Space-Shifter, 2009-2012

Steel with 2-pack enamel paint
14 channel audio, audio transducers, speakers: 17.00 min

Sonia Leber and David Chesworth create a psychogeography of voice and space at Detached, using sound, vibration and metallic constructions. Human voices resonate throughout the space: babbling and uttering absurdities. Separated from their originating sources, the voices are launched like missiles, careering around and acting directly on the materials of the space.

This is an encounter with the voice as an object in itself, where it has become detached from the unseen soundmakers. It is as if the voices have an excess of energy, an unfettered 'self-enjoying' jouissance, which can be uncanny and unnerving, but also thrilling and liberating. The elusive entity of the trickster is evoked. Here it is imagined as a noisy, mischievous interloper, an agent-provocateur, able to change and move about without restraint. The trickster's voice twists and turns: hatching, splitting and multiplying, delighting in its own excess, making mock, creating damage and disorder.

This version of the installation features the extended vocal techniques of Maria Lurighi, along with Deborah Kayser, Jerzy Kozlowski and the Royal Melbourne Philharmonic Choir. Each singer was selected for a willingness to use and explore a range of extended-voice techniques, including unusual timbral qualities, breath-sounds and expressive mouth-sounds. The installation also includes fragments of idiosyncratic voices that the artists recorded in the real world, selected for their familiar and unfamiliar qualities.

In his book 'A Voice and Nothing More', the philosopher Mladen Dolar notes a recurrent metaphysical concern from Plato to Saint Augustine, that lawlessness results when the voice deviates from the safe haven of the word. According to Dolar, it was often feared that the voice 'should not stray away from words which endow it with sense; as soon as it departs from its textual anchorage, the voice becomes senseless and threatening - all the more because of its seductive and intoxicating powers...Up to a point, [the voice] is sublime and elevates the spirit; beyond a certain limit, however, it brings about decay...the voice is both the subtlest and the most perfidious form of flesh.'

Now and Forever, 2009

Single channel video, stereo audio, wood, acrylic, polypropylene Video loop 1:30 min, audio loop 12:10 min Acknowledgements: Royal Melbourne Philharmonic Choir Originally commissioned by Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne

Oculus is the Latin word for eye and in architecture it is used to describe a round window skylight or opening. They became popular architectural motifs from the 16th century, a reference not only to the Pantheon in Rome but also to the idea of the permanent gaze of an all-seeing deity looking down on the world. In Now and Forever the viewer is placed at an oculus, in this God-like vantage point to witness human activity. There is choral singing (composed by the artists) in which ordinary voices take on 'sacred effects', mixed with real world recordings of struggle and pain.

The artists state, “We have a belief that certain architectural forms have the capacity to act on us in ineffable ways, stimulating our senses and changing the nature of our behaviour as individuals. These architectural forms (the cave, the tunnel, the temple, the hut, the stairwell, the turret, amongst others) are effective in that they have the capacity to make certain spiritual and secular 'fictions' manifest. We have made several works which focus on the architecture of permanent observation as a means of social control, particularly as a reforming influence, to make us want to 'improve' ourselves.”

Artworks courtesy the artists and Fehily Contemporary