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The body of sound

Dan's picture

I am really interested in Christine Kim's work.

She explains her work as examining the physicality of sound. The Physicality of Sound seems unheard of (pun intended) – but it isn’t, or it shouldn’t be. We are physical beings and everything we perceive with our bodies is physical. But she reminds us that sound does not simply exist in one form, and does not have to be experienced in a singular way –through our ears.

Hearing people understand sound waves through the mediation of our ears; it seems abstract and bodiless, and we have developed a vocabulary for it that includes ideas applicable to sound alone, such as tone, pitch, notes, etc., and as Kim says, those of us with the ability to hear with our ears, claim ownership of sound. We can hear, and therefore we assert that our experience of sound should be prioritized. "Don't make loud noises, don't burp, don't drag your feet" etc. – but, Kim, who does not hear the way I do, explores the mediation through our other perceptual faculties, reminding us that sound does not belong to hearing people. Sound has or can have a physical form, a body in the world. It can vibrate. Or mediated through an amplifier, can create shapes – can move a paintbrush and therefore decide the composition of paint on paper. Sound can have texture.

If sound is mediated, it has a different kind of life. Our understanding of sound exists to us (or me, as a hearing person) the way it does because we perceive sound with our ears alone. But perhaps we have taken our senses for granted, and are therefore limiting our experiences of them. We are complacent in our reception of sound (and sight, and taste, and touch). If we explored the synesthetic possibility of perception, if we were creative and exploratory about the way sensory experiences are mediated, our understanding of sound, sight, touch, taste, and smell (really the world) would probably be infinitely richer.