I take a new approach to “sound art.” I make works which rely on user input to make sounds as part of an integrated visual and acoustic experience. My goals are conceptual and phenomenological — I’m exploring the lived sense of completion or the lack of completion in time. I’m trained as a classical rhetorician and rely on a thorough knowledge of tropes, figures, and rhetorical theory to elicit an artistic response in an audience. I think of my work as distinctly (for better and worse) American — it proceeds from the American phenomenology of William James and the American anti-foundationalism of Richard Rorty. It is optimistic and “can do” art that sees technology as emancipatory and progress as possible.
Broadly speaking, I define sound art as art that uses sound in some way as a medium of artistic expression. I don’t tend to spend much time worrying whether something is sound art or music or conceptual art. I like listening to music but I don’t consider myself a musician (where I do consider myself to be a sound artist and a conceptual artist). To paraphrase Barnett Newman, I think that most efforts to establish explicit taxonomies bear the same relation to working artists as ornithology does to birds. The artists are making art. The critics and scholars are making arguments about what kind of art is being made. This seems like a pretty good division of labor, so long as there is some way for the two different groups to communicate.
I think sound art is at an exciting time — a time where it can advance the agenda of conceptual art in meaningful ways. It feels like we’re ready to step out and compliment the “sound-as-sound” work and theory we’ve had since John Cage and do some important things with semantic sound and interactive sound. Using new technology and a synesthetic depth of two or more senses at once, the integration of sound and visual expression offers the creation of artistic “figures” that have never been seen before. This technology permits inexpensive but very powerful sensor-based sound work (where works make sounds at particular times and particular sequences because of some input condition). Like the latter half of the 19th century in the history of painting — when the technology to make paint finally advanced to such a point that painters could treat the medium as transparent — Art that integrates sound and sight has reached an open beginning.