Jo Burzynska – Bass Affects
Please join us to mark the opening of Bass Affects, an new exhibition by multimedia artist, researcher, and writer, Jo Burzynska.
In Bass Affects, Jo Burzynska invites an embodied and multisensory engagement with the emotional resonances of low frequency sound, which can be listened to, or remain unheard. Its installations stir and lull through their exploration of the nexus between the exciting and disquieting effects of the bass spectrum. Created largely from field recordings Burzynska has made in recent years of external low frequency phenomena, the sounds used are drawn from nature and human-made sources. These include the Pacific Ocean and electrical storms, to Lulworth Wind Farm, and Sydney Town Hall’s Grand Organ that possesses one of the world’s lowest pitched (8 Hz) pipes.
Low frequencies (below 200 Hz) are a much mythologised and misunderstood region of the sound spectrum. These frequencies – that are felt in the body as much as heard with the ear, and as infrasound (below 20 Hz) often on the threshold of hearing – move in mysterious ways. Bass tones are present in our body, in respiration and the beating of our hearts. In nature they emerge from the surf, and in the rumblings of seismic activity and storms. They’re emitted by machines in the industrial world. Humans actively use low frequencies in spiritual and cultural practices from bullroarers and church organs, to the beats of music we dance to. Attempts have also been made to harness them as weapons.
Yet historically, public research into the effects of low frequencies on humans remained limited. This deep void came to resonate with the repetition of findings from unreliable studies, misinformation, and far-fetched anecdotes, amplified by their regular repetition in sensationalist media coverage. Much of the purported physiological effects have now largely been disproved, with relaxation effects emerging as more likely than adverse health impacts. However, low frequency sound has become newly weaponised in attempts to discredit wind turbines, fanned by the fossil fuels industry. Such emotional manipulation and its psychological effects appear more forceful than any previous endeavours in sonic warfare.
From the sublime to the annoying, the wondrous to the threatening, context has come to direct more emotional power than the bass vibrations themselves. In Bass Affects, low frequencies from natural, devotional and industrial sources combine and converse, creating an expanded contextual spectrum that encourages a more open low frequency listening.
Jo Burzynska would like to thank Grace Kar Man Chan for her assistance in making the Grand Organ sing so sonorously; Malcolm Riddoch for his assistance with its recording; and Sydney Town Hall for providing access.
Dr Jo Burzynska is a multimedia artist, researcher, and writer. Her central practice in sound spans experimental music performance and releases, to sonic art curation, and multisensory installations that use her own field recordings. Also a widely published wine writer, her work in both areas has increasingly converged in the production of multisensory works that often combine sound, taste, olfaction and touch.
Her installations and performances are regularly created at the intersection of the senses. These have been presented internationally, including at The National Museum of XXI Century Arts – MAXXI in Rome, Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, Milieux Institute in Montréal, and May Space in Sydney; as well as across New Zealand. Her interest in low frequency sound has resulted in projects such as Body Waves, created from her recordings of the Christchurch earthquakes, and “Taste the Bass” research into the effects of low frequencies on flavour and aroma perception.
Recent years have seen her work on numerous projects that fuse multisensory art and science, which has involved research with leading figures in the fields of experimental psychology, cognitive neuroscience and sensory science. She was awarded a PhD for her interdisciplinary research that investigated sensory, aesthetic and emotional interactions between sound and the non-visual, and their creative application.
Opens: Friday 6 August, 5.30pm (with refreshments from Liberty Brewing Company)
Hours: Tuesday – Saturday, 12 – 4pm
Closes: Saturday 4 September