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Stories from our Programme

A conversation with sound artist Andrei Van Wyk // the secret life of noise and sound

(c) Liam Lynch

– Written by Lindiwe Mngxitama 

When I think of Andrei Van Wyk’s work and practice, I think of colliding and melting-into-each-other sounds, transformed and transforming noise and a notion of “listening beyond what you audibly hear” through his constellation of au/orality. “We need to start thinking about song way beyond its representational qualities within the sonic…” says musician Tumi Mogorosi, and I think of Andrei Van Wyk’s work.

With a focus on hyper textuality, experimental composition, muzak and the relationship between sound, noise and music within the context of human experience, Andrei Van Wyk who also produces work under the moniker of Healer Oran, tells the story of social realities moulded by an apocalyptic past, runaway technologies and strange mutations. Like the forehead creases when deep in thought, intensity and tension’s fingerprints can be found littered throughout his work, in the same way that they are all over H/history and politics.

With his practice, Andrei moves away from sound as purely aesthetic to expand on how sound widens historical narratives by incorporating sound collage, plunderphonics and free improvisation to recreate and amplify aspects such as humour, boredom and loss, and to locate them in broader historical narratives.

Lindi Mngxitama: Your MA focused on “using sound studies and art as a method to examine narratives of the past with a focus on land dispossession of coloured communities in the Eastern Cape,” something you have researched/engaged with further outside of the context of academia.

As I was thinking about and sitting in mediation with your work for this piece. I started to think about the H/histories of sound and noise themselves, not just thinking about sound and noise as alternate ways to be in relationship with history or to think about it. Environmental historian Peter A. Coates pointed out that what we think of as noise is as much a matter of ideology as it is of decibels.

If we think about sound and noise beyond the aesthetic, would you say the distinction between the two and the processes of distinction that have set them apart are also political/politicised? Why is something considered noise and something else sound?

Andrei Van Wyk: Within my research, ‘noise’, ‘rhythm’ and ‘sound’ are all incredibly politicised and within the study of H/history, they signify the racialised and gendered divisions of labour within the social conditions that we currently live in. The research focuses greatly on how these social relations occur and operate within the greater societal ‘soundscape’, with a particular focus on South Africa.

My research does tend to treat sounds within the boundaries and limitations of au/orality, the politics of listening and orating, how the sonic engages with different bodies, and how societal structure curates the manner in which the sonic is broadcast and perceived.

In terms of your reference to Coates, like how ‘decibels’ are quantified and become a measurable means of noise, that logic has been placed on people or societal structures, and how they are controlled. Placing that logic onto people of varying identities influences the operation of their subjectivities.

(c) Zivanai-Matangi

Lindi Mngxitama: What has your sonic practice; sound, noise; sounds of violence and the processes of transformation you take them through as a modality of healing unearthed to you about histories of displacement and dispossession, particularly in relation to South Africa?

Andrei Van Wyk: My practice has become more complex, and I embraced the fact that — like the nature of the sonic — the historical social conditions remain quite unresolved.

What sound shows me when investigating past narratives, is that concepts such as dispossession are ongoing and do not remain static. My practice seeks to treat the ‘soundscape’ as a stage where these narratives can be reproduced [through] further interrogation.

This is an excerpt from a digital conversation published on Bubblegum Club, produced in the context of an editorial residency connected to our programme. Read the full conversation here

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