presentation will consist of a collective debriefing through anamnesis (the involuntary recall of semiotic-sensual complexes) by replaying aural signals, visual cues, perseverating catchphrases, synaesthetic combines, and scavenged fragments, to provide an accounting of how longer-term narratives, where history can once again take hold, might become radically, differentially embodied. We hope to thereby donate methods by which an individual can run through (denoting both the rehearsing of a speculative program in an unstable context, as well as the exploitation of the multiple porosities of any concept-space) the institutions which frame daily life, drawing out hidden continuities and subjectivities resistant to the abductive regime of eternal presentism.

Asounder was founded in 2012 in order to develop tactical sonic operations to radicalize everyday life within the context of rigorous analyses of the modes by which the contemporary subject is effectively abducted by predatory media. As such, Asounder is charged with the patient decommissioning of the semiotic and perceptual control structures of late capitalism which dissimulate the potentials of political and social mobilization.

In 2013, Asounder will begin actualizing interventions under the collective title of Occupy the Background!, a collection of synchronously enacted techniques for spatially circulating sonic materials over an extended period with the intent of defunctionalizing auditory hails—brands, hooks, memes—establishing positions from which to act (instead of being reduced to affective dis-position alone). Next April, in conjunction with the free'scool and Trinity Square Video, Asounder will lead a week-long workshop series in downtown Toronto—(Un)Sound Occupation—bringing together activists and artists investigating the manifold relationships between sound and political action in a format predicated on exchange and consolidation of praxis.

Given Asounder's emphasis on a multiplicity of divergent approaches towards sonic radicalization, its members are dedicated to specific areas of investigation deemed of central importance: modes of resistant, defensive listening; the politics of frequency (sonic niching); the occupation of the subliminal background; centripetal (attractive) and centrifugal (dispersive) sound; techniques of mass affective mobilization (crowds and power); the effects of hyperstitional and occult practices on the sonic Real; control structures and formal shibboleths in audio-visual mass media...

Asounder includes Lendl Barcelos, Victor Cirone, Ana Cristina Cornejo, Marc Couroux, Marcelino DaCosta, Matthew Fava, Miles Forrester, Katrina Burch Joosten, Jennifer MacDonald, Didier Morelli and Brock Wreford.


The Object of Permanence: 2000 Years of Frozen Sound

In his sixteenth-century epic, Gargantua and Pantagruel, Rabelais describes one of his eponymous character’s passage across the Frozen Sea, a voyage in which Pantagruel discovers an island strewn with objects resembling plums. It turns out that these objects are sounds, congealed and preserved by the freezing temperatures which, as they thaw, “replay” the sounds of a battle since past. Taking Rabelais’ story as its central metaphor, my presentation explores the cultural history of recording technology and examines our pervasive and longstanding desire to capture sound. Rabelais’ conception of sonic storage is surprisingly similar to the ways in which we intuit or understand how recording technology works. I argue, however, that sound recordings, rather than being indexical or metaphysical traces of an original event—frozen sounds, as it were—in fact always produce new sonic occurrences.

These are the theoretical underpinnings of a work in progress entitled Frozen, a project that reinterprets Rabelais’ story, transposing it into a contemporary, electronic context by presenting a series of small wooden vessels that freeze and replay sounds. Inside each vessel an Arduino processor connects an ambient temperature sensor to a speaker. Stored in the gallery at a temperature close to freezing (in a chest freezer, for example), the boxes are silent until they warm up. As they “thaw” the sounds—drawn from famous Hollywood battle scenes—increase in speed and pitch, playing back at their original rate once at room temperature. Frozen asks visitors to consider their assumptions about what sound recordings contain and the ways in which they are consumed.

Mitchell Akiyama is a Toronto based composer, artist, and scholar. He has released several records on labels such as Raster-Noton, Sub Rosa, and Type. He has scored and contributed music to many films and dance performances and has received commissions from, among others, the Akousma Festival and the Nouvel Orchestre D’aujourd’hui and has performed across Europe, Japan, Australia, and North America.

Akiyama’s artwork questions received knowledge about the senses and perception. Grounded in his research on technological mediation and storage, his installations and multimedia work investigate the relationship between historical narrative and sensory experience. His recent work was featured in the solo exhibition, Ur-sound, or, the noise no writing can store, at Gendai Gallery in Toronto. He has participated in group exhibitions and media arts festivals including the Vienna Museum of Modern Art, Howard House Gallery in Seattle, Le Centre de Culture Val David, and the Signal and Noise festival in Vancouver.

