In the early 19th century the bourgeoisie was obsessed with 'panorama'. It acted as a kind of spectacle that gave the viewer a sense of control over and understanding of their environment.
We are still fascinated by the idea of The View: the recent Tate Britain exhibition Looking at the View is testimony to this. Even the suggestion of control and knowledge still persists: the website for The View from The Shard, for example, evokes a notion of understanding the past, present and future through the experience of looking from a particular vantage point. We frequently interpret a 'stunning view' as embodying deeper meaning: maybe a connection with the past, an appreciation of the present, a sense of insight or a notion of influence over the future.
A view, however, is mostly imagined without sound. Indeed many are framed by architectural structures and rendered silent through glass. Consequently the indoor is separated from the outdoor space creating two distinct sonic and atmospheric (temperature/humidity) environments which sensorially only relate to one another through the visual. Even when views are not silenced in such a way, we hear mostly only the present. A glimpse into the past is reserved for the visible realm in the form of old buildings or vegetation for example.
Looking out over the Thames from the vantage point of The Grand Saloon, Sounding the View mediates the real and imagined sounds within this view through the human voice. Playfully it contemplates the delicate relationships between looking and listening, between the outside and the inside, between the real and the imagined sounds and sights.
It was the process of developing the ideas for this work that led me to ask five London based artists to share a location in the city that is, for them, particularly meaningful both sonically and visually. To illustrate their choice each artist wrote a few words and drew a map of the location, so that you, if you wish, can go to these spots and share in their Sonic Viewing.
In the 19th century this area was disreputable for 'rude sports'. These included duck-hunting and bull-baiting. In 1816 there were famous mass meetings against the government culminating in the Spa Field Riots. Now it is peaceful and secluded; it has a warm and spacious acoustic voice. There are insects in the lavender bushes, high buildings and trees creating a shield from traffic noise and the quiet tolling bell of the Church of Our Most Holy Redeemer. The sonic imprint of a place can effect our emotions more than the visual, more than we consciously know. The need to understand things starts to become diffuse when concentrating on the sound. There is a modern park-keeper's office which looks like a strange vessel next to the cornfield meadow while the church looms on the perimeter of the park. I see someone has expressed online worry about ASBOs as the evening draws in, but I've not heard any group of humans raise their voices.
© 2013 Olly Coates
A raised walkway leading to a pond and buildings.
The drawing shows the building across the pond
From the walkway down a series of steps, there is a chamber and you can find its resonant frequency by singing.
© 2013 Max Eastley
powerscroft chatsworth millfields tree-circle dogs sub-station friend chat barge weir bridge towpath houseboats filterbeds henge river kingfisher pond tadpoles bench millstones reeds marshes stadium fish dark echo hedgerow meadow space light horses cows heron bulrushes kids
© 2013 Cathy Lane
Barbican's my favourite London space: concrete, water, music. The walk from the tube is a sonic adventure of muffled traffic, footsteps on brick, fountains and a gathering stillness. I love to stand at the top of the lake terrace steps, and listen.
© 2013 Sara Mohr-Pietsch
The Women's Pond (or Kenwood Ladies Pond)
Swim in the cool dark pool, sunbathe in the hidden clearings, secret garden utopia. Close eyes and the chatter of ladies mirror the dappling on the water and its brown earthy weight, a warming lull, gossip from all over the city slowed down for another time and place.
© 2013 Irene Revell