Olivia Block

Olivia Block

Olivia Block website

Filtering by Tag: Sound installation


I invite you to listen episode 1 (out of 3 total) of my podcast, featuring materials from my microcassette collections. Most of the original edits and pauses are left in the podcast audio, except for interventions to keep people on the tapes anonymous. There are no interviews or written text accompaniments.

Dictaphones and microcassette recorders were often used as private spoken journals, rather than for playing music (as with larger cassette tapes). I find the vocal cadences and arbitrary edits inadvertently dramatic and poetic. The conversations are perfectly human, demonstrating earnest efforts at communication and understanding between people or within a single individual.

As a social objects, the recordings give a sense of domestic American life in the last part of the 20th century. The recordings were (it seems) intended to be private (or at least limited to a small number of listeners), contrasting the current style of staged persona-type photos and recordings presented on social media platforms. 

This inquiry into microcassette tapes (and 35mm slides) has become, in part, a meditation on the idea of obsolescence.  I am interested in looking through the lens of obsolete technologies (like microcassette recorders/Dictaphones, for instance), to examine a particular time period (1960's-2000) in America when a "culture of obsolescence" had become the model for industrial design in consumer products. 

This model of design created a culture of waste. As an artist, I feel hesitant to add new materials (for Art's sake) to this legacy of waste. Here, I am utilizing older objects,  looking backwards from the current moment in America, which is in the process of becoming obsolete in terms of socio-political power, itself becoming a type of waste. 

20th Century Microcassette_widescreen.jpeg

Two NYC openings May 3rd, 2016: CONTEXT NY and Museum of Arts and Design

If you are in NYC this weekend, there are two exhibitions opening which include works by myself, plus interesting pieces by additional artists. 

Sound Positions, curated by Christoph Cox, is a sound exhibition in CONTEXT NY, featuring a wonderful group of artists. The exhibition includes my piece for layered found recordings, List of Objects and Values

Olivia Block, Lists of Objects and Values (2015), 11:03

Exhibition text: 

This composition is constructed from a collection of 1980s and 90s microcassette recordings bought on ebay. Interested in the way people used microcassette recorders for keeping logs and documenting intimate conversations, Block noticed that many recordings resemble one another in terms of subject matter, style, and rhythm, and began looking for patterns. For this piece, she was drawn to recordings of people listing objects and monetary values. Block conceives these recordings as inadvertent expressions of what anthropologist Igor Kopytoff calls the “methodological fetishism” of things. Lists of objects become catalogs of waste during a decadent period in American history.

 Atmosphere for Enjoyment: Harry Bertoia's Environment for Sound curated by Shannon Stratton, is opening at The Museum of Arts and Design (Mad) in NYC.  The exhibition includes an excerpt recording (in stereo) and photos of Sonambient Pavilion, my multi-channel installation in Millennium Park, which premiered in November 2015. The installation was created from the sounds of Harry Bertoia's Sonambient sculptures, located at the Aon Center in Chicago.