Sound installation (related to sound art and sound sculpture) is an intermedia and time based art form. It is an expansion of an art installation in the sense that it includes the sound element and therefore the time element. The main difference with a sound sculpture is that a sound installation has a three dimensional space and the axes with which the different sound objects are being organized are not exclusively internal to the work, but also external. A work of art is an installation only if it makes a dialog with the surrounding space. A sound installation is usually a site-specific but sometimes it can be readapted to other spaces. It can be made either in close or open spaces, and context is fundamental to determine how a sound installation will be aesthetically perceived. The difference between a regular art installation and a sound installation is that the later one has the time element, which gives the visiting public the possibility to stay a longer time due possible curiosity over the development of sound. This temporal factor also gives the audience the excuse to explore the space thoroughly due to the dispositions of the different sounds in space. Sound installations sometimes use interactive art technology (computers, sensors, mechanical and kinetic devices, etc.) but we also find this type of art form using only sound sources placed in different space points (like speakers), or acoustic music instruments materials like piano strings that are played by a performer or by the public (see Paul Panhuysen).
Kim Kichul has continuously been working with sound, against more traditional, visual forms of art. To Kim, sound itself is the subject rather than an added element that composes a part of the whole sculpture, and it is a continuum already inherent with a meaning.
Kim first started using sound in his work through an experience he had while listening to the radio. He experienced temporal-spatial qualities of sound, and felt as though he were looking at the actual physical sound coming from a radio. His work 11-Faced Avalokitesvara presented in his first solo exhibition in 1993 departed from the word Avalokitesvara, which explains feeling the subject as if to see it. Kim was deeply moved by a verse from Bomunpum, the 25th chapter of The Sutra of the Lotus, which stated that if Sattva, in their suffering, chanted the Avalokitesvara with a simple concentration, they could reached Nirvana. By placing 10 statues of Avalokitesvara on radios each tuned to different channels, he presented a compositional method of observing sound through synesthesia.
It’s clear to see that sound itself is Kim’s main subject of interest especially through his earlier work Sound Looking (1999), which visually materializes the properties of sound dependent on the auditory senses. In this work, particles in a clear tube move according to the waves of the generated sound, and all things visible are mobilized in order to reveal the invisible sound.
Sound Gear, Rain drop Sounds, Eight Channel Speaker
“Sound Looking – Rain” is a sound installation that investigates the nature of perception and representation in relation to the Buddhist concept of emptiness. Suspended from the gallery ceiling is a matrix of audio speakers, wires and monofilament, the audio that fills the space is a sound collage of falling rain. Kim’s sound landscape induces us to float between the opposing forms of sight and sound. Kim also references a formal minimalism as we experience the shifting relationships between sound, speakers, the gallery space and our bodies.
Wooden Bell, Sound Gear, Water Drop Sound, 2000 Seoul, Korea
2008 Center for Integrated Media, CalArts, CA
Sound Gear, Voice Activated Servo Controller, 2006, Seattle, WA