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Emergency Noises

Sound Art and Gender


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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I am indebted to the many wonderful people who have helped this book come out, not least to Peter Lang’s commissioning editor, Dr Laurel Plapp, who encouraged me to publish it, and Jon Ashby for copy-editing.

For the research and publication, I received generous funding from the Sackler Trust and the Marie Louise von Motesiczky Charitable Trust, for which I am extremely grateful. Both grants were made during my time at the Courtauld Institute of Art, which has been a welcoming habitat for me since autumn 2011. There I have met a considerable number of scholars to whom I would like to express my appreciation. I owe deep gratitude to Dr Shulamith Behr for her time and trenchant advice. I am obliged to Dr Alixe Bovey for enabling me to be part of the vibrant team at the Sackler Research Forum. Collegial support, which I have also deeply appreciated, was provided by Professors Mignon Nixon, Sarah Wilson, Dr Katie Scott and Dr Ayla Lepine. Stirring conversations with Dr Michaela Zöschg led to a series of collaborations entitled Art History and Sound: The Listening Art Historian, which shaped the early stages of this project.

Scholars and artists in other institutions have also offered helpful guidance, and I would like to thank Professor Simon Shaw-Miller, Dr Astrid Schmetterling, Dr Salomé Voegelin, Dr Johanna Hällsten, Dr Martin Parker, Dr Tamara Trodd, Dr Caroline Yi, Frances Carey, and Professors Cathy Lane, John Harvey, Iain Boyd Whyte...

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