Currently Akiyama is pursuing a PhD at McGill University in Communications. His dissertation examines “field recording” across a variety of disciplines, from biology to folklore to sound art. He has published on a variety of subjects, from sound art to urban ecology in journals and magazines including, the Canadian Journal of Communications, Canadian Art Review (RACAR), Offscreen, Locus Suspectus, and Matrix Magazine.



From games to science to music. This presentation will examine how I began creating a series of musical scores by developing various procedures to extract and assign musical notes from non-musical sources. This will include a musical composition created by using the moves made during a celebrated chess game; and the most recent work, a collaboration with a molecular scientist and my brother, Johny Bozdarov, in which we use my DNA to compose a “mating call.”

Atanas Bozdarov is an interdisciplinary artist and designer whose work focuses on deconstructing the ways in which we read and interpret systems and structures. From quoting fragments of architectural blueprints or game sequences, to generating musical motifs from non-musical sources, he constructs incomplete and surprising structures in order to question our understanding of the working systems around us. His music works have been exhibited in galleries across North America, including the Athens Institute for Contemporary Art, and the AGYU. Bozdarov holds a B.A. from the University of Toronto and Sheridan College, and currently lives and works between Toronto and Brampton.

Johny Bozdarov is a Molecular and Stem-Cell Scientist currently conducting research at the University of Toronto. He has two research publications in peer-reviewed journals and is working on his third authorship. At a young age, Bozdarov developed an interest in regenerative medicine and while in academia he became an expert in many molecular techniques. Being naturally creative and curious of the arts, he jumped at the opportunity to use his molecular skills to collaborate with his brother, Atanas, on an art project. Bozdarov holds a B.Sc. from Wilfrid Laurier University and a M.Sc. from The University of Waterloo and currently resides in Toronto.  


Singing in the Brain: Swarming Emotional Pianos Project

Erin Gee’s earliest discussions with neurophysiologist Vaughan Macefield included the idea of performance art driven by pure emotion. Now in collaboration with Macefield, Gee is creating a fleet of mobile robots that she likens to a distributed, surround sound piano. This piano’s keys are controlled via sensors on live human performers to perform unique musical composition based on their emotion. The process begins with inserting fine microelectrode needles into a peripheral nerve of a performer, allowing software systems to eavesdrop on the subject’s emotions by recording the nerve activity of a single neuron. Actors – chosen as subjects for their expert abilities to manifest emotion on demand – will be attached to various sensors that monitor their bodies’ reactions to emotion. On stage, they will perform an emotional score that will require them to summon a broad range of feelings. To build a more accurate emotional map, blood flow, heart rate, sweat release and respiration are also recorded.

These signals are fed into Gee's custom-made software that sends wireless messages to the robotic instruments, activating a chorus of chimes and bells. Part data sonification, part musical composition, part robotic dance, part experimental theater, this project challenges traditional conventions of emotional performance by calling upon the actors not to portray or demonstrate characters or plots, but simply feel emotions in order to activate robotic music.
In her presentation Gee will demonstrate the technical “making of” the project, which explains the scientific research behind emotions, neural activity, and sound relative to emotion.

Erin Gee is a sound and media artist from Saskatchewan who centralizes on digital culture through human voices in electronic bodies. Her work in interactive installation, video, and performance has been presented by such venues as Leonard and Bina Ellen Gallery (Montreal, 2012), Tin Sheds Gallery (Sydney, 2012), TACTIC, Cork, Ireland (2011), and Arcade Gallery, Chicago (2010). In 2009 she was awarded an honorable mention in the Bourges International Electroacoustic competition, and since has been invited to create work for the New Adventures in Sound Art “Deep Wireless Festival” (Toronto, 2011) and the Powerhouse Museum (Sydney, Australia 2011), where she incorporated media artist Stelarc’s work Thinking Head into her robotic opera Orpheux Larynx. Her latest projects include ANIM.OS, a generative, networked choir of computers that sing about architecture, and Swarming Emotional Pianos, a collaboration with neurophysiologist Vaughan Macefield to create a fleet of mobile musical robots controlled via human emotion. Swarming Emotional Pianos will be premiered by Montreal-based chamber music organization Innovations en Concert in 2013/2014. In addition to this work, Gee has published in the journal of the Canadian Electroacoustic Community, eContact!, and has an upcoming article in Leonardo Music in 2013. Gee lives and works in Montreal, Canada where she is currently completing an MFA in Visual Arts at Concordia University.


