Intimate ways of experiencing sound
We talked about clay and sound objects with Vica Pacheco,
a Mexican multidisciplinary artist working with experimental music,
sound sculpture and 3D techniques and Maika Garnica, a Belgian-Bolivian artist using her design of ceramic sound objects as seeds for installations, publications, performances and film. They will be performing on the same night at Hear Here in Leuven on May 20th. They met for the first time during this interview. Together, we discovered how their practices mirror each other.
What have you planned for your performances at Hear Here?
Vica: I've been working on ceramic sound sculptures inspired by pre-Columbian music instruments. I've made around 30 hydraulic flutes or ceramic beams with new techniques. These sound sculptures express themselves through my hands and movements rather than my breath and voice. It can be hypnotizing to rediscover the objects you made on your own. You can always have a new approach, a new way of playing.
Maika: I made a sound installation in collaboration with Nico Dockx. We invited two percussionists, Casper Van De Velde and Teun Verbruggen, to improvise with our sound objects. Prana Nibbering will also do a tea ceremony. Nico and I did everything together from the start, which I’m not used to. Usually, I begin with designing and making the objects myself, and then I collaborate. It was very nice because you touch the material very differently when you experience it through someone else's eyes.
You touch the material very differently when you experience it through someone else's eyes
Why this idea of merging ceramics and sound?
V: That's funny because Maika just told me that she has Bolivian origins, and I am Mexican. Pre-Columbian cultures have a really long history of mingling music and ceramics. It isn’t a coincidence. Where I come from in the south of Mexico in Oaxaca, ceramic traditions are very tangible. Growing up surrounded by talented women making beautiful objects meant that practice was always close to me. But I started building sound sculptures when I moved to France to study art. When you are far from your origins, you seek them out.
M: I started doing sound objects in Geneva during my time at HEAD. It was amazing because there were people from everywhere. It wasn't always easy to communicate because we all spoke different languages. In those moments, you look for a connection to yourself. I started to make my first ceramics objects because I was experimenting with this process and how to translate how you experienced sound physically.
When you are far from your origins, you seek them out
Why is Hear Here the perfect place for the event?
M: Vica and I will be almost next to each other for our performances, but we will be in different rooms. I am happy with the space I have because it's intimate and has the installation I made with Nico. It gives us the opportunity to bond with the audience differently.
V: I agree with you about intimacy, Maika. When I researched Meso-American ceramic instruments, I talked with ethnomusicologists and archaeologists. They didn't know precisely how the instruments were used, but they have theories. They found them in intimate places like tombs, so they were meant for intimate and silent ceremonies. Their sounds are very organic and delicate, bird or animal-like. They evoque sexual sounds too. I want to explore the intimacy behind the objects and silence with this performance, so space will be crucial.
Maika, you described sound objects, and Vica, you said sound sculptures. Why did you choose these words?
V: I think I call them sound sculptures because I've made the hydraulic flutes through intricate, technique-heavy 3D modelling and industrial designed processes. I'm interested in the conception of technology. What is a technology, and how do we approach it today? But I usually work with clay and my hands, so I like the name sound objects too.
M: It's a bit tricky. People can think of them as instruments made out of clay. But for me, it's sound objects. They aren't only instruments. Because they have different uses and lives. I'm still searching for a way to call them. For now, I call them sound objects.
You both have a strong connection to clay. Why is it important to you?
M: I'm in love with clay. One of its features is plasticity. It's wonderful because you can change the form of the object easily to alter the sound. Small adjustments shift the objects’ sound and tone. Sound, with clay, comes out differently. People are in awe, amazed.
V: Clay is the noblest matter we can create from. It's crazy that it's such rich material. And we are connected with clay in human history. I am no ceramist, but I'm amazed by this material that can take any shape. Even in biblical stories, we are made of clay. We historically have these little sensors that go like, 'Is that clay?' 'Is that earth?' 'Organic?'
We are connected with clay in human history
M: Yes! The direct contact you have with the material is beautiful. It's different when you weld or do woodwork because you use tools, there's already a distance between you and the material. But with clay, it's really about direct touch.
V: Agreed! I think it will be a really zen clay session at Hear Here.