Thin Air

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Acoustic art occupies a consolidated position within contemporary installation practices and continues to derive momentum from seminal figures in the field of 20th century avant-garde music and sound, most notably through the work of John Cage. This research takes Cage’s dictum that there is no such thing as silence by proposing an indexical artwork of sonic minutiae as a body of recorded quietude. Thin Air by Martin Sims is a compilation of 12 one-hour audio recordings made in real-time at selected global locations including the Rothko Chapel; the Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Museum; Saint Paul’s Cathedral Whispering Gallery and Auschwitz concentration camp amongst others. They define the ambient acoustic register in spaces where noise is proscribed and utterance is displaced by silence as the agency of meaning. The sites chosen were selected for their iconic status, places where the particulate character of shuffled papers, whispered talk and stifled sounds generate, when put forward collectively, a charged associative resonance. The research establishes its significance by placing notions of silence at the centre of aural experience. Thin Air was exhibited upon invitation at the Kino Cinema, Cork, Ireland, European Capital of Culture in 2005. The venue’s muffled silence and dim lighting provided optimum conditions for the work’s presentation, one disc was played each day for 12 days before the cinema’s matinée programme. As a boxed 12-CD set, this work has been exhibited at Conny Dietzschold Gallery (2003) and in the Woollahra Small Sculpture Prize (2005). Support for the project’s initial stages was provided by an ARC small grant (1999) and an Australia Council for the Arts New Work Grant (2001).
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Sims, Martin George
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