Migone — Sound Voice Perform
With contributions by Brandon LaBelle, Martin Spinelli, and Allen S. Weiss
Critical Ear series, Vol. 2
88 pages with Compact Disc
Sound Voice Perform book/CD Artforum December 2005 Issue 256 (p.77) in Best of 2005 by Christoph Cox
A splendid survey of audio work by this Canadian artist. In the spirit of Antonin Artaud, Dada, Fluxus, and sound poetry, Migone playfully and insightfully explores the sonics of bodily orifices and surfaces.
This combination of commentary, artist interview, and catalogue appropriately collects acclamation for the work of audio and performance artist Christof Migone, dating back to the 1980s. Sound Voice Perform chronicles this important Canadian artist, whose works is always provocative, alive, physical, and occasionally grotesque. The pieces writing Sound Voice Perform, written by Migone and Brandon LaBelle, Martin Spinelli, and Allen S. Weiss, artfully paint the impetus emerging from Migone’s body of work. Some of Migone’s artistic experiments have involved the collection of saliva, the ongoing protrusion of this tongue, and the cracking sounds of warm human bodies. It pretty well goes without saying that the physicality of Migone’s work can make observers uncomfortable. At the same time, Migone is intent of making the level of access to this art—and to the means of sonic production in general—transparent and immediate. Migone’s long tenure at CKUT campus and community radio must contribute to this perspective. Migone’s artwork is truly playful and critical. In an interview with Spinelli, Migone explains his passion for what he calls “the act of transmission itself”: “Alongside playing around with different relationships with the listener I would also play with the equipment circuitry, I would place my hands on the microphone, touch it, scratch it, play with it and the mic-stand… so that people heard spatially and materially the room that I was in. All of these kinds of situations to make apparent and obvious the mechanism, the machinery, the technology that is being used.” In a beautifully written contribution to the compendium S:ON: Sound in Contemporary Art (edited by Nicole Gingras, Editions Artexte), Migone writes: “… sound epitomizes leakage, sound confirms the porosity of space… Every space… has its own soundtrack, its room tone. Every space is sonorous, every space has a breath.” Yes, these things are intertwined and with this summation Migone adroitly spells out how the sounds he imagines in his mind become real. With this in mind, Migone’s practice as an artist becomes the ultimate praxis. With written, photographic, and audio documentation, Sound Voice Perform is an excellent package.
Artist Christof Migone often works with the human body —making audio pieces from the sounds of eyes, the tongue, joints cracking. In an interview in this book, the second in Errant Bodies’ Critical Ear Series, and co-edited by Brandon LaBelle and Achim Wollscheid, he describes his in the body’s ‘mistakes — “saliva sounds, stuttering, mumbling” — glitches abstracted from the digital realm and made corporeal. This model applies across the range of his audio work, which tends to home in on what lies outside or in the way of communicative clarity. He foregrounds incidental matter, sonic by-products and supposedly inconsequential ‘cutting room floor’ audio. It’s a project that, in common with much avant garde artistic practice, wants to tip the balance from signal to noise. Nearly 50 examples of his audio work can be heard on the CD accompanying the book, which compiles material dating back to 1990. Radio is a strong component in Migone’s work — he ran a Montréal phone-in from 1987 to 1994. Some of the most suggestive material presented on the CD are ‘blink and you miss it’ radio miniatures. One of Migone’s projects was to produce little piece of audio punctuation, abstract ‘in-betweens’ of a similar duration to a radio station ident. Another strand of the work is conceptual. In one audio collage, for example, Migone rings his own telephone number but appends different international prefixes in order to stitch together a virtual community of people who definitely don’t want to speak to Christof Migone. Other of the pieces exhibit an ear for the small-scale sound — pops, rustles and clicks that aligns his work with the microsound universe. The book includes photographs of numerous performances, discographical and biographical information, as well as brief texts by Migone and performance theorist Allen S. Weiss. The longest contribution is an essay by co-editor Brandon LaBelle. Sadly, it’s not particular helpful, written in a shopworn, button-pushing theoretical idiom that doesn’t do justice to Migone’s work. With this package, the surprises lie in the audio.
The work of Christof Migone extends beyond 'just' audio and into the world of art, and art with a capital A. Many of his works are conceptual, such as a CD with the sound of farts or people cracking their fingers. Despite the fact that some of the CDs have text dealing with the concept behind it, this book 'Sound Voice Perform' is the compendium that explains, shows and lets you hear it all. First of all there is a CD with excerpts of the various previous releases by Migone. It was nice to hear such a selection from his works, but for me, well-acquainted with his work, it didn't add that much new to what I knew already. Migone's audio pieces work better when heard in their entirety I guess. The nice thing about the book are the texts and pictures. Especially Brandon Labelle's text on the use of the body in the work of Migone is especially interesting and tells us a lot more on Migone. If ever you wondered what a conceptual composer and artist is all about, I'd recommend this book to study a good example.