Josephine Bosma on Mon, 24 Aug 1998 15:16:53 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> sound art: Joyce Hinterding

Joyce Hinterding is a cross media artist living and working in Sydney
Australia. Her work "Aeriology" was exhibited at the V2 in Rotterdam
in May this year. We met in Amsterdam to discuss her thoughts on her
use of sound and electricity in her installation works.


JB: Have you always worked with sound? What made you decide to do so?

Joyce Hinterding:
I have been working with sound for about ten years. My interest in
sound began with a fascination in the phenomenon sympathetic
resonance: the ability for one vibrating body to activate another.
It is an interest in 'this that exists between things', rather than
'things' that characterised my initial approach to sound.  A concern
with the dynamic nature of the world, the relationships between things.

My early work was with acoustics objects that were designed to either
resonate or to re-enforce specific frequencies. Later this interest in
acoustic amplification developed into an interest in electronics,
firstly with electronic amplification, then with electronic sound
production, synthesis, feedback and eventually the auditory bi-products
of our electromagnetic environment. To understand the electromagnetic
landscape I started to look at radio, light and transmissions of all
different descriptions.

JB: This electronic landscape that you mention, how far does that reach?
What exactly do you mean by it?

Joyce Hinterding: In my opinion sound is like a hieroglyphics for
vibration, it is a way of understanding vibration at a physical level.
Sound is movement and changes in air pressure and you experience it
quite directly. Terms like harmonics and resonance are very easy to
understand at a sonic level, because they have direct physical effects
on us and the things around us. When working with the electro-magnetic,
you are working with dematerialised activity, so working with,
understanding and developing work concerned with mass-less activity is
slightly harder.

To do this I began to look at antennas, objects that resonate to
electromagnetic activity . The first antenna I built was a VLF
(Very Low Frequency) antenna (a loop antenna). The loop antenna listens
to, or resonates in sympathy to the VLF range of the radio spectrum.
This section of the spectrum is so noisy that it is really only used
to transmit a global navigational signal called the Omega tracking
signal. But the noise in this frequency range is very interesting,
consisting mainly of quite beautiful pinging and popping sounds. These
sounds are created by the broad spectrum radio frequency bursts produced
by lightning and solar flare activity. Most of the sounds or noise
in this section of the radio spectrum is a product of natural
atmospheric electrical activity.

So the VLF range is only a section of the ambient electromagnetic
environment we live in and I use the term electromagnetic landscape to
look at the local transmission environments. This is of course different
wherever you go, so if you listen to the VLF antenna in the middle of a
city, you really cannot hear much except for a big 50 hertz hum. This
was the main sound that could be heard at the V2 installation. So the
strongest element in the local city  electromagnetic landscape at the
VLF end of the spectrum is the sound radiating of our electrical system.
But if you go somewhere away from electrical powerlines you will hear
a whole range of other sounds. The same happens if you listen to some
other section of the spectrum such as the UHF (Ultra high frequency) end
of the spectrum.

JB: Does it have a special meaning to you?

Joyce Hinterding: Yes it does. The work that was in the Sydney biennale
was called "Electrical Storms". This was a work that listened to the
sound, of electrical activity, which is not produced by us. I was
interested in the general conception that we have authored electricity,
like it is our invention, and that we tend to have problems with the
idea that there is an electrical presence in the body, or that there
is a natural electrical environment as well.

(our interview is interrupted by a very strange religious group
starting a loud praying session just outside our window, on the
Nieuwmarkt in Amsterdam)

Joyce Hinterding: It is very funny. I have recordings of my VLF
antenna in New York City  and there I discovered a religious group
transmitting down in the VLF range. So I collected some wonderful
recordings of religious discussions mixed up with massive amounts
of background mains electricity humming. (60htz because it was in

JB: So, actually what this work does is remind us that electricity
is a natural source. It makes me think of how in some digital art or
other electronic art there is this emphasis on the body to remind
us that we are not ephemeral beings but that we have a very physical
basis. It seems to me that you are doing this exact same thing for
the most vital part of electronic arts, showing that its material
is not as vapour as it often seems.

Joyce Hinterding:
Mmm, well.. for that particular work, "Electrical Storms", which is
a work that precedes "Aeriology". But this work here now is not so
much about listening to the electrical environment that we did or did
not create, but about the energy in the background electromagnetic
environment. The antenna at the V2, is constructed from 26 kilometres
of .6 millimetre magnet wire, (the type of wire that is used for
winding electric motors and electromagnets for the back of televisions,
very common wire). The six and a half meter high coil, is a broad band
detuned antenna that resonates to a range of radio frequencies related
to its length, dimensions, and physical qualities. But it is also like
a classic everyday transformer, transforming electric activity in the
room and the surrounding atmosphere into electrical activity in the
wire. "Aeriology" is my exploration of antenna as aerial capacitor.
It is  playing with the idea of antenna as alternative power source.
So it is quite different to the earlier work "Electrical storms"
because it is a kind of gathering machine, gathering energy out of the
air and evidencing it. In this work the electromagnetic activity/energy
evidences itself is as sound. The antenna generates enough energy to
amplify the signal sufficiently to drive speakers and it does so
without any other amplification equipment. This is quite significant
to me, as it speaks of a simple technology, that utilises fundamental
physics principles that relate form and materiality to activity.
It explores technology in a very different way to mainstream thought:
not looking so much for efficiency but simply possibility. What
interests me here is this kind of molecular and particle functionality
in sculptural objects.

