Ambiguous Materiality: Empathy through Tangible Sound


Presentation Title:

  • Ambiguous Materiality: Empathy through Tangible Sound




  • Donna Legault’s interdisciplinary practice acknowledges non-human entities as sites for sensorial investigation and explores opportunities afforded by technology to extend the limits of human perception. Her work includes sound, electronic installation, sculpture, and performance. The intersection of these practices investigate the resonance of sound as a dynamic extension of everyday actions. Donna’s talk details investigative strategies for exploring the materiality of sound at the intersection of visual practice.

    Her projects and installations, including Cymatic Imprints, Subtle Territory and The Drone Project investigate strategies for perceptualizing “immaterial” sounds through experimentation with sound generation, spacial extensions and tangible sonic interaction. The use of custom electronics and Pure Data in these projects will be discussed for their potential to transform or augment immersive environments with the intention of provoking an empathetic response through tangible sound and further, to explore sound as it may be experienced by other species.

    Cymatic Imprints offers participants the experience of physically engaging with their sonic environment. Microphones are hung in the exhibition area to capture ambient sounds. These sounds are transformed by a Pure Data program to into silent speaker motion. Viewers experience the physical affect of their sonic surroundings through the oscillation of fine ball chains that drop from the centre of each speaker cone. As the ends of the extensions make contact with the floor they produce their own audible and visual translation of the ambient sounds in the room by displacing and redrawing remnants of activity through the gradual erosion of piles of sand. The resulting sounds of the chains motion, mingle with those of viewers and peripheral ambient noise to generate activity with limitless variation. In this way, the work renders the immateriality of sound as a tangible event by silencing and reinterpreting the data of everyday life.