Re-Sounding: Fountain17 Lecture

Fountain Cover Design, Courtesy Jesc Bunyard, 2017

For the full version go to Re-Sounding Blog A space for thinking about sound and audiovision.

These are the notes from a lecture originally given at Hull School of Art & Design on 26th April 2017.

So, in this lecture I’m going to talk about my work for Fountain 17. The work is called ‘The Sound of Duchamp’s Fountain’, but before I go onto that, it’s important to briefly describe my practice in general, just to situate the Fountain work within a wider context. I use a variety of mediums within my practice, including photograms (an example of which can be seen here), performances, videos, installations, and sound works. I explore the politics of listening and spectatorship and this often means that a work can’t be fully realised until a body is interacting with it.

Today, this idea isn’t revolutionary, indeed it was postulated by Marcel Duchamp, as Steve Roden describes in ‘Active Listening’: “Marcel Duchamp spoke of the viewer contemplating a work of art and that a work of art has no meaning without a viewer to bring meaning to it.” Often within my practice the work exists in the liminal space in the encounter between subject and object. This means that the restrictive dichotomy between subject and object isn’t clear, it’s this idea that lies at the core of my practice.

This concept is described by Vivian Sobchack within ‘The Address of the Eye: A Phenomenology of Film Experience. Sobchack is a writer I have returned to again and again, within both my writing and my practice. Within Address of the Eye she discusses the relationship between a cinemagoer and a film as one that is not black and white: “The direct engagement, then, between spectator and film in the film experience cannot be considered a monologic one between a viewing subject and a viewed object. Rather, it is a dialogical and dialectical engagement of two viewing subjects who also exist as visible objects.”

In this talk I’m going to focus on the concepts and theories that surround my sound work. Some occurred to me before and during the process of making, some occurred after. I feel that there’s almost too much within the work to unpack, so I mainly want to focus on the nature of recording and sound and architecture. This will lead me to a number of theorists as well as my own thoughts about the work. I’m also going to be displaying some photos and videos whilst I’m talking. These are from the day round the factory and I think they’re important when discussing sound and architecture

I’m just going to briefly explain two of my other works, just to provide a bit more context into my practice. Photo Piece was first performed in 2012, with The Angel Orchestra, an amateur orchestra based in Islington. They improvised using my photograms as visual scores, which were projected. The performance took place part way through a classical concert, in front of an unsuspecting audience. The performance was not only an exploration of cameraless photography, and visual scores, but an intervention within the strict modes of spectatorship allowed within a classical music concert. The work was then performed at the ICA as part of Bloomberg New Contemporaries. I’ll just briefly show an excerpt of the video work, which both became a separate work and documentation for the performance.


This next work ‘Aural.Effect’, was recently performed at the Bluecoat in Liverpool. It came from watching Tree of Codes at Manchester International Festival and being able to witness the physical effort the dancers put into their performance, but nobody could hear that effort. This idea was then worked through in several rehearsals with the dancer Elinor Lewis. Aural.Effect seats the audience in the dark, whilst the dancer improvises dance movements, some normal movements and some specifically choreographed to have a sonic output. The idea is to showcase the sonic potential of dance and the physical effort of movement, each breath and each footstep.

This image, as I’m sure we’re all aware is the Fountain work by Duchamp, or rather the replica version that sits at the Tate Modern.

The work sits on top of a plinth encased in glass within the Materials and Objects section of Tate. The Fountain work seemingly sits in silence. The work and ideas surrounding it are busy, noisy, anything but quiet, and yet the work sits just humming along…if you had to describe its surroundings as a whole you might refer to it as beige. It’s only in beige visually and emotionally however, not sonically as I’ll get onto later. When thinking about Duchamp’s Fountain and the impact it had, it’s a little daunting. How can you respond to the action, the object, the impact, the conversations it sparked, and the artists it influenced? In the promotional video recorded for Fountain17, I described the work as a lightning bolt, a cataclysmic event and that it’s ripples are still being felt today. Now how do you make a work in response to this? The answer is that it’s next to impossible to make a work which sums up all of this…Duchamp’s Fountain and all its repercussions are almost sublime, it’s too large, too awe inspiring to comprehend in one lump. I decided to think about the sonic potentials of the Fountain, about sonically activating the sculpture in some way.

For the full version go to Re-Sounding Blog A space for thinking about sound and audiovision.

Jesc Bunyard