JB: For me of course, as a radio maker working with the ether mostly,
your work is very interesting. It seems to me that your work, as in
contrast to what we do as broadcasters, is very located. People can
only experience what you want them to experience when they are really
close to your work. Do you ever feel the need to work with these energy
fields, this spectrum that you work with, at a wider range, to have it
reach further?

Joyce Hinterding: My work does have a translation into recorded and
broadcast media. I  have processed a lot of the sounds that I have been
collecting and these sound works have been included on compilation CD's
for Australian Sound art and played on radio. I have also been involved
with an online group in Australia called "Nervous Objects". We are
eleven people from all over Australia.  We worked together on a sensor
driven website which was a webproject for ISEA in Chicago last year
called "Lingua Elettrica". We also worked collectively on a real Audio
performance work for an event that took place in Adelaide called
"Foldback". So for me it is a natural part of the work to develop the
documentation of the auditory components in my installation works into
media that can be played on the radio or the net.

JB: I was wondering if you make different works for CD, radio and
the net?

Joyce Hinterding: The recorded sound works come from my experiences
with the physical works. I like to mix the elements of the work
together in different ways playing around with context for example
using the raw recordings of the surrounding environment and mixing
them back in with the sounds being generated by the installation.
For example I made a sound work called "Summer" which used the sound
of the VLF antenna mixed with the sound of a thunderstorm . So there
is a sound work that listens to the same natural electrical activity
inside of wires and outside in the air.
"Aeriology" is also a larger study in its own way. A look at the idea
of the aerial, at the idea of 'the air', what is inhabiting the air,
what happens with an aerial, how it functions, what it does, where it
ruptures, what the possibilities are... If I was to develop this work
for radio, I would take the same kind of approach. It is based in
experimentation. I might bring different things that I have collected
in the process of researching "Aeriology". Not specifically from the
work. Maybe recordings from the work, maybe recordings that have been
manipulated, maybe not, depending on the context of either the work
that is for the net, or for broadcast.

JB: How do you feel about ordinary aerials for radio and television

Joyce Hinterding: I love them. They are my big fascination. I really
do think that everything is an antenna and that everything is in
vibration. Aeriology has been about looking at this larger idea of
an antenna and vibration in all shapes and sizes. The wonderful
understanding of an FM antenna, or understanding the two meter band
of radio, is absolutely fascinating to me.

JB: Do you think in this sense is reductive?

Joyce Hinterding: No, not at all. I participated in one performance
across Australia for an event in Adelaide with eight people, doing a
remote RealAudio sound performance work. The feedback loop we managed
to generate across Australia was very exiting. I think that
is a lot of fun. I don't particularly feel a need to stick an antenna
down in there (laughs). I am as interested in sound in its own right,
in sound as music and all the qualities of sound, as I am with sound in
connection to objects or installations.  A work I did two years ago in
Germany which may have been seen as a work who's primary concern was
electricity was very much a sound work. Twenty four high voltage
generators that produced twenty five thousand volt sparks were situated
110 meters in the air in the ceiling of the gasometer in Oberhausen.
The sound that the work generated was due to molecules travelling faster
then the speed of sound, arcs of electricity jumping an air gap making
small sonic booms, (big cracks). The documentation/recordings I have of
this work live in their own right.

There is a crossover field. I don't feel locked into one particular
way of thinking or one particular type of work. I mean, the antenna
that is at the V2 is incredibly beautiful. The optical phenomena that
is created by the very thin wires is extraordinarily beautiful is the
reason why it now exists for the third time. It was first created in
New Zealand, as a part of an international Artist in residence program
at Artspace in Auckland. It was then exhibited in Artspace in Sydney
as "I_TONE aeriology" and  now this is the third time and probably
the last. It is the largest one at six and a half meters high and I can
understand why people want to see it. There is a wonderful crossover
between aesthetics and invisible activity, interior activity evidenced
as sound and the secret language of measuring equipment.

JB: Plans for future projects... standard question. Do you have them?

Joyce Hinterding: At the moment I am working on two projects. One is
with my partner David Haines. We are working on a project where we
will use the transmissions from the polar orbiting satellites, the
weather satellites to edit a  3D video/animation installation work.
We are aiming to begin this work in a lighthouse on the most southern
tip of Tasmania, Australia and then bring the system to Europe,
collecting and processing our work in the different transmission
environments. The second work is a rework of my solar powered lightning
generators,  a video installation work based in a notion of television
that burns the air.

JB: As to other natural phenomena, did you also study the way some
animals use vibration (sonar)?

Joyce Hinterding: I have never had the opportunity to record anything
like that, or use anything like that. It would be quite nice. All
though I am hoping that Tasmania kind of opens up a lot of
possibilities, because of the CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and
Industrial Research Organization) Antarctic research facility is down
there. They do a very small amount of work with the magnetosphere,
measuring vibrations in the magnetosphere and I am very interested in
them. The magnetosphere is an active sphere defined by the magnetic
lines that rap around the earth from the poles and they are strummed
like guitar strings by solar winds. We have been talking with the
scientists who have been working on Antarctica. We would like to go
there, but now it looks like most of the data is being sent to Tasmania,
so... perfect.

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