Wusong Tuokao (Wusong Breaks Manacles) is a boxing set from Yanqing Quan/Mizong Quan style from Hebei/Shandong in North China. Based on the Legendary hero of the Water margin it includes the practice of combat with handlocks/ties/cuffs and relies on the use of the body and legs including kicks, sweeps, trips, knees, elbows, shoulder, hip and head strikes amongst others and even locking techniques. Many versions were created in recent times on the basis of the traditional method which is relatively rare nowadays.
I’m guessing that you haven’t. Most people have never heard of this book series. It’s 4 books that are pretty awesome.
The premise of the books is somewhat like Robin Hood except that it’s in China and rather than a small band of thieves the main character gets do many people together that he is leading an army and the emperor of China can’t…
i had to take this with a friend’s camera, because i was afraid the cold would mess mine up. we went to wusong today and saw one of the five natural wonders in china! the branches of the trees in wunsong have frost clinging to them ;w; it was fun! this is my friend julia ;w;
The following interview was conducted for and published in the first print edition of Lucida Journal, the theme and title of which is Habitats.
Byron Huang-Dean is a sound artist and musician who lives in Melbourne, Australia. He creates installations, compositions, and site-specific works. In his own words, his practice focuses on re-imagining places and their soundscapes through the use of field recordings, drawing from and actively engaging with the fields of Soundscape and Acoustic Ecology, Psychogeography, and expanded documentary.
Recently, his work has been featured in exhibitions, festivals and presentations such as ‘Wusong River’ at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, ‘Bogong ELECTRIC’ at the Bogong Centre for Sound Culture, ‘Melbourne Now’ at the National Gallery of Victoria, ‘Fenced’ at Pantocrator Gallery in Shanghai, and ‘Soundscaping’ at GW3 in Glasgow.
Byron’s website is to be launched shortly, and in the meantime, one can visit his blog, and listen to a selection of his work on Soundcloud.
David Spry is a photographic artist who lives in Brisbane, Australia. He completed his Bachelor’s degree at QCA University and Falmouth University in 2014.
The theme of this issue is Habitats, which, if we’re willing to speak broadly, might also track a central theme in your work as a field recordist cum documentarian. Indeed, your work so far has sought not only to synthesise representations of places by bearing witness, but also to create new audio spaces within what one could call rhetorical or fictional works of sounds that are otherwise contextually disparate, and finally, to affect others’ and your own experience of real world places by means of sound design and sound installation. I wonder, therefore, where you might position your practice in relation to our theme?
Well, certainly from the view of someone who is interested in exploring environments from the perspective of sound, I would say that the idea of the habitat is important to me, becoming relevant for my practice in the way that various habitats, built environments, and social contexts converge in a certain places, which have been the focus of my art practice for a number of years. My work often centres on my experience of a location as a listener, with an emphasis on perspective and physical movement shaping the recordings. The work is presented as an arrangement or composition that integrates a collection of these recordings, gathered over a period of time at a certain place. Through placing these recordings in relation to one another, my aim is to articulate an experience of a place and its tangible, as well as, ambiguous character.
Kaifeng morning ambience, 2014
One of the curious things about practices that record events, like sound, or photography, is that they toe the line of creation. At face value, field recordings are indexes of real sounds, just as photographs are essentially indexical, but the nature of their contents somehow changes once they’re observed, and what was a trace becomes rather more iconic and representational than evidentiary, for a number of reasons. In our conversations previous to this interview, you described several of your recent projects, which largely sought to depict your experience of a place. In order that we grasp the gamut of your practice, could you describe these and how they led you to what you’re currently working on?
Yes, I definitely feel that this is an interesting aspect that photographs and field recordings share. They are part of the context of the environment and culture that they are taken in, and of the person who took them, but have vast potential for all kinds of uses and ways to be experienced, through re-framing, collage, identifying poetic relationships, abstractions, and so on. For me, these are aspects of field recording and sound that I would like to foreground in my work just as much as the contextual and documentary information that is embedded in them. I feel that they can complement each other quite well.
In terms of my recent work, I’m currently focused on completing an audio publication, which explores the soundscape of the Melbourne Zoo. It was recorded over a one and a half year period, where I regularly revisited the site to capture different facets of the place in sound, from the animals within their enclosures, to people within the built environment and the spectatorship that takes place in a Zoo. In this work I was interested in the contemporary zoological garden as a site that developed from the strolling garden. Most of the recordings were made as walks and had a performative, improvised quality to them.
