An Exhibition of Hidden Stories: The Young Voices Soundscape - Examining Sound and Silence as a Collective Experience in Sound Art Installation

P Demetriou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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In this paper I explore the concepts of sound and silence focusing upon creative modalities for the dissemination of oral history materials. In doing so I focus upon two sound installations: Witness (2000) by Susan Hiller, in which second-hand accounts of extra-terrestrial sightings were exhibited; and The Young Voices Soundscape (2012), in which I exhibited a collection of sound recordings of young people’s first-hand accounts of concerns about their social inclusion. In particular, I examine Hiller’s methods of preserving, managing, curating and distributing the various materials generated through the collection of oral histories, which have been catalytic to my own work. The concepts of sound and silence are approached within the context of uncovering silent histories as a practice of oral history that gives ‘voice’ to stories that might otherwise remain unheard. Drawing upon a number of theoretical frameworks including the philosophies of sound art as well as poststructuralist and deconstructionist perspectives, I examine the relationship between sound, silence and oral history. In addition, I discuss what it is that constitutes a silent history with regard to its association with oral histories, debating how each of the two sound installations challenges the extent to which oral histories may be considered reliable or otherwise. Through this discussion, I identify disparities of information within chains of oral history accounts that arise as a consequence of the process of being passed from one person to the next. Such disparities produce a sense of ‘removedness’ within each exhibition, which brings into question whether the act of recording and relating oral histories might correlate with depreciation in the value of silent histories. In this article I consider that such disparities do not affect the reliability of silent histories, whilst acknowledging the ‘irrational’ aspect to the stories exhibited in Witness.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages19
JournalHARTS & Minds
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2014


  • Sound installation
  • sound and silence
  • witness

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