4K UHD video, stereo audio, 7:47 minutes, 2022
A glowing padded booth frames a site of investigation. Deep within the collection stacks of a museum storage facility, sound recordists and conservators are activating objects, finding ways to produce sounds from otherwise mute artefacts. Leber and Chesworth capture the attempts, strategies and care involved in recording the objects, many of which once provided precise quantifications for reference purposes. These include sound-making devices such as tuning forks and music boxes as well as scales, calculators and pencil sharpeners. Other objects have broader cultural purposes, or prompt responses and stimulate emotions, such as a speaking picture book and a jack-in-the-box.
The archive objects are being auditioned to perform for us once again. The conservators stroke, prod and push levers while the sound recordists adjust an array of microphones to capture sounds that were once by-products of the objects’ skilled operation.
Sonia Leber and David Chesworth: Where Lakes Once Had Water, TarraWarra Museum of Art, Healesville, Australia (2022)
Filming, editing and sound design: Sonia Leber & David Chesworth
Colour grading: Peter Hatzipavlis
The artists acknowledge the support of the Powerhouse Museum Research Fellowship Program; and the participation of the Powerhouse Digital Engagement team with Cara Stewart and sound recordists Mara Schwerdtfeger and Sam Vine; and the Collections team, particularly Suzanne Chee, Kate Chidlow, Emma Druett and Vanessa Pitt. Thanks to research manager, Deborah Lawler-Dormer, Matthew Connell and the Powerhouse Curatorial team. Supported by the School of Art at RMIT University and TarraWarra Museum of Art.