Interview: Martin A. Smith


Your exhibition explores sound’s interaction with “the spirit of place, memory and environment”. What methods have you used to explore this?

I have tried to use a variety of sounds, music, and field recordings to capture the essence, feel or emotional response to the landscape or sense of place. Sounds can be so evocative, whether they are actual recordings of the environment or music written to try and encapsulate the sense of place that I feel. Of course these are personal responses but I hope that they speak loudly enough for others to feel a sense of recognition.

How do you hope to create a sense of immersion?

One of my objectives is to create spaces where one feels enveloped by the work. Using sound and video projection, often multi screen, and presenting each piece individually in a dedicated environment, hopefully the person entering that environment would immediately feel surrounded and immersed in the atmosphere the work generates.

Is the exhibition a culmination of all-new work, or a collation of old pieces?

It is a mixture of both; a couple of pieces are reworkings of old ideas, one of which is an idea which I have never had the opportunity to present before, and some new pieces. One of the pleasures of putting on an exhibition like this is the chance to look back at your work and rework it to suit the situation. Working with audio and video gives you the opportunity to take a fresh approach at a piece of work, editing or re-recording, in a way that other mediums do not.

What sorts of landscapes are explored throughout the exhibition?

They are all real environments and places, although I have used the term “landscape” rather loosely. “Salt” is definitely about a particular area, the Camargue in southern France, whereas “Shedding Silver Tears” is about nature and autumn and the melancholy that the season inspires. Other works are about the aesthetics of landscape and how we view and remember places.

How much thought was placed into the actual setup of the exhibition, in regards to the dilemmas involved in exhibiting multiple sound pieces at once?

A lot of thought, as obviously one of the main problems of an installation of sound pieces is the sound of the works clashing with each other, resulting in a cacophony with each piece intruding into each other rather than creating an individual, separate environment. One of the great things about the GV Art Gallery is that it is made up of a series of rooms so I have put one installation in each room, hopefully confining the sound. Of course I am not really going to know until I have installed the exhibition but I think all should be well.

Also, the gallery is painted white: a blessing when using video projection. The owners, Robert Devcic and Charles Gollop, have also been extremely helpful and accommodating, letting me use the space in any way I wish and allowing me to use the space for performances as well as the exhibition itself, for which I am most grateful.

“Salt” is to be displayed for the first time at the exhibition. In what ways does “Salt” tie in with the theme of the exhibition?

“Salt” is, in many ways, the most direct example in the exhibition of an emotional response to a physical landscape, being as it is a piece about a defined geological area: the Camargue. I spent time there, recording, observing and researching to create work that reflects my own emotional response to this remarkable region.

How is “Salt” to be displayed? Is this setup intended to be the optimum environment in which to experience “Salt” (if there is one)?

One of the joys of “Salt” for me is that I envisage presenting it in a number of ways: film, live performance, recordings and installation. It is made up of a series of components that work individually or collectively, and this installation does combine many these elements for the first time. Film makers Walter G. Reed and Ivano Darra, who filmed and photographed the Camargue, are also bringing new elements to this installation, which is very exciting and continues the ongoing exploration.

The exhibition is to feature several live performances. How did you go about choosing performers to best compliment the ideas behind Written on Silence?

I am fortunate to know a lot of talented musicians and sound artists so one of the biggest decisions was who to ask. I wanted artists whose work would resonate with the exhibition but would also bring a new perspective to the idea of creating immersive soundscapes in a gallery environment. Curating an event like this is intriguing as you want artists whose work compliments each other, but without sounding too similar, to create a diverse but cohesive event. I am honoured, and relieved, that everybody I first asked said yes.


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