"Sound: A Concept"; A Theory Performance

"Sound: A Concept" is a theory performance; it incorporates an aural presentation about the concept of "concept", a sound performance, and a rhetorical visual practice of "Ekphrasis". In ekphrasis, shortly, one tries to add an additional dimension of understanding to an existing work of art via expression in a different medium.

During the theory performance, a sound-world is being unfolded through the projection of a text about sound in the performance space and playing back a recording through the speakers. At the same time, I am talking, outlining, addressing, and conceptualizing about the following question: "What is a concept?" My fundamental argument is that a concept (as opposed, in this context, to a "term") is a result of a factual discourse in public, one that is inherently on a constant evolution.

Thus, through the performative act, sound as a concept is being conceptualized, sound becomes a concept and theory becomes a concrete performance.

Ido Govrin (b. 1976 Jerusalem, Israel/Palestine) is an artist, composer, curator and a writer.
His current body of work revolves around the diverse and cryptic relationship between language and sound. Apart from his ongoing artistic practice, he co-curated five editions of the Laptopia art exhibition between 2005-2011, curated the group exhibition, Mother, Ravens! on 2012, was the director of the "Music Nova" ensemble (Tel-Aviv) between 2008-2012, and runs the experimental record label, "Interval Recordings", since 2005. Ido Govrin holds a B.A in philosophy from the Tel-Aviv University and currently attending the Master of Visual Studies program at the University of Toronto.


Under Living Skies

Under Living Skies is a multi-year, site-specific recording and performance project by Eric Powell and Matthew Griffin. This project continues the research into the aural character of Saskatchewan that began during the production period of the 2010 Land of Singing Skies project, and continued in the summer of 2011 with Saskatchewan Arts Board research funding. These projects are all based on 2 central questions: What are the sounds of Saskatchewan? How can the unique aural character of this province be presented to an audience? In this new site-specific project, the goal is to find a single location that creates a special relationship between space and sound. As opposed to bringing the sound of this location to a concert hall audience, we feel it is important to immerse the audience in the space itself, heightening the impact of their experience – both in the reception of the musical composition and in their experience of the world as a sounding object.

Matthew Griffin
Matthew is a musician and composer from Kitchener, Ontario, Canada now living and working in Toronto. He received his BFA from Simon Fraser University's School for the Contemporary Arts and his MFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He is the co-founder and Artistic Director of Electricity is Magic, an arts organization and alternative gallery space based in Toronto. His recent exhibitions include Latent Players, a two-person show with painter Jenal Dolson at Concord Gallery in Toronto; his solo exhibition Hearing Every Rhyme at Webb School Gallery in Knoxville, Tennessee; and his collaboration with Eric Powell and Campbell Foster as KATA-STROPH for Toronto's Nuit Blanche.  His upcoming solo album Shake Kids in the Sunset Hills will be released by Electricity is Magic in early 2013.


Sounds of Dislocation

This study intersects architecture, art and culture.  Ephemeral spaces are created with autobiographical narratives, field recordings, micro broadcasting, as well as hand made microphones and speakers.  Through these materials certain ideas are explored; hybridity, questions of displacement and reconstructions of transcultural identities.  Male and female voices are transposed, combined with collected sounds and transmitted through objects from domestic environments. By installing these objects in space it is possible to explore a place where the physical absence/presence of memory in sound proposes an elsewhere, an in between dwelling where we can feel at home.

At times these art works uncover unhomely domestic conditions as sites for sharing stories.  In these unsettled spaces, objects and instances may seem familiar yet foreign at the same time.  Unhomely space can also convey an instance of destabilization in the immigrant experience.  In this sound research, Western domestic space is seen as a cultural space that contributes to the construction of hybrid identity. Conceptual and physical responses to the dislocation of sound can act as experiential metaphors for migration. These examinations reflect aural environments that simultaneously present a sense of location and dislocation.  Sound then helps us to understand social space and a politics of place through hearing.  This paper examines uncanny doublings that occur as the past and present, domestic and political reverberate within the same space.

