Our engagement with the world is saturated by sound. Quite often, sound is associated with the most ethereal realities: that of song and lyricism or the vaporous ephemerality of illusions. But sound also constitutes a sensitive layer through which we experience the proximity of a body, the harsh surface of walls around us or the vastness or oppressing nature of a place. Sound is a material reality whose experience is deeply ingrained in our embodied engagement with our surroundings.
The material nature of the acoustic is often inaccurately addressed by applying categories born out of the domain of the visual or out of the diagrammatic models aimed to identify the functions of practical objects. Since sound is always an expansive phenomena which unfolds inherent to the vibration of a mass (of air, or other materials), it is not possible to “locate” sounds in the same way that we locate points in a diagram. The way we experience the spatial and material qualities of sound are part of the ways we make sense of our engagement with this vibrating mass.
This problem does not concern an opposition of the auditory and the visual, but rather with different regimes of the sensorial as they are usually employed to engage with the auditory or the visual. As cinema scholar Laura Marks states “Cultural traditions that do not separate vision so radically from the body have less need to deconstruct and reimagine visuality” 1
In Sound Theory (The Clouds) the technique of sound reproduction is not hidden as a seemingly anonymous screen, but their material imprint is exposed. The spectator is prompted to make sense of these material qualities and explore the adjustments that listening requires as one engages with the technical configuration of sound reproduction.
Gabriel Paiuk (2021): Sound Theory (The Clouds)