John Harvey: Blog

Intersections of image, sound, and word

Expansive (10 05 2014)

The term ‘gas’, derived from the Greek khaos (chaos), was first used by the Flemish chemist Jan Baptist van Helmont (1577-1644) to denote an occult principle which he believed inhered all matter. For him, gas summoned the sense of the ‘proper elements of spirits’. On Saturday 10 May 2014 I gave the opening speech at the Expansive exhibition of works by Rebecca Backshall, held in the Gas Gallery/Oriel Nwy, Aberystwyth on the […]

Continue Reading →

Preface to ‘Art/Sound’

 ‘What I have in my own mind is a complete fusion of the two concepts’ (Herbert Read, Education Through Art (1943)). The ‘Art/Sound: Practice, Theory & History 1800-2010’ module will be launched at the School of Art, Aberystwyth University in September 2014. It’s anticipated that this will be the first in a suite of modules, presented under the aegis of the eye(aɪ)–ear(ɪə(r)) group, designed to explore the interaction of image, sound, and […]

Continue Reading →

In a Silent Way

‘Shhh/Peaceful’ (Miles Davis). St Beuno’s is a Jesuit centre situated near St Asaph in Wales. The retreat provides training in Ignatian spiritual exercises for people of faith and, sometimes, for those with none. I spent three days there in cloistered silence in order to hear. The practice of silence involves a cessation of talking and the avoidance of unnecessary noise. In those parts of the house where silence was observed […]

Continue Reading →

‘Soh’ What!

New, distant Scenes of endless Science rise! (Alexander Pope, ‘An Essay on Criticism’ (1709)) The Noises of Art: Audiovisual Practice in History, Theory, and Culture was convened by the School of Art, Aberystwyth University, The Courtauld Institute of Art, London, and Aberystwyth Arts Centre on the 4 to 6 September 2013. The delegates comprised established scholars, PhD students, and independent practitioners and researchers, including musicologists, art historians and theoreticians, sound […]

Continue Reading →

Cover-Up

‘If at first you don’t succeed — call an airstrike’ (Banksy, stenciled graffiti, San Francisco,  2013); ‘A desperate disease requires a desperate remedy’ (Guy Fawkes, London, 06 11 1605). On the streets of San Francisco there is a tit-for-tat battle in progress between graffitists and the proprietors of the buildings they’ve illustrated. The rules of engagement are as follows: one adversary tags a surface using an aerosol spray, the other […]

Continue Reading →

The Noises of Art

Noise accompanies every manifestation of our life (Luigi Russolo, The Art of Noises (1913)); I think it is in sound’s nature to be free and uncontrollable and to go through the cracks and and to go places where it’s not supposed to go (Christian Marclay). The boundary between visual art and aural modes of creative practice is porous. Since the beginning of the twentieth century, artists, musicians, and writers have crossed […]

Continue Reading →

‘It’s Gonna Rain’ (‘After a While’)

‘Music is the soul of language’ (fortune cookie message, San Francisco, 20 06 2013). The cookie’s ‘wisdom’ is a misquotation. It should read: ‘Music is the language of the soul’. This has been a commonplace sentiment in music theory over the centuries. It’s derived from a crude essentialization of Plato’s discourse on the nature of music and its relation to the soul and the emotions, the education, and the physical […]

Continue Reading →

Staking the Lizard

Burn a bridge and burn a boat, Stake a Lizard by the throat (‘Prince Rupert Awakes’). Gini Wade (née Barris) was responsible for designing one of the most revered and idiosyncratic progressive-rock album covers of the 1970s. Between 2007 and 2010, she studied for an MA in Fine Art at the School of Art, Aberystwyth University. She had returned to education, having graduated in 1967 with a BA in Graphic […]

Continue Reading →

The Practice of Art History

As an art historian, writing is my practice (Michaela Zöschg: 30 05 2013). When I first attended art school in the late 1970s students and tutors habitually regarded art history as a subsidiary discourse, contingent upon the primary discourse of the art object. More scathingly, art historians were maligned as parasites that fed upon, infected, and, at worst, threatened the life of the host. At best, they were considered to […]

Continue Reading →