Ravish the Senses: Sonica 2017 Preview

For Sonica 2017, Cryptic have assembled internationally renowned sound, performance, video and installation artists from across the world. Cryptic founder Cathie Boyd and associate artist Mark Lyken walk us through some of the vast programme

Preview by Adam Benmakhlouf | 13 Oct 2017

Since the last Sonica in 2015, the Cryptic team have put together another programme of sound, performance and video art that will take place across Glasgow from Thu 26 Oct to Sun 5 Nov. Cryptic’s Founder and Artistic Director Cathie Boyd walks us through some of the different strands of the line-up and the different ways they “ravish the senses” per the original Cryptic motto. One of the associate artists, Mark Lyken, also gives us a sense of his work which will be exhibited in Glasgow Sculpture Studios.

Boyd describes the “big opener” Aquasonic by Denmark’s Between Music, which is the first event on the schedule. For years, “people were phoning me and telling me about it, saying I had to see it.” The artists perform underwater on a specially made audio set-up and bespoke instruments. “They had deep sea diving training so they don’t use any kind of breathing. You can hear them coming to the surface and gulping for air.” It’s coming out of nine years of development. 

This touches on one of the reasons that Boyd decided to make Sonica a biennial festival: “it gives time to see work develop, and for research and travelling.” There’s the risk for Boyd that an annual event becomes “too much of a factory.” This is especially important for the four Cryptic associate artists, some of whom have shown in the previous Sonica. While there are more than 40 artists who are new to the Sonica line-up, this handful of associate artists represent for Boyd the intention of Cryptic to provide ongoing support to Scotland-based artists.

One of these is Mark Lyken, who will be showing new film work Táifeng and the Motorway Saint, developed from a period of residency in Cove Park in Scotland and Taipei in Taiwan. Lyken describes the slow and significant departure from his earlier work, as he sought to create a sound work more intuitively on site without making a musical response or performance both more characteristic of past projects. Describing the associate artist position and any worry about his changing work, Lyken says, “The amazing thing is that Cryptic absorbs it all."

Another part of the programme involves partnerships with both Mexico and the Czech Republic. One particular work from the Mexican artists Marcela Armas and Gilberto Esparza involved a great deal of negotiation and logistical skill: “For this, we’re loaning a meteorite from the British Museum, which fell in Australia in 1937.” After showing the work in Mexico City last year, they’re bringing the duo as exhibitors to the Glasgow Science Centre for Sonica 2017 from 5-29 Oct as representatives of some of the younger artists working in Mexico. The rock itself is ‘cradled in wooden sensor-limbs that “read” the meteorite and generate eerie, modulating music’.

From the Czech Republic, the duo Floex and Initi will be setting up their “interactive musical” experience in the University of Glasgow's memorial chapel. “Through sonic mapping the space comes alive visually and sonically.” The audience control laser pointers that trigger a tone or visual effects that interact with the architecture and painted walls. Titled Archifon IV, this is another instance of a work that Boyd has been following for several years before bringing to Glasgow. Speaking of her curatorial strategy of showing existing works that haven’t been in Scotland rather than insisting on one-off new works, Boyd asks “why would we not want the artists to have as many performances as they can?”

The festival will also span a recent Matthew Barney filmwork, featuring the likes of Debbie Harry and Salman Rushdie, a clubnight at The Art School, and many, many more events, installations and performances by internationally renowned artists across all different kinds of venues throughout Glasgow.

Sonica 2017 takes place 26 Oct - 5 Nov, full details and tickets available from sonic-a.co.uk