Dipna Horra is a Canadian media and visual artist, born in Kenya, of Indian ancestry.  She resides in Ottawa, Canada.  She holds a professional Bachelor of Architecture degree, with distinction, from Carleton University and a Master of Fine Arts in Visual Arts from the University of Ottawa, specialized in audio/sculpture installation.  Currently, she is a second year PhD student at the Azrieli School of Architecture and Urbanism in Ottawa.  Her current practice involves sculptural sound installations and recent works from the Dhunia series were shown at the Surrey Art Gallery in British Columbia (2011) and at A Space Gallery in Toronto (2012).  Her media art projects have been presented in Canada and internationally, in London, Berlin and Dubai.  Horra teaches in architecture and media art and has presented her research at various Canadian and International conferences, with a forthcoming publication from the proceedings of the “Spaces of (Dis)location” conference, held at the University of Glasgow in May, 2012.  Horra serves on the Board of Directors at Artengine in Ottawa, and has contributed as an arts reviewer for CBC “Radio One.”  As an art director, she produces independent performance events through interdisciplinary collaborations.



Duncan MacDonald’s art is multi-disciplinary, experimental, and often based on processes that visualize and/or audibilize conceptual sensibilities. As part of the “Running with Concepts: Sonic Edition” conference, Duncan aims to de-mystify various procedural tasks involved in the conceptualization, planning, design, fabrication and presentation of his sound-centric artworks. Presenting documentation of projects as well as actual artworks, the artist aims to draw attention to the noise of recordings (as Jacques Attali called it) and the experiential-specificity of observing art within a given context. 

A number of topics that will be touched upon, beyond the practical info concerning the making of several artworks include: prioritizing the audible (in art) as dissonant to the classical hierarchy of the senses; acoustic space and context-specificity; how architecture, history, time and place inform the received-meaning of sound art; the commodification of the corporeal sensorium; various forms of value associated with sound; active listening vs. hearing; how analogue and digital technologies shape perception; matter as information; the translation of matter as mediation.

Important to this discussion is the understanding that artists working with sound have a unique set of challenges – namely, to demarcate a clear continuum that ties together: intentionality, processes used in the shaping of tools and media, materiality, and a work’s reception within a social framework. Duncan’s goal, with much of his work, is to encourage audiences to re-think the very means by which they approach art, and in turn, question their assumptions concerning perception and subjectivity.

Duncan MacDonald is a contemporary artist and Associate Professor at Brock University. His artworks take form in diverse modes such as audio art, performance, video, installation and drawing – often exploring the corporeal sensorium and its commodification.

Duncan’s works have been exhibited, performed and recorded throughout Canada, the US, Europe and South America. He has exhibited and/or performed at: Cram International, Rodman Hall Art Centre, p|m Gallery, A Mano Libera Contemporary Art Gallery, Nuit Blanche (Paris) at Musee Cluny, Oakville Galleries, The Grimsby Public Art Gallery, the Andrew and Laura McCain Gallery, The Niagara Artists Centre, Mercer Union Centre for Contemporary Art, Centro Dragao do Mar de Arte é Cultura, Pekao Gallery, the Anna Leonowens Gallery, Gale Gates Gallery, the Tranz Tech Media Festival, amongst other venues.

He has received numerous awards and grants including an ARC Fedev Pre-Commercialization grant, several Humanities Research Institute (Brock University) grants, the Paris Studio residency, a research and production grant from the Canada Council for the Arts, several grants from the Ontario Arts Council, a co-production grant from the Centre Nationale de la Cinematographie (Paris, France), a nomination for a Sobey Art Award, and a residency at the Royal College of Art in London, England.


listening to the thing not there

My question in this presentation is something to the effect of: is “sanctity” audible? Followed by: what does it sound like? Who can invoke this quality? How? Does a performative insistence on the sanctity of a place or time color the sound and the listening possible within it? We will listen to some audio recordings, and then discuss the idea of producing or not producing a certain experience by pointing, or listening. These recordings are the basis for a sonic work that will point to this slippery, ineffable, “not thing”, sacredness.