Recently my work has also been drawing me to China. Late last year I undertook a residency in Shanghai, primarily recording areas surrounding the Suzhou Creek, at the points where it runs through the districts of Zhabei and Putuo. Many other sound artists have recorded rivers, most notably Annea Lockwood, whose work I love, but in this project, I became really interested in how a river can be used in listening to a city as large and complex as Shanghai. The Suzhou Creek presents a kind of cross-section of the city where sounds can be heard at a distance and the canyon-like acoustics of that built environment are more distinguishable. This culminated in a work that I composed for a surround sound presentation in a cinema space. I also spent a lot of my time in Shanghai utilizing chance techniques for recording like the dérive (drift) or picking destinations on the subway map at random as a starting point. I really like the possibilities that these performative ways of working can present in experiencing an urban environment.
Qing Ming River, 2014
Perhaps one’s artistic practice ought to be considered wholly: as the set of various attempts one makes to interface with beauty or a particular style of thought, such as those pertaining to sound or recording. However, your work is created by two quite distinct means of practicing. Where the first is concerned primarily with recording and archiving data from which you later etch a careful, permanent image, the other – your movements in sound installation and site-specific performance – is fluid, without the strategies of arrangement, and is poised for ephemerality. These are very different moods. Are your efforts as a composer serving the same end, or the same critical ideas, as that which gives rise to your installation practice, or are these two modes of practicing rather like two separate projects?
To me, all of these facets serve a similar purpose, and the impetus for creating a work is pretty much the same, regardless of whatever platform is used. But a lot of unique concerns do crop up when approaching each presentation mode. The compositional and editing space allows a lot of freedom in terms of arrangement; say, if the work is experienced in a solitary manner, the listening experience and context of place exists in an almost totally imaginary realm (shaped by the listener’s immediate surroundings and state of mind), and the work can follow a highly composed and detailed narrative arc. However, when placed within the context of a gallery space, or in situ, the whole experience of reception is completely changed and what form my work takes must adapts to these conditions, including how the work is structured across time, what technology is used for playback, and if it’s spatialised, as well as considering how it responds to and negotiates the social, environmental, and acoustic context of its presentation.
“West Kiewa Power Station, 2013: view of site-specific installation presented in Bogong Village for sound art festival Bogong ELECTRIC.”
A suitable analogue to that which evokes an “almost totally imaginary realm” might be a novel wherein one takes on the voice and whims of the author. I’m quite sympathetic to this idea in principle. One imagines representing one’s experiences, or creating embellished ones, which are endlessly replicable and shareable. The appeal of your work could be that it offers simulations of, for instance, what it’s like to pay attention to the ambience of the Melbourne Zoo, in addition to whatever value can be gleaned from that exercise, and it seems to me that this could be true without contradicting your will to use your recordings for composition rather than documentary. Sound obviously admits of some mystery regarding the appearances of its subjects, but the connection between your material and real events seems tenable nonetheless, and it would surely remain even if you abnegated documentary altogether. Conversely, however truthful your material, you must be trading reference for creation, and this is, incidentally, how I interpret your division of composition and document. Whereas fiction points only to fiction, not to the real world, your work is largely concerned with explicitly real places. However compositional your work is, I wonder whether you’re making decisions about representation that preserve naturalism in lieu of beauty.
The naturalism of the sounds that I record is certainly something I want to retain, but I also think that the process that I go through to arrive at a work is equally concerned with the aesthetic qualities of the recordings involved. The quality that is appealing is different in each circumstance: it might be the serendipity of various sounds coming together in a heightened moment during a sound walk, or it might be the textural and tonal complexity that can be found within an electromagnetic sound source that is beautiful. Listening to a sound without any visual knowledge of its source (also known as acousmatic listening) does as you mentioned, lend it some mystery. It is this area of ambiguity in the listening experience that I think is an interesting place to explore the blurring between the documentative or representational and the compositional and abstracted. In my work over the last few years, I’ve attempted to oscillate between these two spectrums throughout most pieces. These two elements aren’t really separate from each other or opposed in my work, they interact and inform one another.
They are certainly symbiotic, and perhaps yielding to that is enough to reconcile them as two sides of one thing. In any case, being bogged down in the details of the process at this level of abstraction is likely to obfuscate the experience of listening to your work. Ontological blind-alleys seem to fall by the wayside for beautiful work, and yours is also compelling.