PEER is pleased to present Civic Sound Archive, the first solo exhibition in an institution by artist Moi Tran. Working with painting, installation, sound, video and performance, Tran’s work explores the intersection between contemporary art and live performance. Tran often uses objects as a way to intervene in civic and social spaces, and has a professional parallel practice as a set and costume designer.
For her exhibition at PEER, Tran has produced the first public presentation of an ongoing, process-driven project Civic Sound Archive, comprising video, sound, tapestry, a recording booth, library and website.
Civic Sound Archive is an unruly, anecdotal repository for sonic expression as personal testimony, celebrating the joy of poor acoustics and fleeting sonic encounters that are often devalued within traditional archival methods. The project acts as an ongoing process of knowledge-making that uses a sonic auto-ethnography to map personal experiences and celebrates the power of archival practice in marginal spaces.
Over the past two years Tran has invited individuals, predominately from East and South East Asian communities, to contribute audio and visual recordings of themselves reciting songs, prayers, stories and poems in various languages and dialects, and sourced from a wide range of locations. The result is a growing, open-source, community-focused collection of sonic and visual material.
Tran has called this process of gathering and recording audio contributions from individuals as ‘sonic witnessing’, where the invitation from Tran often leads to fleeting, transitory and non-mediated performances for camera or recorder. This approach to recording personal expression refuses easy categorisation and provides a space for self-determination in how personal histories are recorded.
Tran’s presentation of Civic Sound Archive at PEER invites visitors to consider how sonic encounters have the potential to be political, malleable and sculptural. As a way to continually invite new voices into the project, Tran has produced a purpose built recording studio to encourage live contributions from visitors throughout the exhibition. A new video work by Tran makes public previously gathered audio-visual samples from contributors to Civic Sound Archive, while a sound work that transforms individual contributions into a new composition plays intermittently throughout the space. Tapestries hang from the ceiling and the walls reflecting on how sonic frequencies are registered and those that are under-heard.
Tran’s presentation of Civic Sound Archive at PEER brings numerous materials together to question and disrupt conventional archive systems, and in doing so asks what constitutes an archive? And can we positively transform the ways we communicate by paying attention to how and what we listen to and what often goes unheard?
Moi Tran - Civic Sound Archive press release