What does a photograph sound like?

The philosopher Vilém Flusser was one of the first to anticipate the advancement of the internet and networked culture dominated by the technical and electronic photographic image. In the last chapter of his ‘Into the Universe of Technical Images’, Flusser describes his vision of chamber music as the paradigmatic tool for ‘dialogic communication in general, and for telematic communication in particular’. Artist Clare Strand builds on her engagement with the transmission and circulation of a photograph. Her recent work ‘Discrete Channel with Noise’ used a coded system of numbers 1 to 10 as monochrome tonal values to transmit and duplicate an image from sender to receiver without the use of the internet. Stand has taken this photographic code and invited chamber musicians from the Royal Conservatoire of Antwerp to ‘play a photograph’. Each musician individually interpreted the number code, playing a notated sound for each number, each working autonomously but also as a group through gesture, intuition and feedback. Each time the photograph is performed new information is output. Without conductor and linearity, the musical sender and receivers operate in ‘telematic dialogue’, guided by a set of musical rules only to be built upon and replaced with new musical scores and understandings.

Clare Strand prepared this work while staying as a resident within the research group Thinking Tools in 2021. The images show the first public performance of ‘a photograph being played’ in the context of the Articulate week at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp. The musicians are Jenna Vergeynst (harp), Alex Smith (thunder sheet) and Paco Rosa Huertas (flute).


Musicians rehearsing the performance ‘What does a photograph sound like?’ by Clare Strand

Set photograph of performance 'What does a photograph sound like?' by Clare Strand