Mitchell Akiyama, crys cole, Marc Couroux, Dave Dyment, Pascal Grandmaison, Marla Hlady, Vikas Kohli & Subhadra Vijaykumar, Alexis O’Hara, Darsha Hewitt, Neil Klassen, David Lieberman, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, David Merritt, John Oswald, Ryan Park, Juliana Pivato, Alexandre St-Onge, Ian Skedd, Erin Sexton, Charles Stankievech, Chiyoko Szlavnics, John Wynne
Volumes, 2015. 144 pages, 10.4 x 10.3in.
Volumes is an anthology of writings on contemporary artists’ engagement with sound and music. The publication is composed of artists’ projects and essays drawn from a series of exhibitions that took place between 2003 and 2013. Volumes is a hybrid publication in several respects. First, it includes textual, visual, and audio material from more than one exhibition. The curatorial projects include: Re-Play (curators Catherine Crowston and Barbara Fischer), Come a Singin‘ (curator Andrew Hunter), See Hear! (curators Timothy Long and Ben Portis), Video Heroes (curator Sylvie Gilbert) and Volume: Hear Here (curator Christof Migone). All of the exhibitions save the last one took place in 2003, the last one came a decade later. In the intervening decade the presence of sound in visual art has grown immeasurably, and this publication implicitly track this evolution—from the way in which contemporary Canadian artists engage popular music through film, video, performance, and installation that was the focus of the 2003 exhibitions, to the way that sound activates specific phenomenological and ontological questions in the 2013 iteration of this series of curatorial propositions. The progression is by no means linear or continuous, consequently the publication presents a heterogeneous ensemble and does not attempt to draw definitive conclusions from what has become a pluralistic field with a broad set of concerns. In the context of a burgeoning body of literature on the sonic arts, this entry featuring exclusively Canadian artists and authors offers a diverse cross-section of some of the production in the visual arts that centered on sound, music and silence in the last decade.
This is an epilogue masquerading as a foreword. Not a denouement, rather an addendum. In fact, in literature, there may a time gap between an epilogue and the main content it is referencing. Here there is more than a decade to contend with. The attendant contingencies we must face as editors and publishers given such a timespan spill onto the reader, listener, viewer of this multi-faceted publication. As you explore its various components, the proviso therefore is to approach Volumes with cognizance of our conscious decision to pluralize the word. You will pick up threads that extend in surprising ways throughout and others that go nowhere. The lacunas are plentiful here, the plural eschews the slip to any universalizing impulse. The reality is that the territories this publication explores has continued, and continues, to evolve exponentially. The static, arrested features of a publication cannot encompass the breath and scope of such a fertile set of practices.
Volumes presents a rare opportunity to adjoin disparate voices (be they authors, artists, or
curators) from the early years of one decade to the early years of the next. This prompts the impulse to assess how things have evolved and where we are now. We have largely refrained from such encapsulations, and opted to present each contribution within its own original curatorial and editorial context. The links amongst them therefore will be discovered by the reader rather than determined explicitly by editorial fiat. That being said, there are blatant commonalities. For one, this incomplete, sporadic, and heterogeneous overview (underview, sideview) is Canada-specific. In many ways it is a compilation of regional activities that happen to share a country. Again, gaps abound here. Think of this as a sampling proposition with critical edges rather than a milquetoast historical hagiography.
This foreword listens forward and hears a plurality of practices paying attention to the sonic within visual art discourses and institutions. These include musical genres and tropes, but also features works that use or reference sound through conceptual and phenomenological strategies. The Blackwood Gallery, as the lead institution for this project, has played a key role in assembling this eclectic mix. First, Barbara Fischer, Director of the Blackwood from 1999 to 2005 initiated this endeavour (along with Catherine Crowston), co-curating Soundtracks: Re-Play in 2003 and gathering the partners (institutional and curatorial alike) to construct an umbrella ambitious in its scope and reach. During my tenure as Director from 2008 to 2014, it became clear that to revive the publication required an update, a return of sorts to the realm of sound-specific curatorial projects, hence Volume: Hear Here in 2013. Finally, Christine Shaw shepherded the project to its conclusion, the publication you have in your hands. This lineage of Directors are but one filter through which to examine the unusual progression of this project. The artists, authors, curators, editors, designers, and partner institutions are all integral to the mix. The biographies section is a telling meeting place for this gathering, it juxtaposes people who fought in the First World War to people born in the 1980s, members of the Group of Seven to conceptual artists. The image foldout will also reveal (and revel in) such contrasts. And it is in the book that the discussions ensue in their myriad ways. All told, suffice to say that without the contributions of all of those involved there would not be anything here to read, see, or hear.
—Christof Migone, Co-Editor of Volumes (former Director/Curator of the Blackwood Gallery and curator of Volume: Hear Here)