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Listen here

In the past year, when lock-in meant slowing down, many of us rediscovered the power of our five senses and became fascinated by the joy that natural sounds can evoke.

Reducing traffic noise pollution and reducing overhead airplanes helps us reconnect to a forgotten soundtrack: bird song, wind rustling through leaves, rain on window glass, and even the sound of our own breathing during daily exercise. Happily, this accidental awakening is what makes Australian artists Sonia Leber and David Chesworth’s new show “Listen to Know” so closely related. It is also a kind of enjoyment for our newly honed auditory skills.

The video is displayed on three huge screens, combined with the spatial soundscape, and uses the “microphone gaze” to encourage us to go beyond the comfort zone of the eyes or camera lens and enter the acoustic dimension. This fascinating piece will premiere in Messums Wiltshire from July 17 to September 5, 2021. This is a 13th century monastery tithe barn that has been carefully restored to create a dazzling gallery space .

For more than 20 years, the couple’s installations have been attracting viewers, including a video work in an empty coal bunker, and a video work in the shipyard’s rope manufacturer corridor at the 2015 Venice Biennale. But the artists were particularly excited about the cathedral-like size of the Wiltshire barn, which is considered the largest of its kind in the UK, covering about one-third of an acre.

Leber said: “It has the opportunity to surround the audience in a detailed multi-channel sound environment.”

Leber and Chesworth describe themselves as cultural investigators, using video, sound, architecture, and public participation to explore places that are undergoing social change, from the real space in which they exist to the realm of imagination.

Leber explained: “When we arrived in the UK in mid-2019, we just emerged from another project as scientists excavated red soil in Australia’s arid inland areas to fight flies and the 38-degree heat. We are attracted by the contrasting environment with unique landforms and geology: uneven anthills (Emmett Hills) on the hillsides, chalk trails and ridges, flint piles, crumbling castles, dense forests And the 700-year-old branches that collapsed-old trees.”

The exhibition showed three performers with microphones and headphones acting as “live sound engineers.” Under the prompts of Leber and Chesworth, the actors performed a physical examination of the Wiltshire landscape from an atypical perspective. They perceived the world around them: “We are very keen to photograph these environments with’acoustic awareness’, making Sound becomes the basic principle for us to guide the movement of the camera, as if the camera is separated from the eye.

Come out now!


The Wiltshire environment filled with chalk and flint provides a series of peculiar landscapes that we can explore with our microphone and camera programming. “

The early collaboration between Chesworth and the post-punk band Essendon Airport in the 1970s influenced the rhythm and otherworldliness of these sounds.

The two revealed: “In What Listening Knows, we hope that our soundtrack will refer to the military aircraft we sometimes hear in the forest, originating from the airport on the plain, and the sonic drone from the aircraft circling and circling in the sky. We don’t have it. Joining the sound of the aircraft itself, but working with the singers of the Salisbury Cathedral Choir, they immediately knew how to replicate the haunting auditory canopy with their voices.”

Our enhanced senses after Covid should ensure that we have a deeper understanding of this method and be enhanced by the DNA of the building itself. The thatched tithe barn was originally built for the Shaftesbury Abbey of Æthelgifu, the daughter of King Alfred.


It forms part of a large courtyard composed of carefully designed buildings that celebrate the wealth and influence of the monastery in the area through its architecture. Even now, the anti-gravity oak roof truss is an awesome engineering feat. In the five years after restoration, it provided a dramatic foil for the exhibition of works by artists such as Grayson Perry and Elisabeth Frink.

Messums Wiltshire is the rural branch of the famous London Cork Street Gallery, whose artists are increasingly expressing the global desire for environmental change. In the past year, the gallery has launched a series of exciting online discussions and exhibitions with a strong green agenda. The recent (still available online) and upcoming galleries’ positive environmentalism lecture series will be hosted by Kurt Jackson, Isabella Terry and Tim Smidt.

With the lifting of social restrictions, it will be interesting to observe how the experience of Covid has changed our perception of art. Leber explained: “We have become like pre-industrial humans, more adapted to the sound cues they depend on for survival. We hope that Messums Wiltshire listeners will respond with their newly discovered (or long-standing) hearing acuity. “

This author

Gary Cook is An artistHe will participate in the SGFA annual public exhibition at the London Mall Gallery from July 5th to 10th, 2021. For more information, please visit: www.messumswiltshire.com with www.leberandchesworth.com/filmworks/what-listening-knows.

This article first appeared in the latest version of Renaissance and Ecologist The magazine is now published.

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