Dot Young

Aurality of Objects

Dot Young, Theatre Practice: Prop Making

Royal Central School of Speech and Drama

Our encounter with an object is a multi-sensory experience. We draw on the resonances that the object’s aesthetics, form, texture, colour and scale have in relation to our personal and cultural reference points. We consider the context that the object sits within, and its physicality in relation to our own physicality. We develop personal narratives for objects and social relationships with objects. We are able to feel an affinity with form, we can become unnerved, reassured, moved and stimulated by them. We consciously and unconsciously ‘read’ objects and strive to develop an individual understanding of what they are and what they mean to us, in order to make sense of our world and ourselves.

‘Aurality of Objects’ considers what our sensitivity to, and understanding of, an object could be, if we were to develop the ability to sense and hear the ‘aural fabrication history’ of an object when we encounter it. 

It asks, what the impact might be on our relationship with an object if we could hear and experience the sound that was expended during the object’s production process? Would it offer a more holistic understanding of the object? What would the relationship be between the object’s physical form and its theoretical ‘voice’? Would being sensitised to these echoes of fabrication foster a responsibility for the object’s manufacture on a more visceral level?

If, when encountering a manufactured object, one could hear the industrial machinery, the screeches, clanks, and low-level hums, would one’s perception of the object be altered? In expanding global economies, many of the soundscapes of an object’s fabrication processes could be challenging and in sharp contrast to the initial understanding of the item. By being offered this additional information about an object, the object could become more politically representative of itself, and raise demanding questions beyond design, function and aesthetic.

Interpretation of an art object:

Once the above theory is put in practice and applied to objects as artworks, the interpretation and experience of interacting with the artworks becomes more complex and challenging. Once sensitised to this concept, the ability to hear an object’s ‘aural history’ becomes something that is conspicuously absent. Questions arise regarding the production environment and the developmental processes that may have taken place in the object’s past. The sonic element and the conceptual aspect of the work could be in contrast with each other, or the juxtaposition could reinforce and strengthen the focus of the work. The object will have undoubtedly evolved out of a particular soundscape unique to its final manifestation, yet it is not apparent. It can subsequently become impossible to consider objects without considering the sonic fallout of their fabrication process, and one can’t but help wonder what ‘voice’ each object might have if audible, and from what context the object was born.

‘Aurality of Objects’ suggests that the historical sonic journey is as relevant to the object’s make-up as its physical journey, and sensitivity to it will enable the object to be fully engaged with in order to offer a holistic understanding. Without representation of its aural history, the object is not being fully represented. 

 To understand more about the research project ‘Aurality of Object’ see:

A good example of how ‘Aurality of Objects’ can uncover and extend understanding of objects can be found in the following project:

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