- What is a Question?
As a composer and sound artist I strongly believe that a performative work of art in our era—whether it is sound or visual art—should be able to address a question that will give rise to more questions and possibilities and will regard problems (existential, social or political) from a new angle. The problem (and the idea under investigation here) is the following: what is the relation of art and artistic activity to our social space and to the expansion of our collective consciousness? As artists, how can we evaluate, be critical of, and join the evolution of collective consciousness?
I feel the need to delve further into this notoriously difficult query in the hope of creating new questions. The viewer or listener should not be conscious of the question itself but should become conscious as the question. Art poses a question to the social environment in which it takes place, but it doesn’t reveal an answer to that question. In this sense, the creative process as well as the artistic result become the question itself.
In my two recent sound-art works, Micropolitics of Noise and The Ritual, the creative process and the performative outcome have plumbed to some extent the question about the connection and impact of sound energy to social space and its evolution, yet the act of questioning is achieved by and through human consciousness, which itself influences what is learned and about which I know next to nothing. So do I know nothing about the work of art and its relation to the social space? The question is inapposite, because the root of the problem lies in the ambiguity of the question that is endemic in the work of art, or rather in the sensing that there is a higher unity that contains this ambiguity. It is my contention that in those two works, we experience the production and impact of sound as a universal phenomenon that functions well before the cognitive appropriation. The works reveal the ambiguity of that impact on the senses and [End Page 30] reconcile it much later in unity and harmony on a conscious level.
The above approach describes the interaction with the materiality of both sound and technology in the performative space as ambiguous transformative elements that can be found in any social space where the human being is the central agent. But my intention is not to describe and register the ambiguity of the universal. For the attempt to describe itself embeds a conceptual contradiction: the universal belongs equally to other worlds that are opposed to material or physical things and are unable to observe what we describe. Therefore, the artistic outcome remains at the level of the starting question, which carries the mystery of the unknown, as well as ambiguity (because at the time of presentation it offers no answers to the questions it poses). That outcome involves the element of beauty through the experience of surprise. The purpose of the works mentioned above wasn’t at all to make the audience search for answers, because these couldn’t be provided at the time of the presentation, and therefore the audience wouldn’t be able to live the answers. The purpose of the artwork was to encourage the audience to live and experience the work. To live the question.
I would suggest the further exploration and questioning of a model of artistic activity that draws attention to the way we participate and communicate in human society. A question is an act of art, as well as a practice that encompasses everything.
LAMBROS PIGOUNIS teaches at SAE Athens Institute of Technology and specializes in the field of contemporary classical and electroacoustic composition. His recent works include the Micropolitics of Noise. A Long Durational Sound Art Performance commissioned by NEON & the Marina Abramovic Institute; several commissions by the Hebbel Am Ufer Hau Theatre in Berlin; the interactive sound design and programming for the “dreamgrove.org” sound installation at the Athens Byzantine Museum and the Biennale of Hong Kong (2008-2009); and several other commissions for theatre, dance, and film. He is currently researching the ethics of sound in...