Visualisation of Kleefeld – Klangfeld

Words by Jyoti Mann

David Mollin and Salomé Voegelin, lecturers on LCC’s BA (Hons) Sound Arts and Design and MA Sound Arts courses, have been awarded an Art and Architecture commission to realise a public art project in Bern, Switzerland.

The project Kleefeld – Klangfeld is funded by the Kunstkommission and the Hochbauamt – a building construction board – and will turn the environment of a newly renovated local school in a multicultural area of the town into a ‘instrument’ to be played.

The area will become a Klangfeld, or sonic field, that makes the temporary and passing nature of the site audible, highlighting how it is inhabited by its diverse local community. Through infrastructure building (from 2017 to 2020) and participatory interventions (from 2020 to 2025), it will enable pupils, teachers, administrators, local residents and visitors to engage with its sounds and add their own voices, sounds and rhythms to their environment.

Collaborating with 8 other artists, the duo were preselected into the competition on the strength of their co-produced work as Mollin+Voegelin.

Speaking about the project, David said:

“Our work emphasises the infrastructure of production and develops an idea from Bauhaus where art is seen as a part of the superstructure: the architectural, technological and ideological construction of a place, which becomes a part of the material basis of the artwork. It presents a technological way of realising art’s transformative powers, and enables the inhabitants as to explore and change their environment and the social interactions and relationships that are conducted within it”.

We got in touch with David and Salomé to hear about their vision, what to expect and what’s involved.

What will your involvement be in the project?

We are involved in the planning and setting up of the infrastructure, which is central to making the interventions of the artists and participants possible. Our subsequent role is that of curators and facilitators, where we negotiate and work with the community, the school and the artists to support, enable, document and accompany the process of sounding this building and the area as instrument.

The infrastructural design will transform the building, turning it into an instrument: a visual object that has the potential to sound and to be sounded and thus to transcend its visual form and become a much more formless and contingent event – performed and performative.

Art involving working with other institutions and communities transforms it through process of collaboration with their ideals, ethics and rituals, as well as the use of space and location – architectural and social. The project becomes a temporal performative act, taking shape as it goes.

How will the infrastructure of the area allow people to engage with its sound and environment?

We are using and developing the basic PA system of the school into something with a further reach and the potential of a more artistic and interventionist access, to be utilised for the creation and performance of sound work.

Sound recording, making and composing technology will be made available and accessible to the pupils and the teachers, and a speaker set up will allow those compositions to infiltrate the normal school PA system to give the pupils, the teachers and local inhabitants a means to amplify their voices – instrumental and other sounds – and to design their architectural environment invisibly and contingently through sounds. Speakers will be placed in a way so as to hear and emphasise the body in space, and to make it possible to perform one’s own identity, belonging and voice, within the newly built environment.

What might a completed installation of the project sound, look and feel like to your ideal audience to engage with?

There will not be an obvious visual component to the installation. In some sense this is a proposal for an immaterial, non-physical art and architecture collaboration. In its non-materiality it aims to allow the children and staff to own their own building and local environment through collaborative work with artists, using their sound and sound of their environment to create and re-create the place they live in or want to live in.

We hope that this will permit a very particular relationship to develop between them and the new build, allowing them to add their own imprint on the new build as well as resurrecting that which might have been removed – traces of their own experience and history of the place and its use.

What do you hope for local residents, pupils, teachers and administrators to take away from their experience and interaction with the project?

We hope the project will establish in the community a sustained habit of engaging with its environment, its location and its architecture through sound and music, and engender a confident and creative use of the simple technical set-up. We also hope it will guide the finding of a ‘voice’ for the school and its pupils that can continue beyond the initial period of 5 years.

Kleefeld – Klangfeld foregrounds the relationship between the material architecture and design of the school and the more ephemeral and often fleeting activity of socialising and relating as a community: the activities, in other words, with which a community realises and lives in a built environment, and which reveal how inhabitants and users are influenced by or influence architectural givens.

We hope that the pupils, the staff of the school, as well the local residents will take on the opportunity to interact and play the site as a sonic space which offers them a non-permanent and non-material way to interact with, own and co-generate the space.

What is the meaning behind ‘Kleefeld – Klangfeld?’

Kleefeld is the name of the primary school that will be renovated as well as the area surrounding it: a shopping centre, restaurant, playgrounds and housing. It is located to the west of the city in Bern Bümpliz, which while once an affluent suburb, currently represents a multicultural and socio-economically rather challenged area that is in a state of change – precipitated by the move of, for example, The University of the Arts Bern, and its inhabitants, into the vicinity.

Kleefeld literally translated means cloverfield and until 1967 it was cultivated as farmland. Klangfeld means sonic field, an area of sound distribution and perception. We are bringing those terms together as it is the invisible expanse and possibility, inclusivity and overlaps that happen in the sonic field of Kleefeld that we would like to amplify through our project.

How does it feel to be given an opportunity to see ideas come to fruition?

We are very pleased that our proposal has won and excited to get a chance to start the process of engaging with the architects, the building, the community and the artists.

Currently, we are in the preparation and consultation phase – the project properly starts in 18 months – when the renovation process begins. Once the building work starts and our infrastructure is in place the project will go on for at least 5 years.

What is most important for our project is not so much our artistic output – which exists as concept and infrastructure – but the participants’ artistic and personal visions and ideas about their Kleefeld, their circumstance and environment.

We have proposed an idea in which the participants – the children, teachers, administrators of the school as well as the local community – see their ideas and responses to the new building actualised in sound. Invited artists can realise their ideas through working with those participants. In this instance we are facilitators rather than artists, artists as curators perhaps, and if the participants’ ideas are being actualised then ours are too.

What are you most looking forward to in the opportunity?

We are very much looking forward to working with pupils, staff, residents and artists from a variety of backgrounds and with potentially very different ideas of what art is, what sound is, what music is and even what their environment is and how they might want to work and live in it.

What advice would you give to potential sound arts students seeking similar opportunities?

Oddly we did not seek this opportunity, nor would it have occurred to us to apply for something like this if we had not had a concrete invitation. In that sense it is a reminder how important it is to be simply working and letting people know about what you are doing and conversing with others.

Practice your work in a community of practitioners and be open to suggestions and ideas of how your work could develop in different contexts. Do not be closed off to ideas that you did not have before.

Read more about BA (Hons) Sound Arts and Design

Read more about MA Sound Arts

Follow Mollin+Voegelin on Twitter and SoundCloud