In 2010, swissnex San Francisco explored the relationship between sound and space with ICST Zurich’s Milieux Sonores exhibition at the Gray Area Foundation for the Arts. In parallel to this groundbreaking media- and sound-art exhibition was a literally wall-shaking performance by Bay Area duo Infrasound—an intensely physical investigation of sound, frequency, volume, and space by artists Scott Arford and Randy Yau.
Now, San Francisco’s 23five Incorporated celebrates the 10th anniversary of Infrasound with a concert at The Lab. Infrasound engages The Lab’s space for the first time (they never perform in the same space twice) by “playing” its architecture and rattling its walls with a finely tuned broadcast of specific frequencies rendered at crushingly loud volumes. For the occasion, Infrasound is accompanied by two Swiss artists: “failed electronics” noise tactician Francisco Meirino and pioneering electro-acoustic minimalist Jason Kahn, who present solo and collaborative sets.
With the support from the Swiss Arts Council, Pro Helvetia.
Infrasound: Scott Arford and Randy Yau
For 10 years now, sound artists Scott Arford and Randy Yau have put forth the framework for a project that explores the complex relationship between sound, space, perception, and the body. Their Infrasound series of spatial acoustic concerts are driven by this presiding manifesto:
Hear with your body. This is not about music. This is not about performance or the performer. The goal is sound and the explicit translation of sound into physical force. The goal is internal and external realization. It is about provoking new modes of perceiving and experiencing one’s own body—triggering variable and autonomous psycho-physiological response. It is about the total acoustic sense of space—observing sound to measure the capacity of architecture. It is about the phenomenon of resonance or sympathetic vibration—all things working in one continuum.
The Infrasound pursuit has led them to a long list of questions, a few answers, and a growing sense of the totality of the continuum. As this project began with an unexpectedly tangible vibrancy, so it continues as an exploration of total experience.
Founded in 1993, 23five Incorporated is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the development and increased awareness of sound works in the public arena, and to the support and education of artists working with and discussing the medium of sound. For the past 18 years, 23five has remained at the forefront in bringing the most adventurous elements of sound art to the San Francisco Bay Area. 23five has served as an important benefactor to artists such as CM von Hausswolff, Christina Kubisch, Francisco Lopez, Olivia Block, Matt Heckert, Zbigniew Karkowski, Atau Tanaka, and many more.
Scott Arford is one of the leading figures of new media arts in the San Francisco Bay Area. He has produced numerous works for sound and video including multichannel installations, live performances, and CD and DVD projects. He was awarded an Honorable Mention in the 2005 Prix Ars Electronica. He has shown in numerous venues including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Dissonanze 7 in Rome, Italy; LUFF Festival in Lausanne, Switzerland; Observatori Festival in Valencia, Spain; the Sounding Festivals in Guangzhou, China and Taipei, Taiwan; the LEM festival in Barcelona, Spain; Liquid Architecture in Melbourne, Australia; the Festival de Video/Arte/Eolectronica in Lima, Peru; Sonic Light in Amsterdam; and the Center for Contemporary Arts in Kitakyushu, Japan. Arford received a Bachelor of Architecture from the College of Architecture and Design at Kansas State University in 1991.
Randy Yau is a curator, sound artist, and designer who has been active in the sonic arts since 1993. He has produced multiple solo and collaborative audio works that have been distributed internationally. He has also performed extensively throughout the United States, Europe, Japan, Peru, Australia, Taiwan, and China.
Yau founded and co-curates Activating the Medium, an annual sonic arts festival that traveled through universities, museums, and alternative art spaces across California including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. He also founded Auscultare Research, a record label releasing sound works from artists all over the world. A former host of KPFA’s “No Other Radio Network,” he has conducted radio programs focused on sound art for over 13 years. Since 1999, Yau has served as Curatorial Director of 23five Incorporated and continues to serve as the organization’s Executive Director. Yau holds a Bachelor of Science in Applied Art and Design from California Polytechnic State University.
Jason Kahn is a sound and visual artist based in Zurich. His work includes sound installation, performance, and composition. He was born in New York, grew up in Los Angeles, and relocated to Europe in 1990. Kahn has been exhibiting his sound and visual works since the late 1990s, and has had solo and group exhibitions internationally, including museums, galleries, and arts spaces in the USA, Canada, France, Croatia, Germany, Argentina, Egypt, Poland, Switzerland, Denmark, Austria, and Spain.
Originally a percussionist, Kahn later began integrating live electronics into his playing. He currently performs with different combinations of percussion, analogue synthesizer, and computer. As a composer, his work draws on electronic and acoustic sound sources to create slowly developing compositions imbued with a sense of timelessness. His work addresses the entity of sound as both a physical and psychological factor shaping our consciousness. Kahn’s sound installations seek to enhance spatial awareness through sonic intervention, focusing on expanding our perception to other dimensions of seeing, hearing, and feeling a space.
Francisco Meirino explores the tension between programmable material and the potential for its failure. He is primarily interested in the idea of recording what is not supposed to be (gear failures, the death of PA systems, magnetic fields, and electro-static noises) and in how failure can become something more than just annoying. Meirino’s music is a complex and constantly changing electronic soundscape that is fascinating for its physical intensity and detailed precision. He works mainly with the computer, reel-to-reel tape recorders, magnetic fields detectors, piezo tranducers, field recorders, and homemade electronics. He has presented over 150 performances in Europe, Japan, and North America.
Photo: Myleen Hollero