Notes from If Wet 4


If Wet, an afternoon of sonic exploration in a village hall in darkest Worcestershire, has quickly become my essential event of the month. I’m not a sonic artist and sometimes struggle to follow the technical things under discussion (I had to google “transducer” the first month) but it’s proven to be the most inspirational and fundamentally useful art-thing ever.

Mostly this is because it’s based around peer sharing. Sam Underwood and David Morton are musicians / instrument builders / sound artists and curate If Wet in an effort to build a community of interest. They invite specific guests but rather than just perform they explain and discuss their work. As such it has more a feel of a seminar, but still has the casual and open-to-all vibe of a gig.

Ostensibly I go there to take photos, and have built up a nice collection, but my real motivation is to learn from people way outside my field. I’m mostly a photographer who works with light. These are mostly musicians who work with sound. Where their work with sound potentially overlaps with my work with light is where is gets interesting to me because it frees me from the often stifling definitions of “photography”. Last month Sarah Anglis was got me thinking about performance. This month Laura Kriefman, along with Sam and David themselvs, for me thinking about composition and movement.

Here’s some notes. I’m not expecting to them to be coherent. That can come later.

Sam and David talked about augmenting existing soundscapes by taking composed music into those soundscapes, playing it and and recording the combined results. Composed music brings order and composition to the audio environment, rearranging the relative importance of ambient elements. I started thinking about augmenting visual landscapes with composed images. How might that work? But images are the end result. The analogous thing to sound is light. As a musician composes sound let’s think about composing light. You can’t control the ambient light, you have to work with it. How about bringing “composed light” using studio lights into a naturally changing light-scape? Is that at all interesting or actually quite dull?

Following a different tack, maybe it’s less about composing the light but about composing the act of composition. By leading people in certain ways, through different routes or emotions, to the same subject, can the composition be guided? Guiding the eye.

Laura’s talk and performance was very wide ranging and I need to investigate her work much more deeply but one big idea came out of listening to her, building on the ideas seeded by Sam and David. She’s a choreographer who’s been working with sound and was riffing off how human movement can create soundscapes though interactions with technology. (Roughly summarised!) I liked this idea as the photographer, especially in the street, is always constrained by the limitations of human movement. We can only get so high or so low, so close or so far. We have to make do with a lot of spatial restrictions and work with those, often to the benefit of our work.

Could the photographer be given rules of movement, maybe like a chess piece, to force them into positions they wouldn’t have gone into. Photographic Twister maybe? Applying this to a walk is also interesting, though less photographically specific. I was reminded of something I’d seen on Nikki Pugh’s site years ago called Invigilator. This involved recording a journey in terms of left and right turns in one place and then following those directions in a completely different place. It ties in with some of the psychogeographic tricks like writing blindly writing your name on a map and following the path of the letters. I’m not sure if it’s relevant to the photo walk but it feels interesting if I can find the hook.

That’s all that was explicitly in my notes. The rest was gentle layering of ideas upon other ideas and notions. I’ll be back next month and I highly recommend you come too.