sculpture & low-frequency sound

“Sound is intrinsically and unignorably relational: it emanates, propagates, communicates, vibrates, and agitates; it leaves a body and enters others; it binds and unhinges, harmonizes and traumatizes; it sends the body moving, the mind dreaming, the air oscillating. It seemingly eludes definition, while having profound effect.”Brandon LaBelle. Background Noise: Perspectives on Sound Art. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group Inc, 2006, ix.

A pure white field of porcelain wares and a clean surface. A cinematic familiarity of a low rumble and clattering plates. Activated by bass shakers and a cd player, the ignorable frequency of domestic noise is captured in Jamie Drouin’s FIELD. Working within a recurring theme of environmental and domestic noise, Drouin compels us to reconsider the ways in which potentially destructive sound is left unchecked, even unnoticed. FIELD examines how noise pollution activates the domestic interior, wherein the presumably undetectable frequencies that emanate from our refrigerators, speakers, electrical boxes, computers, and other technological symbols of progress, have become an irresponsible layering contributing to an inability to function properly within our domestic space.

In contrast to Drouin’s site-specific works limited to the appearance of speakers, FIELD renders the physicality of sound in the materiality of the white porcelain dishes. As one of his most sculptural pieces to date, the visual component functions as the mechanics of the work. By exposing the mechanics – the cables, the wires and the bass shakers – the reality of the construction is presented in parallel to the possible illusion created by sound. There is no disguise.

In (the exhibition) No Windows, like a micro-environment situated amongst the group exhibition, the sculptural element separates the soundwork from soundtrack with a more tangible cause and effect. Drouin is in control of the sound. My mind wanders to the contrast of city street sounds: the acoustics of skyscrapers and paved streets, traffic, honking horns, cross-walk indicators, and construction. There are noise bylaws in place, but what about our interior spaces? There are no guidelines for adding to the ever-present current of technology in our domestic and intimate spaces. We seem to find a way to live with it, focusing on what we need or want to hear, and tuning out the continuous hum that is still being processed. Are we aware of the effects of this layering of sound? In the overlapping of sound waves additional sound waves are created. They have not been measured.

Toby Lawrence, exhibition curator


As I sit at the desk in the bookstore at Satellite Gallery alone on a Sunday afternoon, my senses become heightened. A feeling of acute auditory awareness accompanies me throughout my various activities as I start to notice the sounds emitted and contained by the building. As my senses become more acute within the solitude, I begin to seek out the reason for my heightened awareness, just as one might search the closet after hearing a thud behind the door. I walk around the space but find my movement to be obsolete; what I am hearing cannot be located. I realize this as I stand in front of the work Field by Jamie Drouin and attempt to hear what I am looking at. I know that the porcelain plates placed atop the vibrating surface of the work are the source of this sound – however the sound is located elsewhere. It is behind me now, down the hall and escaping through the architectural spaces of the gallery. The sound feels as though it is in motion away from me yet surrounding me at the same time; similar to the combination of sound and feeling aroused by a ferry or bus ride. Perhaps the rendering of the “physicality of the sound [through] the materiality of the white porcelain dishes”, as described by curator Toby Lawrence, should be of some concern to me, but I have already become less engaged with the physical aspects of this work and am now seduced by the non-attainable, the mutating sound.

I retreat to my desk and sit quietly, looking around. I begin to hear the buzz of the computer under my hands. The low hum of the screen in front of me displaying photographs of the exhibition begins to emit small clicks each time the image changes. I begin to see the subtle vibration and changes in the lighting of the room. It is through Field that my senses have become sharpened, and the non-perceivable has been transformed into an immediate experience.

Tiffin Breen, Satellite Gallery