Annie Martin is an interdisciplinary artist whose practice traverses audio, textile, drawing and installation. Recent projects include live audio networks for listening to interior and exterior spaces, and audio CD multiples. She has exhibited her work across Canada, and internationally. Annie is Associate Professor of art at the University of Lethbridge, Alberta.



Eight years ago my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Since then I have struggled to understand what such a diagnosis might mean for both he and his loved ones. My work has been dedicated to creating a framework that might begin to provide some insight. In 2010 my sound piece Sounds of Forgetting represented the culmination of my thoughts. Greatly inspired by the writing of Maurice Merleau-Ponty and the artwork of Janet Cardiff, the piece was a phenomenological exploration of my father’s mind in a simultaneous and circular state of remembering and forgetting. It represented a shift from the cognitive to the corporeal – and it reveled in this shift. It was a celebration of a different and more embodied way of experiencing the world without reference to the past or future.  It was, for me, a great comfort.

Recently my father experienced a drastic change following an infection and lengthy hospital stay. Both as an artist and, now, as a social-worker in training, I am being forced to adjust the interpretation of his life that Sounds of Forgetting sought to represent.  He has experienced major physical trauma, and where I once viewed his body’s relationship with the world as a sacred and reciprocal negotiation, I now see interruptions and manipulations. The recent extensions of his body in the forms of plastic tubes and rubber bags have disrupted the beautiful relationship I once saw between his body and the world around him. Where I once saw harmony I now see a site of invasion.

Through this piece I hope to achieve a synthesis between my past framework and a newly-provoked understanding of my father’s life.

Aynsley Moorhouse (MFA, MA) is a Toronto based independent artist currently pursuing her Master of Social Work at the University of Toronto. Her sound art installations have been showcased at a number of academic conferences and art festivals in Toronto, and her installation and accompanying artist statement, The Sounds of Forgetting were published in Stanford University’s online journal Occasion: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Humanities in May 2012. Her most recent piece, Walk With Me, was commissioned as part of the “Rhubarb Festival” at Buddies in Bad Times in February 2012, and a version of it was later commissioned by New Adventures in Sound Art and CBC Radio for their joint residency program, “Deep Wireless.” It was presented at the “Deep Wireless Festival” and broadcast on CBC Radio One’s “Living Out Loud” in May 2012. In March 2013 she will be presenting new work at an international conference at Fordham University in New York City.


Soundwalk Composition for Clinical Use

Soundwalk methodologies have also been manifest in a “virtual” context; that is, where the participant experiences the acoustic environment as a three-dimensional recording played through headphones (e.g., Janet Cardiff and Hildegard Westerkamp’s soundwalk compositions).  Yet, there remains consideration of the potentiality of soundwalking for analgesic purposes. With this in mind, Nazemi and Kinnear proposed a study to investigate the potential stress-reducing effects of patients listening to nature soundwalks using headphones in the waiting room of clinics. Since patients might experience anxiety and stress while waiting, can a change in the acoustic environment help minimize the level of discomfort? And furthermore, can such stress-reduction assist patients in communicating their symptoms more clearly to doctors?

During the Spring and Summer of 2012, Nazemi and Kinnear recorded several improvised soundwalks in and around Metro Vancouver; locations included Kitsilano Beach, Brother’s Creek, and Stanley Park.  The environments were captured as binaural recordings. 

The final pieces are being used for a clinical study at the Vancouver Arthritis Research Center. During this PowerPoint slide presentation, Nazemi, Kinnear, and Mobini will discuss the aesthetics of creating soundwalks for clinical use, findings from developing the study, and some ideas for future work in this area.

Mark Nazemi is a Ph.D. student in the Interactive Arts & Technology program at Simon Fraser University.  His research focuses on developing interactive and generative audio systems for managing pain level in patients with chronic pain.  In addition, he is co-owner of Stylus College of Music & Sound Technology in Vancouver.  For a full biography, you may visit

Tyler Kinnear is a Ph.D. student of Musicology at the University of British Columbia.  His research focuses on conceptions of nature in contemporary music.  He currently serves as co-coordinator of the Vancouver Soundwalk Collective. He may be reached at

Maryam Mobini is a MA student in the Interactive Arts & Technology program at Simon Fraser University. Her research interests lie in the use of emerging technologies and interventions to assist people suffering from feelings of anxiety, hopelessness, depression and bipolar disorder. She is a co-founder of the Wishing Well Society, an organization dedicated to creating customized assistive devices for people with physical disabilities.


