Brandon LaBelleProfessor of New Media
Office:C. Sundts gate, Bergen
Brandon LaBelle is an artist, theorist and writer. He is Professor in New Media in a full-time position at Bergen Academy of the Art and Design (KHiB) since January 2011 for a period of six years.
Brandon LaBelle's practice focuses on questions of social life, articulations of agency and cultural narrative, using sound, performance, text and sited constructions. This results in situational projects that create forms of intervention in public spaces, acts of translation and archiving, as well as micro-actions aimed at the sphere of the (un)common.
Brandon LaBelle received a MFA in post-studio art from the California Institute of the Arts in 1998 and a PhD in Cultural Studies from the London Consortium in 2005. From 2006 to 2009 he worked as a post-doctoral research fellow at the Department of Arts and Cultural Studies, University of Copenhagen, and since 2007 he is living in Berlin. LaBelle has held guest professorships at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, Copenhagen, and the Free University, Berlin. He was a Senior Visiting Research Fellow at the Center for Humanities, Cornell University in 2012. He is also the editor of Errant Bodies Press, initiating publishing and research projects with international artists and academics on the topics of sound and spatial arts, performativity, digital culture and contemporary political thought. In addition, he collaborates within the urban working group, Surface Tension, and the collaborative team, e+l.
Fields of Competence
Sound Art (installation, media and performance practices), Sound Studies (sonic cultures, acoustic politics, sociology of listening, voice and voicing), Spatial Practice (contextual and sited strategies, experimental architecture, place based issues), Experimental Writing (creative non-fiction, expanded text, writing the body).
Artistic Research Focus
Studies in new media are focused on electronic, digital and ephemeral platforms. This includes an understanding of and experimentation with audio and visual tools, concepts of invisibility, immaterial culture, and politics of the network, with a strong emphasis on interdisciplinary and cross-genre aesthetic strategies. New media is underscored as a broad base of practices that explore electronic forms of artistic and activist works, that integrate reflections on the conditions of networked life, and that spirit articulations of open culture.
Sound Practices and Studies
How does sound locate us within culture and social life? In what way might we investigate sound as a specific experience, as well as develop discourses shaped by ontologies of the auricular? What do the sound arts suggest in terms of a particular aesthetical platform and history based on listening? Artistic research focused on the sound arts as an international culture, incorporating research in the field of sound studies and sonic culture, as well as promoting experimentation within forms of sound practice. The aim is to deepen concentration on the specificity of sound while expanding its theoretical territory. Through the study, the dynamics and challenges inherent to an art of listening are placed at the center of critical thought and cultural projects. Including research on the topics of voice, paralinguistics, sonic materiality, architecture, experimental music, noise, communication, and the senses.
Expanded Practices, Expanded Sociality
Contemporary art practice and culture have come to occupy an increasingly expanded field, shifting understandings of the artist as a single cultural actor and opening up an extended collaborative and aesthetical platform. Studies in expanded practice include querying art's role as a catalyst for reconfiguring social life, and exploring the ethical interweave and limits of global association. What new forms of social organization might be developed in today's cultural landscape in support of alternative politics? And in what way can we envision artistic practice as a fundamental base for self-organization and the civic imagination?
Artistic Research Projects
The Invisible Seminar
The seminar is an ongoing collaborative platform aimed at investigating the operations of visibility, highlighting the unseen, the camouflaged, the immaterial and the erased as particular aesthetic strategies. If the visual arts historically have relied upon the seeing subject as its partner, functioning to give representation to the imagination or world events, what forms of critique, protest and poetics have been developed by occupying the space of the invisible? How has media culture, and what Camiel van Winkel terms the "regime of visibility", contributed to the contemporary imperative to visualize and expose? Can notions of the invisible be used to deepen perspectives on the power dynamics of the gaze and image production? And importantly, how might invisibility contribute to rethinking modes of collectivity and politics? Through the Seminar, questions around looking and the overlooked are addressed, pointing toward acts of sonic intervention, secret projects, smuggling operations, covert criticality and other methodologies of the hidden or erased to enliven debate on contemporary cultural practices and on representing the unrepresentable.
First edition: Bergen Academy of Art and Design, January 18-19, 2011.
Second edition: Bergen Academy of Art and Design, October 16-18, 2012.
Third edition: La Moneda Documentation Center, Santiago de Chile, November 19- 20, 2012.
Fourth edition: Gallery 3,14, Bergen, January 18th, 2014.
