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Industry Insights: Bogong Centre for Sound Culture

BY Madelynne Cornish | 04-Feb-2019
Madelynne Cornish is an audiovisual artist and curator. She documents the effects of climate on natural and constructed environments, and the dynamics informing remote communities. @bogongsound #bogongsound
Bogong Centre for Sound Culture

Please tell us about yourself and your history in the art industry.

Madelynne Cornish is an audiovisual artist and curator. She documents the effects of climate on natural and constructed environments, and the dynamics informing remote communities. Cornish’s work employs duration, landscape and stillness as a means of responding to the temporal and spatial morphology of place. Her multi-layered artworks are reflections of how humans engage with, and shape their environment.

Philip Samartzis is a sound artist, scholar and curator with a specific interest in the social and environmental conditions informing remote wilderness regions and their communities. His art practice is based on deep fieldwork where he deploys complex sound recording technology to capture natural, anthropogenic and geophysical forces. The recordings are used within various exhibition, performance and publication outcomes to demonstrate the transformative effects of sound within a fine art context. He is particularly interested in concepts of perception, immersion and embodiment in order to provide audiences with sophisticated encounters of space and place.

Please tell us about the initiative Bogong sound. The Bogong Centre for Sound Culture (B–CSC) was established by

Madelynne Cornish and Philip Samartzis in 2010, within the newly renovated old school at Bogong Alpine Village, which is situated at an elevation of 700 metres in North-East Victoria. The aim of the initiative is to provide access and opportunity for artists to respond to the environmental, social and cultural forces underpinning the Victorian Alpine region and its attendant community. The B–CSC is an unfunded arts initiative that actively promotes regional Victoria through specially curated projects, art and music publications, site responsive masterclasses, and through an artist in residence program. Artist participating in the supported residency program are provided with accommodation and work area at no cost. Most public events are offered free of charge, except the masterclass which is priced to cover running costs.

Which key projects are you currently working on?

The B–CSC is currently developing a new site responsive festival with Melbourne based art’s initiative AvantWhatever for 2020 focusing on the theme of deep time that spans concepts derived from geological and indigenous timelines, as well as various forms of temporalisation. It includes emerging and established artists working in disciplines such as performance, spatial practice, music, sound installation, podcasting, geolocative audio and virtual reality. The B–CSC is also offering a winter masterclass titled The Art of Field Recording drawing on the polar work of world renowned sound artist Douglas Quin [US] and Philip Samartzis. The masterclass will take place in and around the Bogong High Plains during the winter ski season and will demonstrate ways to prepare for and undertake deep field work in challenging environmental conditions. It builds on the work Doug and Philip have done in Antarctica, sub-Antarctica and the Arctic, which has produced rich and diverse outcomes including sound design for film, performance and installation works, and standalone compositions. Readers can find out more about the Art of Field Recording at http://bogongsound.com.au/projects/winter-masterclass-2019

What is your philosophy on art and sound?

The B–CSC is informed by a broad suite of site-specific art practices, underpinned by social, political and environmental concerns. It draws on a rich and complex history of art, sound and music to articulate new experiences and encounters of space and place. Influences include sound art and acoustic ecology, environmental activism, experimental and avant-garde art movements, marginalised communities, and socially engaged art practices. By drawing on an assortment of provocative and original cultural and political reference points, the B–CSC seeks to challenge the way remote and regional areas and their attendant stakeholders, communities and ecologies, are viewed, understood and appreciated. The initiative is an advocate for places and people located at the margins of society, yet who are critical in how transnational capitalist societies function.

What is it that sparks your passion?

First and foremost, the B–CSC is an artist led initiative that covets its independence. In this way it can initiate and support a variety of projects responsive to the complex set of issues underpinning life in remote and regional areas. The B–CSC draws its inspiration from the numerous artist initiatives it has worked with, as well as our participation in various national and international artist in residence programs. The B–CSC has a deep philanthropic underpinning that it uses to support and encourage established and emerging artists to engage specifically with Australia’s alpine region.

What is the philosophy behind your creations

The B–CSC tries to be as fluid and responsive as possible to new site responsive practices and opportunities. At first it was mainly interested in supporting sound culture due to the limited opportunities available for artists working within sound art and experimental music. In more recent times it has expanded its program to include a broader suite of art practices including performance, video art and photography. The qualities we are looking for in the projects we initiate, or support include significant amounts of research, innovation, and risk in order to produce new and challenging outcomes representative of the changing dynamics and conditions of wilderness ecologies.

What are you enjoying most about being creative?

The new knowledge, experiences, and social interactions arising from working on projects in remote and challenging conditions are the most satisfying aspects of the creative process. The B–CSC was established as a way of developing a collective response to the environmental and social issues informing the Australian Alps. The rich range of responses that have emerged since the B–CSC was founded has provided a complex eco-cultural map of the region, achieved through a diverse set of artistic practices, experiences, and cultural viewpoints.

In your mind what was your biggest achievement?

Establishing an independent, self-funded and resourced artist initiative in a challenging wilderness environment is certainly an achievement for which we are very proud of. The B–CSC has provided a mechanism for artists to undertake significant projects in the Victorian Alps for close to ten years. It has supported 90 national and international artists through our exhibition, publication, artist-in-residence and masterclass programs, which has been very fulfilling.

One key advice you would like to pass on to young emerging artists?

Perseverance is the key to a successful arts practice. Maintain your commitment and enthusiasm while evolving your practice and network. Over time all the experiences and outputs will accrue into a substantial body of work which you will be able to leverage to produce opportunity and profile.

If you could make one instant change to the Australian art industry what would it be?

More investment into regional arts initiatives free of constraints particularly in regard to community engagement and/or involvement which often leads to mediocrity. The definition of community can extend from local to global, specialist to generalist, and engaged to disengaged. The industry would benefit by allowing artists to operate freely in order to confront, challenge and provoke audiences, which can be as empowering to communities as participatory, socially engaged projects sometimes are.

How have the internet and social media been shaping the art industry?

The B–CSC relies mainly on word of mouth and through our website which has attracted numerous regional, national, and international artists and musicians. The internet provides an effective means of capturing some of our activities, which we can promote to a broad audience. It also allows us to fashion a particular design aesthetic different to a lot of regional arts organisations. It is as much a site of experimentation as field work or exhibition, which can be strategically used to create a unique identity or brand.

What are your thoughts about future online trends in art?

The B–CSC is an unusual case as it is far removed from urban centres and their attendant communications and social networks. Most people come to Bogong Village to escape the internet in order to focus on their arts practice free of distraction. The trend therefore from our perspective is that artists are seeking respite from online communities, to reconnect with things that are physical and present. This seems to be the overriding feedback we receive by the artists that we host.

Imagine no limits, what would you dream project be like?

The B–CSC is halfway through its dream project which comprises a 20-year survey of the Victorian Alps, mapping environmental and social challenges through the collective effort of all the artists we have supported. Together we will produce an in depth, multifaceted audio-visual map of the alpine region drawing on an expanded field of practice, engagement and knowledge. It will provide audiences with a remarkable and complex way of experiencing place through the collective effort and interaction of hundreds of artists from all walks of life. The project will culminate in an expansive exhibition and publication in 2030.

Additional thoughts and insights:

If people wish to find out more about the B–CSC and it’s projects, they can visit our website at http://bogongsound.com.au