Talk Back

Heather Nicol will present a new multi-channel audio installation project developed during her current graduate studies at OCAD University. The work’s title, “Talk Back”, refers to a theatrical tradition where after selected performances audience members are afforded an opportunity to stay after the show to engage in a public discussion with its creators. Artworks that are presented in gallery contexts typically do not have such a forum for direct interface between the artist and “general admission” attendees, or “viewers”. What spectators have to say about the work often remains a mystery.

Nicol’s interdisciplinary installation is an exploration of spectator response, playfully interrogating the pleasures, provocations and pretenses of the art gallery experience.  Envisioned as an eight channel audio work with the sounds of voices emanating from overhead speakers, the work navigates time-based concerns with the conflation of the present and past, fact and fiction.

Heather Nicol is a multi-disciplinary artist and curator based in Toronto. Her practice includes the production of sound and light installation works, object-based sculptural objects that may include sound, light, or electronic components, as well as independent curatorial projects.

Nicol’s work has been exhibited in Canada, the US and France. Her recent curatorial projects explore site-specific conditions found in underutilized transitional urban spaces, such as a massive warehouse or a historic decommissioned public school, with a focus on creating opportunities for interventions by artists working across a wide range of disciplines. She has worked as an arts educator in museum and school settings at the elementary, high school, and post secondary level. An underlying interest in communication and potential sites of intersection link all of these threads. She is currently an interdisciplinary MFA candidate at OCAD University.


A Hootenanny in Your Pocket: Apple’s iPhone, Smule Apps and “The Folk”

The dream of the American folk revival was that, one day, everyone might sing together. Pete Seeger tended to envision this utopia as a face-to-face situation. Alan Lomax, though, was much more interested in the role of particular media environments; in the early nineties he worked with Apple on a piece of software called The Global Jukebox, an interactive and dynamic folk database.

The Global Jukebox was never adopted in the public schools Lomax hoped would use it—it is a “dead” or “imaginary” medium (see Parikka, 2012). But we might see a descendant of Lomax’s machine in Smule’s popular line of iPhone apps. Their Ocarina, Ocarina 2 and Sing! seem to revel in the DIY aesthetic idealized by Seeger, Lomax and other folk revivalists. The apps make it possible for anyone with an iPhone to play or sing by blowing into their device, and one can listen in to other performers around the world in real time.   

Using Lomax’s and Seeger’s young-Marxist framework—but also drawing on Félix Guattari and Jacques Attali—my paper will look at these devices and the discourses around them. Are iPhone-stroking flutists and singers, live and on Youtube, paradoxically enacting a nostalgic longing for pastiches of folk performance? In what ways does Apple and Smule transpose a desire for collaborative and “anonymous” performance onto the narcissistic will-to-be-“in touch” that characterizes mobile media networks? What have we to learn from Seeger, who allegedly tried to chop Bob Dylan’s electric guitar cord in 1965?

Henry Adam Svec grew up on a cherry farm in Southwestern Ontario and studied English at Mount Allison University. Now he writes songs and fiction, makes performance art, and works on a PhD in Media Studies at the University of Western Ontario. His recent performance projects (e.g. Folk Songs of Canada Now, The CFL Sessions, and The Lost Stompin’ Tom Songs) have blended a variety of forms and traditions, including singer-songwriter stage banter and the mass-mediated hoax. He has been artist-in-residence at The Banff Centre, Roberts Street Social Centre, and the Klondike Institute of Art & Culture (upcoming); has performed at galleries and festivals such as Scotiabank Nuit Blanche, FADO Performance Art Centre, 7a*11d International Festival of Performance Art, Rhubarb, Eastern Edge Gallery, and Sappyfest; and his work has been featured in The Globe and Mail, The Toronto Star, and several times on CBC Radio. Henry’s creative pursuits have bled into his research—academic interests include the concept of authenticity, utopia, and media archaeology. Henry’s scholarship has been published in the Canadian Journal of Communication (forthcoming), Reviews in Cultural Theory, Loading…, Celebrity Studies, and Popular Music and Society, and his first short story recently appeared in The New Quarterly.


