Thinking Through Sound

Artist and audio investigator Lawrence Abu Hamdan, writer and art historian Hannah B. Higgins, and UChicago professor and theorist W.J.T. Mitchell (Departments of English and Art History) come together to explore the ways in which what we hear and how we hear it impacts our ability to perceive and understand things visually.

The Sonic Image

Department of English Language and Literature 22351 / 42351
Tuesdays | 3:30-6:30pm | Gray Center Lab at Midway Studios, room 112

The Sonic Image offers a unique opportunity to work with three senior researchers exploring the bridge-making and sense delimiting articulations of sound & sight together. Humans can blink to block out something they don’t want to see, but we cannot blink our ears; ears are our primary, proximate, multidirectional warning system. This course examines the implications of the potency of sound in a world largely understood through the process of its visualization as a world picture. In addition to readings in sound studies,  visual studies, and media studies will examine pictures that evoke sound, sounds that evoke pictures, the forensics of sound, and sound art, and films that exemplify sound forensics (The Conversation.  Blow Out) and the problematics of a sound track (Amour). The three faculty running this course bring distinct interests to this exploration with University of Chicago students. WJT Mitchell’s renowned theorization of images naturally extends to his theorizing the possibility of the sonic image. Artist Lawrence Abu Hamdan’s commitment to the value of earwitnessing asks the listener to extend forensic knowledge to the very core of what it means to be a human being in the world. The above balloon gun is part of his remarkable earwitness collection of sonic objects -- the gunshot effect triggered by a gun configured to squeeze a balloon. As part of the course the artist will develop a workshop comprising a series of practical exercises that experiment with the conditions of testimony or claim making. Using sound as a lens through which to explore how the law come to its truths and how can we use sonic imagination to trouble that and contest somewhat tired modes of enacting justice. Performance scholar, Hannah B Higgins, has studied how musical notation, performance and sound bear on the relationships between sound and vision in recent art history.  We will also schedule an intervention from composer Janice Misurell-Mitchell, whose experience with standard and graphic notation along with the compositional vocabulary of gesture, color, texture, form, and structure will add a dimension of musical testimony to our investigation. 

Open to all levels with consent of the instructors. Contact Mike Schuh.