Leeds School of Arts | Blog

The sound of (the word) revolution

This research began by thinking about The Beatles ‘Revolution 9’ sound collage from 1968 that doesn’t even include the word ‘revolution’ but that reached millions of homes. And each year I keep hearing new songs with the word ‘revolution’ – why do we keep returning to the sound of that word?

Curating the sound of revolution

The Mayor of Lewisham after being handed a copy of the CD as part of DeptfordX Festival, 2013

As an artist and academic, I am engaged in projects that blur the line between those two worlds. In 2009, when the School of Art, Architecture & Design first moved into Broadcasting Place, I put together a double CD collection called “Artists’ uses of the word revolution” that included sound recordings by people saying the word, including some of our students – inspired by our workshops with Chris Watson - alongside archival material and new compositions by artists, including Turner Prize winners. The CDs were part academic project and part curated artwork and since then they’ve been presented at over twenty international festivals and exhibitions, from New Zealand to the ICA. As part of the project’s evolution, I started a Facebook page and every time anyone sees the word ‘revolution’ used, I post it within a collection which you can find here.

The research began by thinking about The Beatles ‘Revolution 9’ sound collage from 1968 that doesn’t even include the word ‘revolution’ but that reached millions of homes. And each year I keep hearing new songs with the word ‘revolution’ – why do we keep using (the sound of) the word ‘revolution’? Is it about a desire to change the status quo every time we make a new artwork, statement or recording? Is it used to sound radical? Does its overuse merely dilute the word’s potency or should we be more careful of what we chant for?

Public call box

A copy of the CD left in a phone box in Coney Island, New York, 2010

I have authored a new article that explores some of these questions and I am honoured to have it published by the MIT Press, one of the world’s leading art publishers. The online version has just been made public here, with print version to follow.

This is the tenth anniversary of the CDs and of the original edition of 1,000, there are only around 100 left, with copies having been handed out in the streets of London, left in New York phone boxes, given away for free during my Liverpool Art Prize exhibition and remixed on a series of 12” dubplates. More information on the project, and its place within my PhD, is here.

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Dr Alan Dunn

Alan Dunn studied at Glasgow School of Art and School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His research explores new models for curating content for non-gallery audiences and his recent PhD considered the relationship between sound art and the everyday.

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