Silence starts at -425m

Based on the progressive disappearance of the Dead Sea, “Silence starts at - 425m” presents a dubplate and a series of 35mm slides, testimonies of the last sounds recorded at the dying sea. From its conception to its exhibition, I will discuss the project’s challenges as well as the questions that emerged from its creative process.

“When I started this project, I had a fantasy that absolute silence might exist on earth and be trapped somewhere. Could that place be the Dead Sea? Could silence be stored at the lowest point on earth? What does it sound like in a place where no life can survive? What would I hear, plunging my microphone into the Dead Sea’s dark viscosity, hundreds of metres below sea level? During m
Braunschweig Project Art Residency last year in Germany, while researching sound in the individual and collective imagination and gathering testimonies from the elderly, I was told by a hospice nurse in a palliative care centre that sound was the final sense we lost before dying. What sounds would I hear the day I die? What does it sound like when there is not even our heartbeat or nervous system to listen to? With a hydrophone at the end of a thin rope, I went to the Dead Sea to measure the silence of the lowest point on earth. I wanted to capture the testimony of the Dead Sea’s mysterious voice before it disappeared forever.”

Sandra Volny currently divides her time between Paris and Montréal. She completed her MFA at Concordia University and is now a PhD candidate at La Sorbonne University in Arts and Sciences of the Arts. Aural spaces are central to her research, and she uses them in various scenarios where performing participants orient themselves in space through sound, as well as a metaphor and vector for exploring memory and identity. Her video, sound, and installation works have been shown in Canada, France, and Germany.

Special Performances


*FREE and open to the public

The Blackwood Gallery has invited two artists, Erin Sexton (Montreal) and Vikas Kohli (Mississauga) to perform and "activate" two sound installations by Darsha Hewitt and Alexis O'Hara respectively. Both are on view at the galleries as part of the exhibition VOLUME: HEAR HERE (Jan 16 - Mar 10, 2013). These performances are free and open to the public (i.e. you do not need to be registered with the conference to attend.)

Erin Sexton

Space II(with Darsha Hewitt's Electrostatic Bell Choir)
A site specific sound performance which activates space with hand-held oscillators and interventionist amplification, exploring the physicality of sound through acoustics, enclosure, threshold, and movement.  

Montreal-based artist Erin Sexton explores matter, energy, space, and time through sound, performance, installation, and video. Drawing from both theoretical physics and mysticism, her work exists on the edge of knowledge, revealing immanence through an active vulnerability.  With analog electronics, electromagnetic fields, pseudo-science projects, and phenomenological experimentation she creates direct links between lived experience and the processes of nature, drawing us through immediacy into contact with the micro-macro cosmos. She has presented her work across North America and Europe, released several albums, and is featured on multiple compilations. 

Vikas Kohli 

Improvisation (with Alexis O'Hara's SQUEEEQUE! The Improbable Igloo)
Vikas Kohli, playing guitar and accompanied by violinist Subhadra Vijaykumar, will explore the sonic possibilities provided by Alexis O'Hara's installation when it is used as a filtering device for conventional instruments.

Film composer and music producer Vikas Kohli from FatLabs is the first composer to receive a Trailblazer Award from the ReelWorld Film Festival, the first composer to receive a Voice Achievers Award and is also recipient of a MARTY award from the Mississauga Arts Council. Kohli has worked with filmmakers and recording artists from Bollywood, Canada, the USA and Europe. Kohli has been profiled by ET Canada, CBC The National, CTV, Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, The Hindustan Times, Times of India and Zee News. Subhadra Vijaykumar, a Toronto-based violinist, is the Founder and Artistic Director of Radha Academy of Carnatic Violin. Radha Academy imparts training in the finest traditions of Carnatic violin playing. Subhadra has trained under the renowned soloist and maestro Prof. T.N. Krishnan. She comes from a family with rich musical traditions and obtained a first-class diploma in violin from the prestigious Bharatiya Music and Arts Society's Music College in Mumbai, India, under the tutelage of the late Mrs.Vijayam Ramaswamy. She is a faculty member at the Royal Conservatory of Music.  


In partnership with the Department of Visual Studies, University of Toronto Mississauga and generously supported by the Canada Council for the Arts.


For maps and directions, click here.

Related Events

Saturday May 5 & Sunday May 6, 2012