An Ear to the Sounds of Our History

Vintage record covers

An Ear to the Sounds of Our History, is a series of works made from LP record covers drawn from an extensive archive of spoken-word vinyl records. The collection dates from 1948 to 1984, tracing a period when political speech was often recorded on and disseminated through vinyl records. Using the album covers to stand as symbols for various political movements throughout history, I arrange them into “sentences” in which I can make a proposal about some relationships
between history, politics and speech. In these “sentences,” certain realities stand as glaringly obvious while incongruent historical moments interact and converge. I am interested, in the work, about the singular transhistorical dimension of recorded voice, a material that conducts the same acoustic properties as everything about the original context in which the voice was recorded changes dramatically as days, months and years pass. Here the accessibility, dissemination, and preservation of these voices, demonstrates the limits and contradictions of mythologized values about public and political speech.

The work was initiated by a 2004 performance, that I thought of as Spoken Word DJ-ing, I did at an event hosted by LTTR at Art in General. I did another performance of this ‘Spoken Word DJ’ at the Guggenheim Museum in New York in 2010 as part of the exhibition Haunted. An adapted version of the installation, displayed as a single wall installation of 110 record covers in a grid, was shown at the 2011 Venice Biennial in the exhibition ‘Speech Matters’ at the Danish Pavilion. The work has since been grouped into ‘sentences’ of varying lengths.