A cooperation of the Department of Theory, Practice and Communication of Contemporary Arts and the Department of Art and Digital Media in collaboration with the Austrian Film Museum.
Organized by Prof. Diedrich Diederichsen and Prof. Constanze Ruhm.

Non-Simultaneity and Immediacy: Utopia of Sound

In the last two decades there has been a significant boom in the cultural sensibility towards sounds and noise – a kind of sonic boom that can, following the second meaning of this term, be seen as a breakthrough of the sonic itself. In the wake of this phenomenon, the relationship between Fine Arts and sound as a material of production on the one hand, and the field of Sound Art which emerged since the 60s on the other hand was recalibrated. Questions surrounding issues of spatiality in the Fine Arts that gained in importance with the surge of intermedia installations were increasingly posed on the basis of experimental sound. Pop music has recognised its specific relation to the materiality of sound as its primary source and positioned it at the core of self-reflective projects. Through the ubiquity of individual and ever-present sonic markers such as mobile phone jingles and sound installations in public space, everyday life has become the scene of a continuous sonic semiosis. Undoubtedly, corporate sound design on the one hand, and advertising/branding machinery geared towards “sound logos”, on the other, have long since reacted to these novel sign systems. In cinema, the individual existence of the film soundtrack has developed in increasing detail in recent years - either by moving contrary to the direction of the tempo of actions on screen or to the montage structure, or by orienting along pre-existing music as well as cultural resonances beyond cinematic immanence. By now, those techniques have reached mainstream cinema as common means of production.

The official cultural establishment has responded to this rise of the sonic with a whole range of major exhibitions, such as, Sonic Process (Centre Pompidou, Paris 2002), Frequenzen: Audiovisuelle Räume (Schirn Kunsthalle, 2002), Sonic Boom (Hayward Gallery 2003), Phonorama: Eine Kulturgeschichte der Stimme als Medium (ZKM 2004), Bring The Noise (Genf 2000), Invisible Geographies (The Kitchen, New York City), the Sonambiente-series in Berlin, numerous other shows and events at institutions like the Renaissance Society in Chicago and the Kunstverein Köln. Symposia and new magazines are but one symptom of the surge of interest in this subject throughout the academic world. Three different programs of study were recently planned or introduced at German universities alone.

The Symposium, however, does not just react to this increase of attention, but aims to provide a platform for critical and antagonistic discussion, that should not be limited to solely uncovering the causes of this phenomenon followed by a distinction into its eligible and less eligible aspects. To the contrary, the Symposium focuses on two central and distinctive qualities of sound which will be discussed both in regard of their fundamental political-aesthetical references and - in order to stake out a horizon - their utopian contingencies.

1) Non-Simultaneity

This refers to the non-simultaneity of sounds and their indicative sources in sound film and all other forms of art inspired by this ontological setup. This non-simultaneity, which can also refer to other heterogeneities emerging from the relationship between image and soundtrack, was understood as the final sealing of the illusionistic character of film by Adorno/Eisler (in “Komponieren für den Film“). In contrast, for contemporary filmmakers it stands precisely for the open spot in the system, which seems to resuscitate the anticipatory dimensions of sound brought forward by the utopists of music (Ernst Bloch) and sound (Jacques Attali)1. Clearly this has to remain ambivalent: aesthetics that aim to overwhelm the audience have their roots in this place but at the same time it maintains a potential for the irritation of such approaches. Non-simultaneity might also provide a novel terminological option for a redefinition of the relationship between the arts of time and space on the basis of the interplay between sound and image in film that is re-negotiated at present. Accordingly it might offer the possibility to generate new principles for interfering with the media architectures of sound and image and their respective industry standards that have become more fluid.

2) Immediacy

At least in the pre-digital epoch, sound, just like photography maintained an indexical relationship with their sources, which was often approached with anthropological notions by certain theorists. From this perspective one reaches an understanding of sound as the indexical side of the hybrid media arts, that, from pop music to media performance carries the promise of an immediate artistic relation to reality. Diverse forms of art have heavily invested in this potential utopia. But a “direct transfer from reality” is not only from a technological or semiotic perspective already an illusion, since the process of digital recording does not provide any immediacy, and thus has to be regarded as only partially indexical. Quite often this illusion forms part of a backward-looking ideology of authenticity that can frequently be observed as a drive in contemporary art.

3) Utopia

A utopia connected to the sonic would, in the humanities, generally be historically positioned before the rise of sound as a genre or means of production that has emancipated itself from music. However, there exists an often overlooked and idiosyncratic thread that can be traced from the utopian music philosophies to contemporary sound culture. A key notion in this context is that of the dream. This spans from Ernst Bloch's conception of “Tag-Träume” (day-dreams), over the dream music of Tony Conrad and LaMonte Young to Sonic Youth’s epochal album “Daydream Nation”.

