Sounds We’ll Never Hear

Sounds We’ll Never Hear is an installation which explores physical recording media’s issues of longevity, how sound and imagination interact, and visual contexts for sonic content.

The installation was prompted by seeing Rose Finn-Kelcey’s The Magpie’s Box (1977) at Tate Britain. A box containing a range of magpie-related materials, including a reel of tape described as ‘audio tape of magpie sounds’, Finn-Kelcey’s work prompted me to think about how a recording in this context can never be heard because it’s been incorporated into a visual artwork – it is no longer a sonic object but a visual one. That led on to how the viewer is entirely dependent on the artist’s description of the recording to shape how they think about it (what sounds they might imagine, how they view it in the context of the rest of the work, etc.) – their experience is formed second-hand, as it were, because they cannot just pick up the recording and play it.

Sounds We’ll Never Hear takes these concepts and works with them in a playful way. Presented in archival boxes, padded and lined with felt, each recording is displayed with a card which tells the viewer about the sounds on it. The presentation of these recordings as a) damaged beyond use and b) as part of a visual artwork doubly negates the possibility of the statements on the cards ever being verified. Are the labels accurate or do they mislead us? We’ll never know…

So far, Sounds We’ll Never Hear comprises three items from the SOUNDS WE’LL NEVER HEAR archive, sourced from charity shops and a personal collection. Click to view larger images:


Sounds We'll Never Hear on display at Bastard Assignments at Lawrence's Place
Sounds We’ll Never Hear on display at “Bastard Assignments at Lawrence’s Place”. Photo by Alex Waespi.