David Cunningham

The Listening Room

Ikon Gallery
1 Oozells Square
Birmingham  B1 2HS

A gallery installation and an offsite project

Installation Notebook link
video extract, gallery 6 Gallery 6 video

video extract, gallery 4Gallery 4 video
The Listening Room

Second Floor Galleries

23 September - 9 November 2003

The three upper galleries 4, 5 and 6 of Ikon house two variants of The Listening Room.  Each installation amplifies the sound of a gallery in real time, introducing low-volume feedback, pitches delineated by the architectural characteristics of the space and modulated by the transient nature of people passing through.

In between is gallery 5, a space where the sound of the two Listening Rooms actively mixes and merges, allowing the two activated spaces to affect each other - in a very real sense the galleries are listening to each other.

The technology in each room consists of a system of microphone, noise gate, amplifier and speakers in the room, arranged in such a way that when the microphone and loudspeaker begin to feed back the amplitude of the sound causes the noise gate to cut off the signal. The feedback notes resonate through the space accentuated by the reverberation time of the space.  As the sound falls below the threshold of the noise gate the system switches back on and the process continues. Available feedback pitches are a function of the resonant frequency of the space.

A fragment of time within the installation, recorded on 7 November 2003
click on the speaker image 
audio fragment

aerial view


Lift Corridor
The Mailbox, Level 7 Piazza , Lift Corridor
23 September - 1 October

Installation video extract lift area

Installation Notebook link
In contrast to the more controlled and analytical installation at Ikon, Lift Corridor was developed onsite at The Mailbox, a city centre shopping and leisure complex.  A system of amplification is used to audibly enhance and extrapolate what is already there - the peculiar resonant space created by the glass and reflective walls of the corridor.  One intention is to isolate and highlight singularities created by the architecture of the available space. The technology consists of a double version of the system used in The Listening Room.  The two systems, electronically separate, inhabit the same acoustic space, and affect each other in ways that are not entirely predictable.  The system assimilates and adapts to any sound made in the space, including incidental sound leaking into the system from elsewhere in the building.

The English critic Andrew Wilson has written: "There is no metaphorical dimension, Cunningham's  work is a presentation of fact. He relies on isolating sonic or other sensory elements from the conditions of their sources and through subtle framing makes us aware of that which would otherwise be disregarded. This hum that surrounds our lives, by being isolated, is also magnified and the dynamism and effect of everyday actions made clear." (1)

For myself the most important quality is that it is a situation which is physically referential both to external contexts and to its own structure.  With this work it is important to maintain the scale, volume and complexity at a level which creates a coherent individual experience.  Less is more.

A documentary fragment of a moment within the installation, recorded on 24 September 2003
click on the speaker image 
audio fragment

 Andrew Wilson, Days Like These, Tate Britain 2003

return to:
Activated Space

Installation Notebook
aerial view