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Emergency Noises

Sound Art and Gender

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Irene Noy

Art history traditionally concentrates on the visual. Sound has either been ignored or has been appreciated in a highly selective manner within a different discipline: music. This book is about recent attempts by artists trained in (West) Germany to provoke listening experiences to awaken the senses. Their work is revolutionary in artistic terms and in what it reveals about human relations, especially concerning issues of gender.

The main focus of the book is to explore a gendered reading of the unity between the visual and the aural, a strand most prominently expressed within sound art in the period from the beginning of the 1960s to the 1980s. The book juxtaposes sources that have not been considered in conjunction with each other before and questions sound art’s premise: is it a separate field or a novel way of understanding art? The study also opens up sound art to gender considerations, asking if the genre possesses the capacity to disrupt conventional, gendered role models and facilitate alternative possibilities of self-definition and agency across genders. Emergency Noises brings to light the work of underrepresented female artists and explores new intersections of sound, art and gender.

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Chapter 5: Unmasking the Masquerade: Aural and Visual Gender Dynamics in the Performance Series Emergency Solos by Christina Kubisch

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CHAPTER 5

Unmasking the Masquerade: Aural and Visual Gender Dynamics in the Performance Series Emergency Solos by Christina Kubisch

Challenging male hegemony: Freeing the body, freeing meaning

Christina Kubisch (b. 1948) is regarded as one of the most significant figures amongst the post-war sound artists in West Germany.1 Today, she is predominantly known for her sound installations and ‘Electrical Walks’ for which she uses electromagnetic induction technology. Her early works show that she had to struggle to gain her place within a particularly male-dominated environment, and how she took it upon herself to challenge its gendered assumptions. For instance, in A History of Soundcards (1978), Kubisch showed some one hundred portraits of the composers whose legacy had been the basis of her musical training. They were all males.

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