Vinyl, 2 channel audio, up to 14 speakers, digital player, control gear, size variable approx 7m x 40m, 2011
We, The Masters immerses visitors in a soundscape built up from hundreds of personalised, intimate vocalisations of people talking to their animals.
Leber and Chesworth created the work from the raw material of everyday life, capturing the personalised, inventive speech patterns formed through repetition and habit, and placing them back into a busy urban environment. With the sounds of the animals edited out, the voices to call out directly to passers-by: beckoning, coaxing, controlling.
Fragments of vinyl bunting suspended across the trees support a cryptic scrabble of part-words, highlighting the limits of communication that we hear in the soundscape.
Leber and Chesworth’s audio archive of inter-species communication unfolds with varying degrees of intimacy, humour, praise, criticism and control, encompassing a breadth of rural and city voices where professional zookeepers appear as intimate with elephants and giraffes as pet owners in domestic relationships.
These recordings made in local parks, veterinary clinics, training schools, farms and zoos take on a new perspective when re-addressed to passers-by in the staged urban architecture of a civic space, calling into question the relationship of citizens to their public spaces, and the underlying organisation of public and civic life.
We, The Masters is part of an early series of audio-based works by Leber and Chesworth that deploy human voices into the public domain and the gallery, from the vocalisations of human effort commissioned for Sydney Olympic Park public art program (5000 Calls, 2000), to the interwoven cultural singing on William Barak Bridge in Melbourne (Proximities, 2006, in collaboration with Simeon Nelson), from the unworldly voices of This Is Before We Disappear From View (2014/2016/2017), Space-Shifter (2009) and The Gordon Assumption (2004), to a congregation of ragged male voices in Rewards of Silence (2009) permanently installed in a Port Arthur prison chapel.
Commissioned by Australian Centre for Contemporary Art for City Square, Swanston Street, Melbourne (2011). A version was installed in Federation Square for Melbourne Prize for Urban Sculpture (2011). Archival elements of the project were exhibited at Who’s Afraid of Public Space?, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne (2021).
Finalist, Melbourne Prize for Urban Sculpture (2011)