The Sound of Seeing – sonic experiment in Aotearoa Artists' Film and Video 1973-2020

Detail, Christopher Ulutupu, Manaonao (2011)

The Sound of Seeing is a series of three film screenings which present an alternative history of Aotearoa experimental music, seen through the prism of artists film and video 1973-2020.

Presented by CIRCUIT and Epic Sweep Records in association with The Pyramid Club, The Sound of Seeing offers a survey of Aotearoa experimental music informed not only by radical sonic aesthetics, but also contemporary critical practices.

We begin with a work by Tanya Te Miringa Te Rorarangi Ruka (Ngā Puhi, Ngati Pakau and Waitaha) entitled Come for a walk (2020). Shot during Covid 19 lockdown, the video features a dawn karakia performed by the artist's mother, who asks Tāwhirimatea and Tangaroa to carry her prayer “to help those in need”.

Several films perfectly calibrate sonic composition to the image. Fever Hospital's soundtrack to Lissa Mitchell's Bowl Me Over (1995) makes for one of the most raucous and evocative portraits of the South Island ever set to film. David Downes' Noise: Theme and Variations (1997), is explicitly an experiment in parity between image and sound. Torben Tilly's soundtrack for Gavin Hipkins' City of Tomorrow (2017) is psychologically nuanced to every shift in the artist’s images of a planned future city.

Other works use sound to bring historical materials into the present. Janet Lilo's Untitled (2019) features two recordings, one of her son playing the piano, and another of his school performing a Haka originally written in 1915 by Waimarama Puhara. Eli Jenkins' Prayer (2016) features an audio recording of the New Zealand Male Choir made by the artist's Nana, Nancy Evans. Recorded in 2010 on a handheld Sony Cassette recorder, Nancy's recording documents not only a performance by the artist’s grandfather, but also the incredible acoustic presence of the Queen's St Georges Chapel in Windsor Castle. Intended simply as a document of the artists grandfather in performance, Winter reworked the audio into a performative video, in which the artist plays on a form of ‘drag’, both visually and temporally, embodying the existence and continuity of queerness through time and space.

Other works, such as Christopher Ulutupu’s ‘uncompleted’ music video Manaonao (2011) while not exploring the sonic as material, nevertheless have used sound as basis from which consider questions about the production process and working with a group.

Curated by Mark Williams and Epic Sweep records, The Sound of Seeing was programmed not by watching the films, but by extracting the audio, and sequencing the screening like a record. The first two evenings have been imagined as a double vinyl album using existing films, and are divided into Side 1, Side 2, Side 3, Side 4.

The third night on Friday 13 October - The Sound of Seeing Live! - features several new live audio and visual commissions including two soundtracks commissioned by The Pyramid Club and supported by Creative New Zealand as part of their project Unmaking the Near Future.

The Sound of Seeing is not only a new way of imagining the history of experimental music in Aotearoa, it is also the first time some of these films have been shown in public for many years. Our thanks to the many artists who have contributed to this project. Thanks also to our major sponsor, Wellington City Council, and The Pyramid Club, not only for their hosting of this programme but their ongoing support of the experimental sound community in Aotearoa.

Finally, special thanks to my co-curator in this project, Epic Sweep Records.

The Sound of Seeing: Night One - Sides 1 & 2  (30 October)
Tanya Te Miringa Te Rorarangi Ruka, Jane Mihingarangi Ruka
Lissa Mitchell, Fever Hospital
Terry Urbahn, Andrew Thomas
Gavin Hipkins, Torben Tilly
Rachel Shearer
Christopher Ulutupu, Josephine Chadwick, Katie Uilaau Chadwick, Isitolo Alesana
Bryce Galloway, Wendyhouse
Richard Von Sturmer, Charlotte Wrightson, Derek Ward, Jed Town
Aliyah Winter, Ieuan Evans with the New Zealand Male Choir

The Sound of Seeing: Night Two - Sides 3 & 4  (6 November)

Nova Paul, Bic Runga
David Downes
Nathan Thompson, Expansion Bay and Del
Popular Productions, Tone Cornaga, George Hubbard
Sean Grattan, James Duncan, Mireya Lucio
Kim Pieters, William Henry Meung

Janet Lilo, Harry Lilo, Owairaka District School, Waimarama Puhara
The Parasitic Fantasy Band

The Sound of Seeing Live!: Night Three - (13 November)

Jill Kennedy, Emma Bernard (Ludus)
Clinton Watkins, Seung Yul Oh
Laura Duffy, Erika Grant, Isaac Smith, Rosie Langabeer
Jamie Berry
Chrissie Butler
Thomas Carroll
Simon Cuming