Surrounded By Sound - Have A Listen To Her Noise At The South London Gallery

By Caroline Lewis | 10 November 2005
Shows a ply-wood grand piano and stool with lots of miniature models on them.

MiniFlux by Hayley Newman. Photo: Caroline Lewis © 24 Hour Museum.

Caroline Lewis followed the sounds to South London to see what experimental noises women are making these days.

Her Noise is a fun exhibition for the curious amateur and a welcome celebration of women in experimental music for the more involved visitor.

The female sound-art fest is on at the South London Gallery from November 10 to December 18, forming the chief element of a wider programme of events exploring women’s adventures in noisemaking.

On entering the main room, it looks like some children have been busy with plasticine - pieces of furniture are covered in a hundred or more colourful models of objects ranging from animals and people to tools, instruments and signs.

Shows a photo of two guitar effects pedals on a fake zebra-skin rug.

Use the distortion pedals in the Reverse Karaoke tent for maximum style. Photo: Caroline Lewis © 24 Hour Museum.

This is Hayley Newman’s MiniFlux installation, miniature reproductions of objects used by Fluxus in the avant-garde art movement’s musical scores. Fluxus was born in the 1960s, and appropriately for Her Noise one of its most famous proponents was Yoko Ono. Composer John Cage was a central Fluxus figure, too.

The random collection (including a vase of flowers, a cash register, a tooth pick and a new suit) is a nice visual opener and will be used by artists in a concert on November 26.

Behind MiniFlux is a sparkly, round tent. Before you enter, you’re invited to watch a demonstration video for Reverse Karaoke, featuring its creators Kim Gordon and Jutta Koether.

Shows a photo of a young woman on a large wood-framed bed.

Kaffe Matthews, Sonic Bed Laboratory. Photo: Caroline Lewis © 24 Hour Museum.

The two artist/musicians show you how you might like to make a recording in the Automatic Music Tent, where you have the chance to provide the instrumentals (or vocal harmony) to three minutes of Kim Gordon’s dusky lyrics.

The message is that anyone can make music, and Kim and Jutta’s jamming example is deliberately unchallenging stuff, shot in lo-fi style on a hand-held video camera. A couple watching the video giggled… Her: “This is avant-garde.” Him: “It’s awful!”

A few pointers are provided for those brave enough to try out the instruments in the tent: “Close your eyes, you can do whatever you want. It will soon be over. Think of something else. Something sweet. Something dark.” And remember no-one’s expecting you to be Kim Gordon (or Thurston Moore, for that matter).

Shows a photo of a room with several black wires hanging from the ceiling, jumbled together where they reach the floor.

Christina Kubisch, Security. Photo: Caroline Lewis © 24 Hour Museum.

After exerting yourself laying down that track, you need a rest. Kick off your shoes and get on Kaffe Matthews’ comfortable Sonic Bed, which immerses visitors in an envelope of deep tones. Within the bed is a 12-channel sound system that sends out palpable vibrations as it enounces the gruff humming of a lorry engine, the frequencies at time swooping up to resemble a plane whistling overhead.

The bed can be disturbing, as it resonates through the body, or comforting, like a nice massage with an aural element. It’s described as using the ‘architectural map of the human body’ to create the composition. Berlin based Christina Kubisch, on the other hand, maps out the electromagnetic soundscape of cities.

Shows a photo of a room with discs and booklets hung on the wall, and two women sitting at a desk.

The Her Noise archive. Photo: Caroline Lewis © 24 Hour Museum.

Her installation at SLG, entitled Security, invites visitors to wear a special pair of headphones which allow you to hear sounds circulating in black cables suspended from the ceiling of a small backroom. The sounds are ‘acoustic translations gathered from security systems in the cities of London, Berlin, Paris, Madrid, Taipei and Tokyo’. White noise, static fuzz and clicks change as you move through and touch the cables – an interesting feeling that could occupy you for longer than you might imagine.

The artist has also created Electrical Walks around south west London. Pick up a pair of headphones from the Goethe Institut in Kensington and follow the map to hear the sounds of ferroliquid hedgehogs, church organs and security gates!

Shows six pairs of headphones hanging on a white wall.

The magic headphones that let you hear hidden sounds. Photo: Caroline Lewis © 24 Hour Museum.

The headphones are a magical ear-opener, letting you inside a hidden world that sets cities apart from each other. As Christina explains: “Every city has its individual magnetic fields despite the increasing number of global players. London, for example, has dense sound structures in the City, beautiful high glissandi frequencies travelling on buses and multi-layered chords of sounds on the underground tube trains.”

Documentaries featuring other female sound artists and experimental performers complement the installations, as does the Her Noise archive of books, fanzines, records and catalogues.

The archive has been developed by Emma Hedditch, who is also organising We’re Alive, Let’s Meet – a series of get-togethers and workshops for discussing the process of collaborations, recording and performance.

For more details of the Her Noise project, see the website

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