Australia sings again: retrospective revisits immersive field recordings by Kinetic Imaging chair

In Western Australia, the wind blows dust across the mountains and gorges, waterfalls crash over cliffs and wildlife chatter to themselves. This symphony of natural sound is unique to the region, but in 2010, Stephen Vitiello transported his visitors to the Australian wilds from within a historic brick-making kiln. As part of a 50-year retrospective, the Sydney College of Arts looks back on this immersive work by the chair of Kinetic Imaging.

Making Art Public—a collaboration with the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the city of Sydney—is a celebration of 34 pieces supported by Kaldor Public Art Projects, an Australian organization that works with international artists to create new works in public spaces. The anniversary programming began Sept. 7 and will run for five months, featuring both reprisals of past projects as well as brand new commissions and events that are free and open to the public. Vitiello’s 2010 installation, The Sound of Red Earth, is featured alongside work by Gilbert & George, Sol LeWitt, Jeff Koons and Marina Abramović.

Vitiello’s multi-channel sound piece was created with field recordings that he captured in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. The original mix was replayed in 5.1 channel surround sound within a former brickworks in Sydney Park. The resonant kilns, which he had filled with native sand and rock, simulated his experience traversing the outback.

“Going out to the Kimberley, I realized I was incredibly fortunate to be in a place that few people get to visit,” said Vitiello in an Australian Broadcasting Corp. interview, “and listen with really brand new, fresh ears.”

The Sound of Red Earth was the first time the old brick kilns had been used to host an art installation. Multiple soundscapes were created for the exhibition, focusing on the wind, water and wildlife of Western Australia. In some cases, Vitiello utilized specialized recording equipment to capture subtler sounds, such as shifting tides underwater.

Originally a punk guitarist, Vitiello has created internationally recognized sound art from natural and improvised noise to surround listeners and transform exhibition spaces.

Read more about Making Art Public.

Image by Paul Green.