Subjective Assessment

Subjective Assessment is a sound work—meant to be performed but also presented in recorded and installation versions—that narrates the experience of an expert listener undergoing a test to determine what sound (in digital form) should sound like. The work was first presented at the New Museum of Contemporary Art on May 8, 2015, as part of the programming for “Surround Audience: The Generational Triennial.” The work was subsequently presented as part of Istanbul Biennial 14: “Saltwater: A Theory of Thought Forms,” September 4–November 1, 2015 (a version of the project appeared in the exhibition catalogue); at the Museum of Art at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, Rhode Island, on November 3, 2015, while I was a visiting artist in the sculpture department; and at the New School for Social Research on May 24, 2016; and at the Norwegian Festival for Non-fiction on October 29, 2016. In 2017, a version will be published by Triple Canopy as part of an issue devoted to standards and standardization.

Subjective Assessment was developed during my 2013–15 fellowship at the Vera List Center for Art and Politics. On September 23, 2014, I performed and discussed an early version of the work at the Aspen Art Museum as part of Autumn Equinox: Magnetism Talks.

Subjective Assessment incorporates sound and narration to describe a typical “expert listener” undergoing a test meant to determine what sound should sound like, meant to turn him into a listening machine. It places the audience within the sensorium of a middle-aged, white audiophile whose favorite band is King Crimson and whose memories of listening to ABBA while cruising Kentucky highways cannot be vanquished, though his ears train on the audio file’s frequency response. In narrating the experience of the expert listener, Subjective Assessment describes how we produce and experience culture in the form of digital files, how imperfect technological processes mold our conduct.

Click here to download an excerpt of the recorded version (which is a work in progress).