Read: Designer Catchups: Super Critical Mass
Date: August 4, 2015
Author: Dermot McGuire
With CUSP about to come a close on 15 August at QVMAG, we’ve set out to discover what our 12 designers have been investigating, creating, and experimenting with since CUSP first launched back in 2013.
We caught up with the trio behind the sonic art collective Super Critical Mass to find out what they’ve creating, exploring, and discovering in the last two years…
Directed by Julian Day, Luke Jaaniste and Janet McKay, Super Critical Mass (SCM) is an ongoing participatory project that brings together temporary communities to enact simple tasks in public places using homogenous sound.
Riffing on a number of traditions, including the orchestra, homogenous ensembles, sound installation, communication arts and public art practice, SCM operates across a range of scale anywhere from 2 people to over a thousand.
Here’s Super Critical Mass talking to CUSP about what exactly is it they do, how they do it, and how audiences interact with it.
Since their work for CUSP, SCM have continued performing in galleries, museums, and other, out-of-the-ordinary, performance spaces around the world.
For the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia in Sydney, the group produced a work that responded to the museum’s collection, galleries, and the then new building. Visitors encountered both the physical installation of performers in the galleries as well as the compositions they were enacting. This performance was curated by Performance Space, as part of Sonic Social – a series of six participatory performance works that explored the social relationships created through sound and music.
As with all their performances, SCM reached a critical mass at the MCA – a moment when the collective voices and instruments merge and play as one. Quite the change from a calm and mostly silent gallery setting!
This year, a video of the MCA performance was screened at the Prague Quadrennial of Performance, Design and Space. Although the group wasn’t there, it was a big honour to be a part of the show nonetheless.
As well as Super Critical Mass, the three directors are busy with work on other projects.
Julian Day had a light and sound piece at Dark Mofo this year; Luke Jaaniste has been experimenting with vibrational, spatial and material qualities of sound; and Janet McKay has been completing her PhD, and also played with the orchestra for the Brisbane leg of the Wicked musical tour.
“There is an imposed passivity in the traditional music hierarchy. You, as a consumer, are given an object or consigned to an area specified for audiences, and the music is impermeable. It happens to you, not with you. We see ourselves as designers in this sense, creating the parameters for the type of aural experiences people can have.” – Julian Day, Co-director, Super Critical Mass
Can design change how we listen? The highly sensorial performance-installations by sonic art collective Super Critical Mass suggest that it can. Co-directed by Julian Day, Luke Jaaniste and Janet McKay, Super Critical Mass bring together ‘masses’ of musicians playing identical instruments that are then distributed within public places to transform how we listen to, and experience, our surroundings.