Justin Bennett presents acoustic filters at RE:SOUND

Artist and researcher Justin Bennett, who teaches at the Institute of Sonology of the Royal Conservatoire, recently presented his research concerning acoustic filters at the Media Art Histories conference RE:SOUND in Aalborg, Denmark (20 - 23 August 2019). The focus of the conference was on the theories, practices and histories of sound art, music and technology. Justin was invited to show work relating to acoustic territories and to give a paper reflecting on sonic interventions in public space.

Justin says: "I showed, among other things, a number of small sculptural objects which are acoustic filters for listening. The idea behind the work is that humans use the sounds of their languages, musics and machines to define territories, just as animals and birds do. Listening and recording through these acoustic filters allows us to focus on different parts of the sonic spectrum, in order to navigate through these territories. This research is the basis of a recent audio-walk: Multiplicity, a spectral analysis of Brussels.

In my lecture, I talked about these ideas and related them to other ways of engaging with, or intervening in, public space. I talked about recent projects made by a number of Sonology alumni: Donia Jourabchi, Taufan ter Weel, Fani Konstantinidou and Davide Tidoni, who address public space as a place for performance, as a place of debate and dialogue.

The conference was very dense, with up to 6 simultaneous sessions, which made it difficult to follow everything that I was interested in. However, I managed to follow many theoretical and artistic presentations. It was interesting to see how the media theory that I grew up with is not only extended by concepts from new materialism and post-humanism, but also often clashes with contemporary sound studies, art theory and the urgencies of today's politics.

It's easy to take institutional support for granted in western Europe. Talking to presenters from Mexico, Brazil, Poland and even the US brought it home to me how precarious the life of an artist or an academic can be as soon as their work touches on anything that can be considered political (like for instance the definition of public space, representing historical facts or working with disadvantaged communities). Two Brazilian PhD students had heard while in Aalborg that their funding had been cancelled by the government. They would be returning to unemployment and half-finished research. That certainly puts things in perspective."