"Sounding the Past"
Last fall (2013) I was on a single semester leave, the purpose of which was to revise my fourth book manuscript, which will be published in 2015, and to develop a new research trajectory. It is for the latter that I seek support from the Imagine Fund. Broadly speaking, my research thus far has attempted, in different ways and through the examination of a wide variety of artists, works of art, and historical contexts dating from the mid-1970s, to understand the seemingly oxymoronic project of "contemporary history." My work thinks critically about how histories of the contemporary are written, by whom, with what methods, and through what forms of power and privilege. I am now embarking on a new project that continues to think about these questions, but through an examination of a wide variety of art works that deploy audio recording (specifically cassette tapes) as a form of historical self-archivization. Ever since cassette tapes were introduced in the U.S. in 1964, they have served as a means for individuals to record, catalog, and preserve their own sonic pasts (in music, speech, sounds), and yet such materials, by virtue of their ephemerality, have a fraught relationship with history and memory. My project seeks to understand that relationship by researching such works of art as Edward Kienholz and Nancy Reddin's Pedicord Apartments (in the collection of the Weisman Art Museum), a site-specific installation that includes audiocassette recorded sounds that are activated when viewers stand close to each of six wooden doors.