LAB16: Atau Tanaka, Alexandra Spence

Wednesday 9 May, 12-4pm (12-2pm, CM107 / 2-4pm CM137)

The final lab or 2017-18 features two visiting artists exploring interaction between bodies, technology and environment. Australian artist and musician Alexandra Spence presents recent work using resources drawn from specific locations as compositional material, while Atau Tanaka considers the body as a musical instrument, capturing physiological signals and gesture through biomedical technologies.

12-2pm / CM107: Alexandra Spence – Score for a body and a place

Alexandra Spence is an artist and musician from Sydney, Australia. She works within the mediums of installation, electroacoustic composition, improvised music and experimental performance.

Alex’s practice draws from acoustic ecology, psychogeography and phenomenology to explore the idea of listening as an active practice, examining the ways in which our individual notions of place and identity are shaped and mediated through sound. Through her practice Alex attempts to reimagine the intricate relationships between the listener, the object, and the surrounding environment as a kind of communion or conversation. With an interest in resonance, vibration and everyday sound, her aesthetic favours small sounds, subtlety, quietude and unusual sound sources.

Score for a body and a place will expand on these ideas through a closer inspection of Spence’s performance work – that use field recordings, text and objects taken from a specific geographical location as source material for music composition, as well as a discussion on the potential for alternative forms of notation to break down the boundaries and hierarchies between subject and object and amongst notions of composer/performer/audience.

Alex has performed and presented work in concerts, festivals, symposiums and galleries in Australia, Canada, and Europe, including the Vancouver Art Gallery, CA; Destroy Vancouver, CA; Engineroom International Sound Art Competition, London, UK; Le Cube, Paris, FR; Musée Guimet, Paris, FR; NOW Now Festival, Sydney, AU; SoundOut Festival, Canberra, AU; UNSW Galleries, Sydney, AU; and Siteworks Festival, Bundanon, AU (w. the Splinter Orchestra). In 2016 Alex graduated from the Master of Fine Arts interdisciplinary arts program at Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada, and participated on a field recording residency with Francisco Lopez in South Africa. In 2017 she was awarded the Freedman Foundation Travelling Scholarship for Emerging Artists, which has led her to Europe and the UK to perform, and to study with David Toop and Chris Watson in the first half of 2018. She was recently selected as one the emerging artists for the SITUATE Art in Festivals Lab 2018. Alongside Rebecca Bruton she is the co-curator of Tidal~Signal Festival, which operates from a core set of anti-colonial feminist ethics, and seeks to disrupt patterns of gender disparity in music programming of all genres, it currently takes place in Vancouver, CA.

This project was supported by The Australia Council for the Arts, the Australia Council is the Australian Government’s arts funding and advisory body, The NSW Government through Create NSW and the Freedman Foundation Travelling Scholarship. The program is administered by the National Association for the Visual Arts (NAVA).

For more information, please see Alexandra’s website

2-4pm / CM137: Atau Tanaka – The Body as Musical Instrument 
The talk considers the human body as musical instrument. To do so, we look at the use of physiological signals, notably the electromyogram, as a way to capture the gestural intention and effort of the performer. The use of biomedical technologies as computer interfaces, however, do not automatically comprise a musical instrument. To imagine a system that affords expressive musical performance, we will think about the notion of the “instrument”, and contrast it with concepts of the “tool” predominant in our technoculture. We will also consider the word, “performance” and its various artistic, technical, and social meanings. Through this extended vision of musical instruments, we will consider how biosignals provide a virtual instrument, or perhaps even turn performer into instrument.

Atau Tanaka conducts research in embodied musical interaction. This work takes place at the intersection of human computer interaction and gestural computer music performance. He studies our encounters with sound, be they in music or in the everyday, as a form of phenomenological experience. This includes the use of physiological sensing technologies, notably muscle tension in the electromyogram signal, and machine learning analysis of this complex, organic data. At the other extreme, he studies user experience through ethnographic methods of participatory design where activities of workshopping, scenario building, and structured brainstorming lead an understanding of a mediums affordances in bottom-up, emergent ways. He is a member of the EAVI (Embodied AudioVisual Interaction) research group, which focuses on embodied interaction with sound and image. EAVI is a small group of academics, researchers, and PhD students carrying out cutting-edge research across topics including motion capture, eye tracking, brain computer interfaces, physiological bio-interfaces, machine learning, and auditory culture. Atau has previously been Artistic Ambassador at Apple, researcher at Sony Computer Science Laboratory, and professor and guest professor in Japan, France, and northeast England. His work has been supported by the European Research Council (ERC), Horizon2020, and both science and humanities sections of Research Councils UK (RCUK).

For more information, please see Atau’s website.

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