In addition to blasting your eardrums with some of the finest sounds imaginable, Supersonic also aims to educate and enlighten in a myriad of other ways too. The decision to embrace other forms of art aside from solely music has been universally praised, and the festival has also found new ways to present these artforms, whether as part of exhibitions, installations, or even incorporating them into bands’ performances, and this year sees some of the most elaborate and spectacular artistic endeavours yet.
Starting things off at the Birmingham City University at 1:30PM on the first day of the festival, ‘Counting In’ is an extended panel discussion focusing on the presentation of sound works, installations, performances and audio art, and exploring how context can affect our approaches to listening. If you’ve ever wondered about the best ways to stage a work of experimental art, how audiences can be best encouraged to enjoy it, or even how to become a better listener yourself, then this promises to be an extremely illuminating discussion (not to mention a great networking opportunity).
The key to any good panel discussion is an interesting and diverse set of panellists, something that ‘Counting In’ delivers quite generously. You may have seen multi-disciplinary artist Lucas Abela (aka Justice Yeldham) performing a set filled with blood, sweat and tears using amplified shards of glass at last year’s festival, and his Vinyl Rally is also due to be exhibited this year – an ingenious fusion of vinyl fetishism, arcade game kitsch, audio collage and pure noise fury that has to be seen to be believed! Joining Lucas will be Frances Morgan (deputy editor of The Wire magazine), composer Simon Hall (Assistant Head of Music Technology at Birmingham Conservatoire) and Irene Revell (Director of Electra, an organisation that curates, commissions and produces projects by artists working across sound, moving image, performance and the visual arts). Revell will be using Kim Gordon (Sonic Youth) and Jutta Koether’s ‘Reverse Karaoke’ installation (also on show over the weekend!) as a case study, evaluating how the project entices and engages listeners and the means in which it does so.
Speaking of ‘Reverse Karaoke’, this piece is one of the most wonderfully participatory installations to ever be shown at the festival, beckoning participants into a lavishly painted Yurt, where a a lo-fi rehearsal set-up (complete with guitar, microphone, bass, and drums and a basic PA system) awaits them. Once inside, the participant can play these instruments and record their own song along with a pre-recorded vocal track of Kim Gordon’s voice. A live sound engineer ensures you’ll have a good tone, and burns the track onto two CDs – one for you, and one to remain in a record box as part of the piece itself! Since being commissioned by Electra back in 2005, the work has toured Europe extensively and been exhibited at Magasin-CNAC, Grenoble, France; MAK, Vienna, Austria and Wysing Arts Centre, Camrbidge, as well as being included in the major touring exhibition ‘Sonic Youth Etc.: Sensational Fix’, but this is the first time the piece has been shown in Birmingham. You’d be mad to miss out!