The sound of Cantabrian's problems

VICKI ANDERSON
Last updated 10:29 17/01/2014
Matt Scobie
John Kirk-Anderson

SHARING PROBLEMS: Sonic artist Matt Scobie's exhibition Ekklesia involved asking Cantabrians to share and record their biggest problem. The answers varied.

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The Auricle, the South Island's first dedicated public sonic arts gallery opens today. Vicki Anderson talks to Matt Scobie about his exhibition, Ekklesia - the sound of Cantabrian's problems.

Anew electroacoustic exhibition is giving Cantabrians a way to air their problems.

Matt Scobie posed the question: "What is the biggest problem you face living in Christchurch right now?" to a wide range of Cantabrians. Their responses inform his electroacoustic interactive installation, Ekklesia, the inaugural exhibition at the newly opened The Auricle in New Regent Street run by the Canterbury Society of Sonic Artists.

The Auricle is the South Island's first dedicated public sonic arts gallery.

Loosely based on the ancient Greek concept of Ekklesia, Scobie was keen to record Cantabrians' problems.

"In ancient Greece when the government got too corrupt or oppressive they established Ekklesia outside of normal society so power was transferred. The idea that everyone, not just officials, can have their say and everyone is equal . . . it's a purer form of democracy," Scobie explains.

"Not that I'm saying Christchurch is corrupt or oppressive. I'm interested in things that occur on the fringes that become legitimate because they are amazing."

The New York Times has rated Christchurch the second best place to visit in 2014 and initiatives such as Gap Filler received praise.

Scobie cites the innovative organisation as well as the Student Volunteer Army as groups that started on the fringes to grow and become established and widely accepted.

"For example, the Student Volunteer Army asked officials what they could do and the authorities said 'don't do anything, you haven't been trained, you have no authority'. They started on the fringes, now they are an established part of Christchurch and Christchurch uses it and Gap Filler to advertise itself."

Scobie's work reflects his interest in political, environmental and social justice issues.

He studied sonic arts at the University of Canterbury, where he won the Lilburn Award for composition in both 2012 and 2013. His musical background is diverse, he is also in rock bands including the Flying Nun signed T54 and Planet of the Tapes.

At gigs and parties he asked people to open up to him and tell him their problems and received a range of responses from a wide age group.

"I figured I could ask them to share their ideas for Christchurch but it would be a little bit cheesy and, the way I justify it, you need to define a problem before you can come up with a solution."

Scobie found the problems he heard traversed a wide range of issues.

One person claimed their biggest problem involved windscreen wipers.

"If it was raining too hard for intermittent but not hard enough for the next setting. Another person said they don't have enough power points to plug in all their appliances at one time.

"But then others said I can't find a house to live in; I have found a tumour in my lung; I have a gash in the back of my head; There's no city; My building is being demolished.

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"But some of the people who said those comical problems, I know that they have serious problems they didn't want to voice them which has been a limitation."

Visitors to the exhibition are invited to contribute their own concerns via a recording booth. These will be added into the exhibition as it progresses.

"Upstairs at Auricle there are four speakers, the sound is quadraphonic. You stand in the middle as if you're in parliament and people are surrounding you and you get bombarded with problems from all sides."

He believes the Sonic Arts in Christchurch, like the other fringe organisations he cited, are starting to become more "legitimate".

"I've been doing it for two years. It is pretty hard to approach what we do. But, particularly with the Audacious Festival which is coming up, I think more people will understand what it is."

Scobie believes music is a valid forum through which to raise important issues.

"Putting things in and out of context is what sonic arts is all about.

"Some people think music and politics shouldn't be combined but I think they should be. Raising issues in a medium people can understand reaches more people. I'm also hoping people will listen to the problems and empathise. Hopefully someone will come and listen and be able to solve a problem for someone else."

THE DETAILS:

Ekklesia is at The Auricle, 35 New Regent St until January 30. Free entry. Gallery hours: Wednesday- Saturday 12-5pm, Sunday 12pm-4pm. See auricle.org.nz.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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