Supersonix 2012

Celebrating the art and science of sound at Exhibition Road

Supersonix was an international celebration (Jan-June 2012) of the art and science of sound in all its complexity, taking place in London’s cultural heartland. It lead academic and mainstream audiences on a journey through experiments, lectures, workshops, performances and interactive technology within and around the Exhibition Road cultural quarter and its iconic arts, science, cultural and educational institutions. Supersonix was the first major project delivered by the Exhibition Road Cultural Group (ERCG) after the completion of capital works to redevelop Exhibition Road.

The subject of the festival was the interdisciplinary exploration of the interplay between music, sonification, visual representation and the written word, all explored from an arts-science perspective. In effect, the festival explored the interplay between participatory art experiences, mass music events and mass sound experiments – all accompanied by talks to provide knowledge, background information and space for critical and public debate.

The project was a collaboration across all members of the Exhibition Road Cultural Group; each hosted conference streams and events. From there, activities were offered to wider audiences within the institutions and public spaces of Exhibition Road and its adjoining parks, squares, gardens and the underground tunnel (in partnership with Art on the Underground).

Supersonix comprised:

  • Artist residencies at the Science Museum, V&A Museum and Royal College of Art (Jan-Oct 2012)
  • A three-day international conference bringing together artists, scientists and thinkers in the field of sonic art and science (21-23 Jun)
  • Music Day, an established day-long free music festival across the iconic indoor and outdoor spaces of the Exhibition Road area – including a World Music stage in Kensington Gardens (23 June)                                                                                                              

The Artists in Residence

David Cunningham (Supersonix visiting professor, Royal College of Art)

Since the release of his first album, Grey Scale, in 1976, Cunningham has worked as a musician and record producer, engaging with an eclectic range of people and music. His work has ranged from pop music to gallery installations, including work for television, film, contemporary dance and a series of collaborations with visual artists. Cunningham’s installation works explore the real-time experience of the acoustic qualities of a space.

Cunningham’s relationships with students were at the centre of his work: in seminars and tutorials, he encouraged and supported sound work; he set up the working sound studio; with a core of students, he developed sound tracks to accompany silent films – both archive and new work. This formed the performance, Silents, for Supersonix and Music Day in June 2012.

‘The performance ended up as being a way to collaborate with as many students as possible, as students are the USP of the College.’

Aleksander Kolkowski (Supersonix artist in residence, Science Museum)

A composer, violinist, sound artist and researcher born and based in London. In a career spanning over 30 years as a professional musician, he has appeared at major festivals worldwide and recorded for numerous record labels with a variety of ensembles, bands and as a solo performer. Over the past 12 years, Kolkowski has explored the potential of historical sound recording and reproduction technology, combining his unique collection of horned string instruments with gramophones and wax cylinder phonographs, to make contemporary mechanical-acoustic music.

For Kolkowski, the residency brought a new level and range of public engagement, as well as very positive working relationship with many staff. ‘I am reaching people I wouldn’t normally reach – I usually perform to small audiences and people “in the know” ‘. Around 3,000 people came into the museum for the Science Museum Lates and almost 100 people attended his studio performances; his Babble Machine installation in November 2012 attracted 240 people over the course of one evening.

Jason Singh (Supersonix artist in residence, V&A Museum)

His repertoire includes beat boxing, vocal sculpting, sound art, DJ-ing, poetry, percussion, composition and workshop facilitation. Born in London and based in Manchester, Jason Singh has performed and exhibited work in theatre productions, festivals, club nights, radio, television, poetry events, art galleries and discussion panels around the world. His work is based on the constant need to develop exciting creative experiences through performance and participation.

‘The residency provided a huge opportunity: to be in London; try new stuff out; collaborate with new musicians; explore fresh ideas... Just being in the space for six months, with everything set up, I could invite people in and work with them. It was gold dust!’

The International Conference 

The conference presented new theoretical, scientific and artistic works and experiments that explored the complexity of sound, thinking about sound, experiencing, and capturing sound. The conference was intended as an expanded format in which theoretical and practical experimentation be it within the arts or the sciences interlock.

A partnership with the Society for Literature, Science and the Arts Europe, the Supersonix conference brought together 300 artists, scientists and practitioners in the field of sonic art and science.

The full programme to the conference event can be found here.

Music Day 2012

More about Music Day can be read at the report here.

The Evaluation

Sound is a very powerful theme, which united the institutions in surprising ways and surprised, delighted and attracted new audiences. The artists engaged a wide range of staff across their institutions in their endeavours.
The residencies were highly valued by the participating organisations, especially the Science Museum and V&A. Both Museums, as residency hosts and participating institutions, took on sound as something new – their residencies and experiences had mainly been in visual art, literature and craft/ design. This added a new ‘language’ to collections and spaces as well as highlighting some of the technical challenges in providing a platform for performance work. At its best, it ‘changed people’s perceptions of what museums and collections are all about’. The RCA was impacted in its curriculum, teaching spaces and the student experience.

Supersonix 2012
Supersonix 2012

David Cunningham, Supersonix
David Cunningham, Supersonix visiting professor, Royal College of Art
Aleksander Kolkowski
Aleksander Kolkowski, Supersonix artist in resident at the Science Museum
Jacob Kirkeggard
Jacob Kirkeggard, Supersonix artist in residence, V&A
Music Day 2012
Music Day, Kensington Gardens Stage
Music Day
Music Day, Kensington Gardens Stage