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#Revisit | Corinne de San Jose's Artist Statement on "59.59"

In our series #revisit, we share videos, notes, or images from our past exhibitions. This week, we’re taking a look at Corinne de San Jose’s statement on her sound installation 59.59, which made its debut at Silverlens in December 2019.

Over the course of her career, Corinne de San Jose has considered the many narratives and clichés we often associate with sounds, and how these can be translated visually through her unique aesthetic. Her work 59.59 explores the idea of ‘silence’. Does silence actually exist, or is it just a concept we use to describe sounds often associated with silence? Consisting of 118 radios, Corinne de San Jose’s 59.59 looks at how sound and silence are recognized and understood.

59.59 Artist Statement
by Corinne de San Jose

Silence is a concept I constantly negotiate with. I think about the weight and space it creates. I think about its relation to noise, because it can only exist in that duality. And as the world around us has become increasingly chaotic, I’ve also grown nostalgic for it. Silence has become this precious, precarious state I willfully have to orchestrate.

I explored the different narratives surrounding our representations of silence. The sound of crickets chirping has become an aphorism for silence. In films, it’s a signifier for a calm, quiet evening. In everyday use, crickets is the thing we meme for the punchline to an unfunny joke, the silence in an awkward conversation, the lack of response from a question. The phrase, ‘radio silence,’ has evolved from the idea of silence to make space for mayday calls into a strict silence that one ‘performs’ to sever connection to another.

In 59.59, 118 radios play an audio loop of crickets chirping, broadcast through 2 different FM frequencies, half playing field recordings of crickets in their natural habitat, the other half playing recordings from a farm that breeds crickets for human consumption.

I once taught a sound design class and played different sound clips of natural ambiences as a class exercise. I wanted to demonstrate the idea that evolution has programmed us to feel a certain way about specific sounds. For instance, birdsong makes us feel calm, a loud fire alarm triggers the body to produce cortisol, etc. But what I found out after talking to my students was that this is not as hard and fast a rule as sound designing clichés would have us believe. So much of our reaction to sound is also formed by personal experience, memories, from our own narratives.

What I love most about sound isn’t just sound itself. I’m more interested in figuring out how our own narratives can be told through sound; in how sound is perceived, filtered, interpreted. I am curious if I can bring my own sound design practice into the walls of the gallery, and in this work, if it is at all possible to represent silence without trying to attain ‘silence.’ I hesitate to call this strictly sound art, but the work has everything to do with the process of listening, hearing, and feeling.