Sound Art at Tate Archive

Based at Tate Britain, Tate Archive was founded in 1970. It holds the world’s largest collection of items relating to British art, from 1900 to the present. It contains more than a million artifacts arranged in 900 individual collections (The National Archives, 2018). Included in the Archive are papers from Francis Bacon, Kenneth Clark, Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore, Graham Sutherland and Walter Sickert (Tate, n.d.).


The rolling stacks in the archive store. Tate, 2010.

While still relying on the “impenetrable rows and rows of boxes on shelves” module and only allowing visitors to request particular items while waiting in a concealed subterranean room (off-putting?), Tate Archive gives access to an incredible reserve of items. From artworks to letters, journals, audio recordings, photographs, sketches, objects, diaries, and audiovisual material. The collection has started its process of digitalisation a few years ago and currently holds 52,000 items on its digital archive.

I recently discovered that cassettes’ from William Furlong’s Audio Arts Magazine have been acquired by Tate Archive in 2004 and are available to the public (under formal access to the Library). Audio Arts was a collection of cassettes containing interviews material, readings and conversations recorded by Barry Baker and William (Bill) Furlong, who also conducted some of the interviews. Andy Warhol, Philip Glass, Marina Abramovic, Marcel Duchamp, Gilbert & George, and Ellsworth Kelly were only some of the people who contributed to Audio Arts over the years. Between 1973 and 2006, the Magazine “developed to comprise interviews with artists and curators, commentary by artists on their works, documentation of major international art events, collaborations with artists, sound performances and other sound works” (Tate, n.d.)


Material from the Audio Arts Archive, Tate Archive © William Furlong

Bibliography: (n.d.). About Audio Arts. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 Oct. 2018]. (n.d.). Audio Arts: all volumes. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 Oct. 2018].

Breakell, S. (2008). Perspectives: Negotiating the Archive — Tate Papers | Tate. [online] Tate. Available at: [Accessed 25 Oct. 2018]. (n.d.). Tate Gallery Archive | The National Archives. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 Oct. 2018].

The National Archives. (2018). Tate Library and Archive achieve Archive Service Accreditation — The National Archives. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 Oct. 2018].

Conceptual Art, Fluxus, Digital Art. (2010). Books LLC.

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Ways of making art and concerns regarding the production of art

A summary and reflection on the Introduction to Art in the Making by Glenn Adamson & Julia Bryan-Wilsonhe.

The art of today is changing to a strikingly large extent because the ways of making art are changing. Artworks are no more produced following earlier methods of production, created by the artist themselves from the confines of their studio or home.

Art is created using pre-existing objects — the readymades (as Duchamp used to call them) — and incorporating those into an artwork. An approach which appears to “deskill the act of making” but is actually strongly compatible with “expressive gestures”, like the brush strokes of a painter. Today’s art is not created directly by the artist but by teams of carpenters in massive warehouses, through expensive software, performed live in front of an audience, or developed from the contribution of thousands of people.

Aaron Koblin’s work is a brilliant example of contribution-made art. His website “is a collection of 10,000 sheep made by workers on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. Workers were paid 0.02 ($USD) to draw a sheep facing to the left.”

Figure 1. The Sheep Market by Aaron Koblin, 2009.

Some artists have taken the making process a step further by completely getting rid of it. Performing becomes the act of making for those, such as the artists Cornelia Parker with her The Maybe, who believe in the body and its actions as the ultimate artistic tool.

For seven days, eight hours a day, Tilda Swinton performed The Maybe — a collaboration with Cornelia Parker — lying asleep in a glass case. Firstly performed at the Serpentine Gallery in London in 1995, thereafter in the Museo Baracco in Rome in a collaboration with Pierre et Gilles in 1996 and, in 2013, at MoMA in New York.

Figure 2. Tilda Swinton performing The Maybe at MoMA (2013).

The issue of resources

In the Introduction to the Art in the Making, we are presented with multiple examples of how money is invested into art in order for artists to have the necessary resources to produce work. However, a large percentage of artists is still struggling to find corporations or institutions to sponsor them. Some have turned to micro-fundraising through social media, while others have decided to downsize, connect with local producers, and skill-share with other makers.

The acquisition of raw materials, wages for the workers, and bureaucratic obstacles are all factors which for decades have been overlooked by the critic and audience. Art has been mainly valued for its ideas, not for its “physical qualities” — which are a result of the making process. Those involved in such process and responsible for the hands-on production of art, e.g. performers, fabricators, and studio assistants, rarely get mentioned. Art-making is inherently limited: by economic resources, geographical distance, engineering matters and a series of other constraints. It is for this reason that makers turn to the “handmade”. And it is for this reason that the constrained realm of the Making needs to be analysed with a broader image in mind — because the process behind the artwork is embedded in a regime of economic disbalance and social inequities which cannot be unseen.

Bibliography: (n.d.). Aaron Koblin — The Sheep Market. [online] Available at: [Accessed 28 Jan. 2019].

Lever, C. (2013). Tilda Swinton’s The Maybe. [online] AnOther. Available at: [Accessed 28 Jan. 2019].

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Lawrence Abu Hamdan: Earwitness Theatre

Last week I visited Lawrence Abu Hamdan’s new co-commission for Chisenhale Gallery, Earwitness Theatre. For this exhibition, the Beirut-based artist presents a work that “explores the hallucinatory world of the earwitness”. His investigation around the Syrian regime prison of Saydaya and research into sonic evidence form the basis for Hamdan’s work at Chisenhale Gallery.

In 2016, he was invited by Amnesty International to complete an architectural investigation into the violations that took place in Saydnaya, a prison inaccessible to many and completely unknown outside Syria. As many as 13000 people have been executed in that prison since 2011.

Six former detainees were interviewed between January and April 2016. The violations taking place during those years are only recorded through the memory of those who survived.

These interviews are critical to Hamdan’s work. In the exhibition, he presents his library of custom designed and sourced object used to understand the experience of acoustic violence.

In an interview with Ellen Greig for Chisenhale Gallery, Hamdan argues that the exhibition, rather than giving a comprehensive account of all that was revealed in these interviews, acts as space where the experiences of the detainees can be explored and presented to the public in an unconventional way.

Focus element in the exhibition is Saydanaya (the missing 19db), a sound work hosted in a contained listening room set to total darkness. In this composition, the interviews are combined with sine pulses and silence and transformed into a dazzling 15 minutes work that sits inbetween sound art and documentary.


Earwitness Theatre, Press Release, Chisenhale Gallery, 2018.

Ellen Grieg: in conversation with Lawrence Abu Hamdan. Chisenhale Gallery, 2018.

Images by Francesco Imola

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