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360° Women In Sound (2003)

Three Hundred and Sixty Degrees: Women In Sound
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Location: RMIT Gallery, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Part of Liquid Architecture 4. Curated by Sianna Lee and Arnya Tehira.


360 degrees was a project aimed at increasing the participation and visibility of women in sound art culture. It was initiated by three young emerging sound artists who had become frustrated by the lack of female participants in all things sonic. 360 degrees was based in Melbourne and involved sound installations at both West space and First Site galleries as well as an evening of performances, all by women. It was part of the 4 th Liquid Architecture sound art festival in 2003 .

Artist choice

First and foremost; the criteria in deciding the spectrum of artists' to be involved, it was quite simple:

  • Female residing in Australia practicing in sound art of some form;
  • Any level from upstart to established could submit.

The outcome was very automatic, we found that there was such variety of artists from expansive backgrounds needing presentation. Decisions where made according to how the work would fit into the role of achieving our goal:

“Our aim is to reflect a large diversity in conceptual and aesthetic approaches to sound and soundtrack, reflecting the quality and scope of work being produced by women in Australia.”

Female sound Artists' involved in the project:

Dr Ros Bandt, Sue Harding, Jennifer Sochackyj, Boo Chapple, Camilla Hannan, Julie Burleigh, Kelly Sturgiss, Ai Yamamoto, Bec Charlesworth, Cat Hope, Karli Munn, Jasmine Guffond, Louise Terry, Sally Blenheim and Claire Conroy. Along with video artists': Annemarie Kohn, Geoff Robinson and Jean Poole & Cassandra Tytler.

Sound, Time & the artist

The aesthetic of the piece was not at all advised in any criteria, a broad spectrum of styles and backgrounds were anticipated and received. The Quadraphonic & sound/ vision works where however given the limitation of time frame: “All work must be of 1 minute in duration”.

From the outset we knew it would be impossible to impose any kind of stylistic constraints on the content of the works submitted, with a far and wide delivery. Diversity being the operative word, we screened the video works altogether and tried to go with a mish mash kind of approach. Although most of the works were quite abstract, interjections of the real and the wicked made the compile of works bounce off each other rather than sit neatly- which was exactly what we wanted. This same concept was realised with the quadraphonic works, where each artist re ally held their own ground and the pieces didn't flow into one another. It was discovered that statements of individual natures in one minute presentations are also much more digestible (it seems).

The artists that were presented as individuals (having their own space in the gallery) were chosen for their own reasons. Ros Bandt was our preference in recognition of her outstanding involvement in the history of sound sculpture in Australia, along with the fact that she has overcome the adversaries of being a women in the male dominated field for so long now. We really wanted to include sound sculpture as a main part of the exhibitions, Ros was the only person for the role. Thembi Soddell presented a site specific installation to utilize in a room at First Site that we were undecided on the purpose of, her work displayed the opposite concept to the short form limitations we had placed on the quad & sound/vision rooms. This juxtaposition of long duration posed yet another challenge to the audience. Isobel Knowles' computer based game art work had a chirpy and inviting effect. The game had already created and we knew it would be ideal housed in the foyer PC for the First Site exhibit.


Installation dispersed across the city:

  • The breaking up of the exhibitions into 2 separate inner city galleries proved to be a demanding yet diversifying option. The possibilities of works to exhibit were too high too fit everything into the one space, so we opted for this arrangement.
  • Both galleries were located within a 10 minutes walking distance from each other so the public could indeed go from one to the other if so desired.

Each gallery enabled isolation to some degree, along with unique characteristic benefits:

West space with superior functionality- a sound proofed door! This was fantastic, especially at the opening, we found that people were going into the room and closing the door behind them (to block out all the noisy banter in the main space). One punter said it was “the best sound art opening they've ever been too, because you could actually listen to the works!” The door continued to be used throughout the course of the exhibition to aid in isolation of frequencies, along with the role of keeping the decibels from overworking the Gallery Minders ears. The room was a short rectangle shape which was quite fitting for the speaker positioned neatly in each corner. The sound was quite “live” due to the room's tall ceilings and parallel lines, however the carpeted floor did aid this to some degree.

First Site offers a foyer where the computer station is based - this was the first exhibit space housing Isobel's game, played through small speakers. By the time you reached the main space which housed Ros' installation, the game became a distant background bleep. The cement floors and corrugated iron arched ceilings make for an urban religious experience when sound is installed at First Site. Before Ros' work was even installed we knew if would fit perfectly into this main space, as her work remembered the sounds of the now redundant wheat silos and their unique timbres. The stories of the silo workers also resonated well around the room as they seeped out of individual urns, one at a time. The sound and vision room was separated from the main space with an impermanent wall and theatre curtains - this was just enough to do the job (a door would have been great though). The sound & vision room was actually acoustically treated with sound baffles running up the sides of the room to reinforce the quality and definition of the experience in a cinema like delivery. The room was also carpeted for the same reason. The smaller room used for “Intimacy” by Thembi, housed an appropriate dimension for the artists intentions of confined space along with proximity of speakers to the listeners ears. Sound proofing between the main space and the smaller room was a maze of theatre curtain which still allowed for some spill, but not too much that it was detrimental to either installation - which is sometimes the best you can achieve in an “all sound” art exhibition.

In the end

In Summary, the general feedback we received after the completion was positive. Initially we did share concerns of people taking the gender specific approach as an unnecessary motivation in this day and age, however – this was only a minor possible understanding. 360 degrees certainly seemed to have played a major role in Liquid Architecture 4 program, of which a lot more women had been involved in this year than any other.

Further developments from the project have been achieved, the two compiles of one minute works as well as Ros Bandt's Silo Stories were displayed/ installed at a ‘Summer Art Festival' in Germany, along with a screening of the sound & vision works at the Greenlight Cinema in NSW. Some artists have been accessed through there involvement in the festival and invited to other opportunities, some have formed collaborations. It is through the channels of presentation that we create - that forged outcomes can evolve. May other curators see that it is not yet too liberated a world to warrant a refrain from concepts which speak volumes.

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Prepared by: Iain Mott
Created: 2 July 2003
Modified: 20 May 2004

Published by The University of Melbourne
Comments, questions, corrections and additions: i.mott@unimelb.edu.au
Prepared by: Acknowledgements
Updated: 18 January 2007

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