Lexicon of The Mouth
The project sets out to examine how the gestures of the mouth can be understood to lend greatly to acts of verbal and non-verbal communication. By focusing on the paralinguistic and kinesic attributes surrounding speech, the work highlights the mouth as an extremely vital focal point for understanding and querying voice and the signifying body.
The emergence of discourses on the body (since the 1980s) has deepened understanding for the ways in which subjectivity is circumscribed by ideological structures (language). From Foucault's important work on power to Judith Butler's research on gender, to name a few, the body has gained enormous discursive weight as a performative project. Such research, while touching upon the topic of voice, has lacked greater probing into the paralinguistic. While the speech act, and notions of address, have been integrated into examinations of subjectivity, much of the body in voice has gone missing. The project seeks to address, and redress, the paralinguistic operations of voice by tuning into the fluid architecture of the mouth. If voice is an embodied, oral action, what kinds of performative significations can be found in its highly flexible and elastic movements? Might we identify important modalities of communication within the yawn, the laugh or the sigh? And might the consequences of such inquiry lend to a greater critical view onto voice and its ontological status?
To explore such questions, the project is developed as a book, where each chapter is devoted to a particular oral modality, or "micro-orality". It employs a method aimed at treating each micro-orality as a distinct knowledge-form, epistemologies found within these mouth movements; giving critical attention to their physicality, their expressivity, while associating each with specific cultural histories, theoretical materials, and related sonic and performative projects. In this way, Lexicon of the Mouth builds out an expanded view of "voice" as sounded, gestured and performed. The mouth is detailed in all its viscosity, its gestural actions, and its resonant soundings. In doing so, the work contributes to currents in sound and voice studies by reminding that to hear the voice, and to consider a politics of speech, is first and foremost to assume the mouth.
Publication - A Lexicon of the Mouth: Poetics and Politics of Voice and the Oral Imaginary (Bloomsbury, 2014).
Dirty Ear Forum: sound, multiplicity and radical listening
The Forum functions as an expanded framework for collaboration in the field of sound studies. It sets out to adopt sound as a platform for rethinking knowledge structures and creative strategies, spatial demarcations and bodily identities, and for exploring modes of radical listening.
Bringing together leading international artists and researchers, the Forum is developed through intensive workshops that aim to integrate diverse sonic methodologies and strategies of audition. It is the intention of the workshops to map out the auditory as a platform by which to imagine routes in and around the intensities of global culture. To (dis)figure a politics of the senses and the sensible. Currents in sonic culture and audible practices have emerged as important intersections of research and production, defining a highly active territory by which to engage issues of citizenry and representation, technology and the sensate, ecology and inter-species communication, as well as immaterial economies and the transnational. The primary animations of the audible have come to reveal a paradigmatic frame for agitating disciplinary borders and tuning us toward a post-humanistic commons.
Resulting in collective sound works installed and recorded, along with a growing archive of documents and propositions, the Forum seeks to theorize the auricular as a base for multiplicity, interruption and punctuation, and public life.
First edition: workshop and exhibition with eight international participating artists, Errant Bodies, Berlin, 2013 (in collaboration with Transmediale).
Second edition: seminar in collaboration with the Nordic Sound Art Program, Bergen Academy.
Third edition: workshop and exhibition with six international artists-researchers, Rom8, Bergen.
Diary of an Imaginary Egyptian
The emergence of protest movements spanning the globe seek to challenge, revitalize and rethink political processes, as well as demand economic justice. Forming into a dispersed and poignant network of struggles, the current situation, articulated poignantly around the Arab Spring, reveals a global culture of hope, angst and imagination. Diary of an Imaginary Egyptian is as publication that seeks to engage these events by way of affiliation, imaginary projection and reciprocation, a writing toward the other. Written between February and June of 2011, the Diary functioned as a daily consideration of the intensity of events erupting around the world at this time. This five-month period acted as a platform from which questions around US imperialism, art and revolution, the task of writing, and the possibility of new political subjectivity are raised.
The work is marked by an urgency to unsettle divides, both imaginary and physical, between west and east, Anglo and Arab, and to put into question narratives of the political and the operations of "being spoken for". The work instead aims for an "agency of the intimate", querying the relation between East and West, and asking: How to speak of the political today? How to approach "the revolution"? In doing so, the work brings into question the very act of speech, of "speaking about" and its connections to the operations of government. At the center of the work is a desire to re-figure and to re-imagine a language of relation, according to what Edouard Glissant calls the "poetics of errancy". Linking personal memories and cultural reflections, adopting a multiplicity of voices, and querying histories of revolution, the project suggests a mode of "being-political" based on remote connection and by way of a tender map of the transnational.
