Monday, September 28, 2015

In Conversation: Catherine Clover

Eye Score: The Audible Image has delivered a fresh crop of talented artists into the Town Hall Gallery exhibition spaces. Melbourne-based artist Catherine Clover has created a text-based work titled so to speak (2015) that appears on the glass window of the eastern entrance to the Hawthorn Arts Centre.

Marion Piper, Gallery & Curatorial Assistant, recently had a conversation with Cath about listening, birds and paying attention to daily life.


[Marion Piper]: Hi Catherine! How are you?
Let’s kick off this interview for Eye Score..
Can you tell me a little bit about your artistic practice and the work you’ll be exhibiting in Eye Score?

[Catherine Clover]: Hi Marion! 
My practice looks at communication through voice and language, with listening as the key means of gathering material. The work uses the reciprocity that takes place between hearing and listening, seeing and reading. Speculative and imaginative but grounded in scientific and philosophical research, I am interested in the potential for communication across species in the urban environment, with the city as a kind of rich and complex trigger that is an opportunity for the potential of cross species exchange.

Detail from so to speak (2015), vinyl lettering, 2400 x 4200 cm, Courtesy of the artist.

The work I am producing for Eyescore is a site specific response to the area. It is a sonic response - a listening, if you like - to the daily activities along Glenferrie Road and Burwood Road, realised in text form. I made several field trips recording what I heard and what I saw through both field recordings and written notes. In the work you read/hear the voices of the local birds - lorikeets, pigeons, ravens, gulls - and the local population, and you read familiar local signs such as road names, shop signs, tram numbers and routes, and graffiti. The voices are in italics. In effect the work is like a listening/reading of the site that folds back onto itself, a score which can be privately read or publicly performed. It is a score that predicts an event, like a conventional score, but it is also a score that occurs at the same time as the event as well as after the event: for example you may notice the gull fly overhead as you read or the gull may fly overhead because you read or the gull may fly overhead as you walk away.

Detail from so to speak (2015), vinyl lettering, 2400 x 4200 cm, Courtesy of the artist.

[MP]: I love your engagement with multiple senses as a means to activate the work. What I notice, ironically, is that you demand a lot of attention from your viewer in a captivating way, which not only brings to light their immediate environment, but also fosters a sense of active presence. Is the concept of absence/presence an integral part of understanding your work?

Detail from so to speak (2015), vinyl lettering, 2400 x 4200 cm, Courtesy of the artist.

[CC]: That’s interesting that you read it as multiple senses, as my core interest in sense perception is sound, the sonic and listening. My background in the visual is never far away though, yes, as the work illustrates. Yes the work is about paying attention; paying attention to the infra ordinary, to the daily, the ordinary and I hope the artwork directs viewers to that as much as to itself.

Absence/presence is not a concept that I have paid particular attention to although you are right that it is a component of the work. In terms of environmental considerations it’s an important concept as well of course but my interest is in those wild city birds that are fully present rather than vulnerable to extinction, say. Those vulnerable to extinction get more attention these days but the birds I engage with are generally ignored as pest species, numerous and uninteresting to many of us. This general dislike is something that prompts my interest in them.

[MP]: That's interesting Cath, about the pest species and the dislike you mention. The eastern entrance to the Hawthorn Arts Centre, where your work is on display, is often the most confusing entrance for visitors to the centre, often causing frustration. This highlights how often we don't pay attention - is it your intention to bring spatial as well as sonic awareness here?

Detail from so to speak (2015), vinyl lettering, 2400 x 4200 cm, Courtesy of the artist.

[CC]: Yes the birds and inter-species relations are one of the key aspects of my work so yes, your point about paying attention is well made, especially paying attention to the everyday, the daily, the ordinary and the repetitive. It is easy to follow habits in the habitual and the work calls attention to this, a reminder perhaps, of those smaller things that make up our lives, overlooked mostly but significant. Yes spatial awareness is integral to sonic awareness and they go hand in hand as sound describes site through its dimensions.

[MP]: So, thinking of the everyday, how has your artistic process (of listening and recording) changed your ways of engaging with the world?

[CC]: That’s a great question Marion - yes it has. I pay far more attention than I used to and find myself all the richer for it, particularly the ordinary repetitive things of everyday life. Attentive listening can be done anywhere and anytime and is such a rewarding process but so subtle and with minimum impact, no impact really. In some ways I think that my art process could be pulled right back to the listening, a gesture so minimal but so expansive. Very Zen! But true!

Detail from so to speak (2015), vinyl lettering, 2400 x 4200 cm, Courtesy of the artist.

[MP]: Your work is incredibly mindful and I know that visitors to Eye Score will appreciate the opportunity to slow down and take notice.

What's next for you Cath? Any other exhibitions or projects coming up?
[CC]: I am involved in an exhibition in New York at the moment, Old tech New tech the dates are very similar to Eye Score in fact so it’s been a busy few weeks, and working on a few articles for journals, attempting a hybrid approach to writing that blurs the creative with the academic. One article will be coming out soon on Iris Garrelf’s Reflections on Process in Sound. I’ve got various possibilities/collaborations for next year, and confirmed so far are an exhibition at McClelland Gallery for later in 2016 curated by Janine Burke Human Animal Artist plus a sound event in London in January as part of the Points of Listening programme organised by Salom√© Voegelin and Mark Peter Wright.


Eye Score: The Audible Image is open to the public until Sunday 1 November, 2015. For more information on Catherine Clover, check out her website at .

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