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PQ > AN INTERVIEW WITH STEVEN BROWN, CURATOR OF THE SECTION LIGHT AND SOUND

AN INTERVIEW WITH STEVEN BROWN, CURATOR OF THE SECTION LIGHT AND SOUND

23. 5. 2011, 17:10

* You are in the curatorship of the section Light & Sound of Prague's Quadriennale this year. Who do you the most looking forward to from the program of that section? Is there for example anybody you approached to participate in this program and he/she could not do from whatever reason?
I'm looking forward to absolutely everything! We have three truly inspirational and ground breaking sound artists coming to Prague to talk about their ideas and practice, Robin Rimbaud (AKA Scanner), Hans Peter Kuhn and Tod Machover. All have huge international reputations and I'm really happy they all agreed and have managed to find spaces in their busy diaries to come to and join us all in Prague. Robin, Hans and Tod have had a huge influence on my own thinking and sound practice and I'm sure that many others will be similarly influenced after meeting them and hearing what they have to say.

It doesn't happen very often, but in this instance, my first three choices all agreed to come and participate in PQ, so thankfully I didn't have to even open my list of second choices (which in itself would have made a pretty spectacular event!).

I'm also really looking forward to the Sound Kitchen performances which are going to be happening in the foyer of the New Stage every day between the 19th and 23rd June at 10am and 2pm. We've around 30 artists, designers and groups who will be exploring and entertaining us with installations and performances created only using mobile devices (iPhones, iPads and whatever else they decide to use). I know some are planning link ups with colleagues in other countries as part of their performance pieces and I'm really excited to see what happens.

I've organised a couple of panel discussions which may become quite lively, so I’d advise people to check out when these are happening, come along and join in.

I think that what I've curated for the Light and Sound section of PQ (along with what my colleagues have scheduled for Scenofest) are events that all artists and designers, whatever their chosen field or speciality might be, includes plenty to see, hear, enjoy and most importantly participate in.

It's going to be a fantastic event, I can't wait.

* Work with light and sound belongs to human expressions ever since. We can talk not just about their artistic or theatrical use, but also of their utilization in religion or the manipulation with people. Wizards, priests or emperors have been using these very effective means with pleasure. Do you think that it is in these days possible to use this or that it is even happening in these days?
Sound is an amazing thing. We start listening and responding to sonic information from about four months before we're born, it defines our perceptual, emotional, spiritual, and psychological spaces. The sound of our everyday lives has an enormous impact on how we feel, react and deal with our existence. Learning to understand how all the sonic information which bombards us when we're awake, or asleep (alive!) can change the way you feel about life and your place within it. Sound is used very effectively in all areas of our lives from religion to material branding, it has the ability to nourish the soul, sell us the latest mp3 player, computer game or bar of chocolate. We don't exist in silence, we never have and we never will.

* Audiovisual installations are sometimes considered to be quite surprisingly complex or rather, closely between a narrow community of experts and fans (at least in Czech Republic). Nevertheless it is usually a very open matter that can withstand very often several ways of interpretation. Have you ever met with utter incomprehension or even rejection? What do you think should be done to break those taboos? If there are any of course - perhaps in the other parts of the world is the situation a little different than here in the Czech Republic
Appreciating sound art, in common with any art-form, requires the listener/viewer/participant to learn how to understand, react and respond to what is being exhibited and there will always be times when a piece of work is incomprehensible to an individual. Rejection is part of everyone’s lives at some point, like sound it's something we have all experienced and learnt to deal with, so yes, my work like everyone else’s has at some point been rejected. The important thing is to understand and be honest with yourself  about why something is rejected, is it due to the fact that the work isn't actually very good, or is it because of a lack of understanding?

International events such as the Prague Quadrennial have an important role to play in enabling artists to exhibit their work and offering others the opportunity to understand the thoughts and ideas behind it's creation. So I suggest that any visitor takes the time to attend the many question and answer sessions, workshops, lectures and presentations. In the end it's down to each of us, as individuals, to decide whether we want to understand an artists work, I'd hope that we all do and fully embrace PQ as an event which allows us, the often rare opportunity, to do this and interact with many artists and designers who will be in Prague for the event.

* PQ is primarily a theatre event, usage of audio-visual components is certainly an important part of theatre performances. Is there any such a performance that really impressed you so much that you will never forget about? Do you desire to work on any particular theatre performance?
I've been impressed by many performances! Personally I try to discover my own way of working and not be too influenced by what I've heard, or seen, others do. There is a difference between wanting to set the standards and following those set by others. The three main sound design/art presenters mentioned earlier have been people who've set the pace and not particularly been openly influenced by the work of others, a fact that I think is very important.

I always have a great desire to work on things that are truly original, whether that is in theatre, or within another medium, and I'm always open to offers!

* You as well give classes and often lead workshops. Did ever happen to you that students asked you a question that really surprised you? What is harder, to teach students to work systematically or to awake their creativity?
Students always have the ability to surprise. I'm constantly in awe of what young people now have to offer both in terms of skill and ideas which is, of course, a great credit to their teachers. I have often found that the most creative and interesting students come from the smaller European countries and am continually impressed by those I've had the opportunity to work with from places such as Finland, Belgium, the Netherlands and of course the Czech Republic. I love working with and learning from young minds which so often haven't been affected, or overly influenced by, the mechanics of life and the need to pay mortgages and bills, things which often influence experienced professionals through a necessity.

I work with students who have great technical minds who are interested in loudspeakers and all the other technical equipment that is needed to make something happen and I've worked with students who have little idea about all of this but are wonderfully creative in their ideas and what they produce. In the real world we need both types of practitioner. I always ask students what they think is most important, a good idea or, a nice sounding system?

* You are quite active user of Twitter. What fascinates you on this very popular and relatively new form of communication with others? Are you also planning to involve tweets into your work?
I'm fascinated by the internet and the way it's really opened up new ways for us all to communicate. It makes the world a smaller place, as a person I'm very fortunate in having really good friends scattered all around our world and it's wonderful to be able to share thoughts and ideas with them in real time and whenever I want. I've a few ideas about ways to use Twitter especially as a means of artistic self expression, but I'm not about to divulge quite how just yet! Anything which allows greater freedom to communicate is wonderful, you just have to see how social media has played such an important part in world events recently to fully realise what power it has. Physically, sound has no borders, nor does the internet.

* Where and how you see the biggest future of the installation media usage? In the futuristic and sci-fi movies we've seen many images of the future, what is yours?
My vision of the future? A tough question. I'd like to see a truly 'open-source' international community, one which doesn't rely on big corporations to cater for all our needs. In terms of sound I always try to use open-source software as the tools for my artistic endeavours. The world is a wonderful place full of so many different ideas, thoughts and philosophies about all manner of things (both important and trivial), as artists it's important to reflect these. I'd love to live in  a world where we're all connected whether rich or poor, living in a developed nation or not. My love of the Prague Quadrennial stems from the fact that it truly acts as a forum of ideas and creativity and it's open to everyone who wants to contribute, or take part. If the whole world was like that all of the time we would be living in a wonderful place.

Interview was conducted by Markéta Horešovská, editor ČTK