"In Bloch's discussion of dreams," writes theorist Caryl Flinn, "for example, concern is apparent. Bloch divides dreams into two groups, those analyzed by Freud, the "nightdreams" fueled by repression and memories of the "no-longer-conscious," and the "daydreams," or the dramatizations of wishes that are based on the "not-yet-conscious." For Bloch, Freud errs in associating the unconscious solely with the past, and he redirects Freud's emphasis on the unconscious onto the preconscious, which does not lose memories completely to repression but is able to bring them to light." 2 Such forms of desire which rely on the "not-yet-conscious" are, in Bloch's view, pointing to the "anticipatory" forces inherent to the arts.

The tradition of thinkers who defend contingency and the freedom of sound against the representational logic of notation and who, with Tony Conrad, represent the autonomy of sounds in contrast to their domestication through Pythagorean mathematics, reaches from Bloch to Lyotard. Has this position proved consistent in the actualisation of the autonomy of sounds or has it led to a fetishistic self-deception?

These two coordinates form the discourse's outer perimeters: the first part of the symposium addresse the promise of non-simultaneity; the second part focuses on a debate of utopia and crisis of sonic immediacy. Diverse practitioners, theorists and artists from different fields will deal with the paradigms of sound film and subsequent questions related to sound installation and pop music.

1) A detailed discussion of Bloch's terminology of "Ungleichzeitigkeit", as well as of the notion of utopia in film music in: "Out of The Past: Recontextualizing the Utopias of Film Music", by Caryl Flinn, Strains of Utopia. Gender, Nostalgia and Hollywood Film Music. Princeton University Press. back...

2) From, "Out of The Past: Recontextualizing the Utopias of Film Music", by Caryl Flinn, p.99. In: Caryl Flinn, Strains of Utopia. Gender, Nostalgia and Hollywood Film Music. Princeton University Press. back...


May 29 / 30 / 31 2008

  • Academy of Fine Arts Vienna
    Schillerplatz 3, A-1010 Vienna
  • Austrian Film Museum Vienna
    Augustinerstrasse 1, A-1010 Vienna, Albertina Building
  • Thursday May 29th 2008

    Austrian Film Museum Vienna | Augustinerstrasse 1 | A-1010 Vienna

    5:00 p.m.

    5:30 p.m.

    • Western Recording (USA 2003, 10:30 min)
    • D: Mathias Poledna
    • Tom Holert – „The Site of Recording, Film, Pop and the Studio” (Lecture)

    7:10 p.m.

    • Welcome to L.A. (USA 1976, 106 min)
    • D: Alan Rudolph

    9:15 p.m.

  • Friday May 30th 2008

    Academy of Fine Arts | Schillerplatz 3 | 1010 Vienna | M13

    Promises of Non-Simultaneity

    11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

    • Michel Chion „Simultaneity and Synchronicity in Cinematic Audio-Visual Relations” Nora Alter „Sound Screens”

    Utopia of Sound Politics

    1:45 p.m. – 3:45 p.m.

    • Christoph Cox „Sound and Utopia: Liberation, Resistance, Deterritorialization.” Terre Thaemlitz „Please tell my landlord not to expect future payments because Attali's theory of surplus-value-generating information economics only works if my home studio's rent and other use-values are zero.”

    Utopia of Immediacy (Part1):
     Naturalism and Anti-Naturalism in Sound Arts

    4:00 – 6:00 p.m.


    Academy of Fine Arts | Atelierhaus | Lehàrgasse 6 | EG Nord

    7:30 – 10:00 p.m. (Doors open at 7:00 p.m.)

    • Michel Chion Tu (Extract) (1977-96) Variations (1990) Dix-sept minutes (2000)
    • Florian Hecker Rearranged Playlist as Auditory Stream Segregation (2008)
    • Terre Thaemlitz Terre’s Confession (2007) Trans-Portation (Scenes from Electroacoustic Radio Dramas) (2005)
  • Saturday May 31st 2008

    Academy of Fine Arts | Schillerplatz 3 | 1010 Vienna | M13

    Utopia of Immediacy (Part 2)

    12:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

    Survival of Utopia in Sound Culture

    2:45 – 4:45 p.m.

    Conclusion / Panel

    5:00 - 6:00 p.m.

Impressum top

Ordinariat für Kunst und Digitale Medien - Akademie der bildenden Künste Wien

Lehargasse 6 - 8, A - 1060 Wien
Tel.:+43(1)58816-412, Fax: +43(1)58815-430
Kontakt: Axel Stockburger
Programmierung: Jens Alexander Ewald (520at.net)
Seitenbetreuung: Axel Stockburger
Inhalt: Mit dieser Webseite möchten wir aktuelle Informationen rund um das Symposium anbieten. Die Website soll über Termine und aktuelle Themen zum Programm informieren.
Haftung: Die Inhalte diser Webseite sind von den Autoren und der Redaktion sorgfältig ausgewählt und geprüft, dennoch kann keine Garantie übernommen werden. Eine Haftung von kdm.akbild.ac.at und seinen Beauftragten für Personen-, Sach- und Vermögensschäden ist ausgeschlossen. Das Copyright aller Inhalte liegt bei kdm.akbild.ac.at. Für einzelne Beiträge und Bildwerke liegen die Rechte bei Autoren und Künstlern. Alle Rechte vorbehalten. Eine Übernahme von Texten oder Bildern bedarf der schriftlichen Zustimmung von kdm.akbild.ac.at.