Publication - Diary of an Imaginary Egyptian (Errant Bodies Press, Berlin, 2012).
Performance presentations - Bergen Academy of Art and Design; ProQM, Berlin; Atelier Nord, Oslo; 2013.
Artistic Research-based Teaching
Areas of focus
Sound Art and Sonic Cultures: Issues and Strategies
Voice, Listening and Collectivity
The Animism Project
(MA / BA course; 2013)
Artistic practice gives expression to ideas through objects, images, actions, and in doing so, invites us into deeper relations, between self and surrounding, and between our bodies and things. Artworks are fundamental "animations": they occupy and possess materials, imbuing them with special meanings and energies. This animistic operation might be a type of "magic", a process of transformation that unsettles the orders of established knowledge and social life, to expand our senses and the imagination. Taking as its starting point these perspectives, the course sets out to question what constitutes a body, to consider materials as forms of agency, and to see artistic practice as a way of disobeying the laws of language: is not artistic work putting into tension the relations between signifier and signified, the proper and the powerful, to search for alternative meaning and alternative identity? To turn even the smallest of fibers or an image or sound into a form of alien presence?
(MA / BA course; 2013); in collaboration with Marianne Heier, artist, Assistant Professor, Academy of Fine Art, Oslo National Academy of the Arts.
Readings and examination of the contemporary relation of art and economy; including considerations onto the ways in which artistic practice participates within the flows of the market, the seeming immateriality and invisibility of labor today, and the different ways artists are negotiating these new conditions. The course aims to rethink the question of "economy" away from structures of monetary exchange, to investigate ideas of gift giving, excess, dematerialization, empathy and radical sharing, and to imagine how artistic work can participate in staging new models of common culture.
The Voice Project
(MA / BA course; 2012-13); in collaboration with Ricardo Basbaum, Professor, artist and writer, and students at Rio de Janeiro State University
What particular questions does voice bring forward, and what forms of listening experience does it demand or invite? How does voice appear within our contemporary global condition, and what does it mean to be voiceless? The course sets out to unfold the voice as a dynamic and complex sound connected to issues of identity, social exchange, political representation, embodiment and aesthetic practices. Through readings, discussions and project development, Voice is explored as an animating and complex sound, and questioned as to how it delivers presence to material form, as well as to states of collectivity. The course is run in collaboration with Professor Ricardo Basbaum and students at the Rio de Janeiro State University. KHiB students develop collaborative works with students from Rio, to exchange and initiate projects together that investigate what it means to speak, to have different languages, and to bring voices together. A final exhibition of student projects is presented in Bergen and in Rio de Janeiro.
Lexicon of the Mouth: Poetics and Politics of Voice and the Oral Imaginary (Bloomsbury, 2014)
Diary of an Imaginary Egyptian (Errant Bodies Press, 2012)
Acoustic Territories: Sound Culture and Everyday Life (Continuum, 2010)
Background Noise: Perspectives on Sound Art (Continuum, 2006)
Other Recent Activities
Senior Visiting Research Fellow, Society of the Humanities, Cornell University, New Haven; 2012.
Guest participant, in Collective Conversations, with Ricardo Basbaum, Sao Paulo Biennial; 2012.
Appraisal committee, for Research Fellow Pedro Gómez-Egaña´s Artistic Research project "Calligraphies"; 2012.
Workshop leader, Public Voices, Field Studies Independent Projects, London; 2012.
Workshop leader, with Luis Guerra, I and Not I: on the Double, a.pass movement center, Brussels; 2012.
Areas of curiosity
Puppetry, the Clownesque, and the Double
Brandon LaBelle's works shown around the world
Marrakech Biennial (2014), Whitney Museum, NY (2012), Galeria Metropolitana, Santiago de Chile (2012), Mario Mazzoli gallery, Berlin (2011), Sonic Acts, Amsterdam (2010), A/V Festival, Newcastle (2008, 2010), Museums Quartier, Vienna (2009), 7th Bienal do Mercosul, Porto Allegro, Brazil (2009), Center for Cultural Decontamination, Belgrade (2009), Casa Vecina, Mexico City (2008), Fear of the Known Festival, Cape Town (2008), Netherlands Media Art Institute, Amsterdam (2003, 2007), Ybakatu Gallery, Curitiba, Brazil (2003, 2006, 2009), Singuhr Gallery, Berlin (2004), Whitney Museum, NY (2001) and ICC, Tokyo (2000).