Ear as Other: The Sound-Films of Kevin T. Allen

Thursday January 14, 7 PM, Communications 130 (Studio A)

This collection of Allen’s super-8mm films highlights his use of expanded sound recording techniques for film. As a means to explore the periphery of sound and representation, of sound and knowledge, Allen often employs wearable binaural devices, hand-built hydrophones and contact microphones in his nonfiction work. In this program he investigates sound recording as spatial practice (Kieu), as asynchronous ethnography (Immokalee, My Home), as underwater exploration (What the Sea Left Behind), as archaeoacoustics (Bridge) and as sensory heritage (Real West). He will also discuss methods of expanded sound recording, sharing practical samples from his own sonic experimentation in the field.

REAL WEST 29 minutes, 2014.
Real West is an experimental portrait of two roadside ghost towns in South Dakota. It is also the tale of two elderly proprietors who devotedly maintain these sites. Such roadside attractions conjure the mythical West through material and cultural artifacts, from a decrepit wagon wheel to an out-of-tune player piano. Tourists are encouraged to not only experience, but also to re-enact these historical environments. The film uses contact microphones and super-8mm film as archaeological tools to uncover the material traces of this living history.

BRIDGE 11 minutes, 2013.
A study of three similar but distinct microcultures: the Manhattan Bridge, Brooklyn Bridge and Williamsburg Bridge. Interrogated through the use of contact microphones, the physical infrastructures of these bridges become audible and reveal their inherent macroacoustics. The film treats the bridge as an anthropological body for discourse, as a physiology of limbs, organs, eyes and ears moving in time.

WHAT THE SEA LEFT BEHIND 4 minutes, 2010.
A journey above and below one of America’s most polluted waterways. An investigation of the Gowanus Canal using binaural contact microphones, a homemade hydrophone, and my last roll of Super-8mm Kodachrome. Since its creation in 1867, the canal’s murky bottom has absorbed over a century of industrial pollutants and raw sewage. The film asks us to turn our eyes and ears to meet a world submerged beneath this neglected estuary.

LUTHIER 6 minutes, 2010.
Raul Orlando Perez lives in the mountains of Patagonia. He crafted his first instrument in 1962. He thinks of his work as a sort of re-creation, a form of alchemy, transforming natural materials into living, breathing instruments. A well-crafted instrument is not only defined by the age, treatment and construction of its materials, but it also continues to grow and adapt with use. In 2009, I brought him a door salvaged from my family home lost to fire. He transformed it into a beautiful handcrafted flamenco guitar.

IMMOKALEE, MY HOME 16 minutes, 2009.
A portrait of life in Immokalee, Florida, heart of industrial agriculture in the United States and home to its largest population of migrant farm workers. The surface story is of one community’s struggle for farm worker rights. Florida farm workers live in slave-like conditions. Some are beaten, not given food or water, or not paid. Yet, they continue to come. This is the deeper tale revealed. Ultimately, it is a tale of migration, of immigration, and of the persistent hope for a better life.

KIEU 18 minutes, 2006.
Kieu, loosely translated as “foreign,” is the name given to thousands of Vietnamese refugees and their children who have journeyed “home.” Through a spatial weaving of location recordings and the vivid stories of three Viet-Kieu voices we “return” to Vietnam. Their culturally fragmented narratives pose questions relevant to all those who travel. The camera becomes a voice in this cinematic journey, a kinesthetic query of being and belonging.

KevinTAllen_PhotoKevin T. Allen is a filmmaker, sound artist and radio producer whose practice ranges from the ethnographic to the experimental. He has exhibited at numerous venues, including MoMA, Ethnographic Terminalia, Flaherty NYC, Margaret Mead Film Festival, Berlin Directors Lounge and Ann Arbor Film Festival. His sound work has been featured at museums and festivals, including the Canadian Centre for Architecture, Third Coast International Audio Festival and Deep Wireless Festival of Radio Art. He has made ethnographically imbued films in Vietnam, Sri Lanka, India, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, the Wild West, and the migrant farm worker community of Immokalee, Florida. Recent research has lead him to find culture not exclusively in human forms, but also inherent in physical landscapes and material objects. His work is funded through the Jerome Foundation. He is an assistant professor at The New School in NYC where he teaches documentary practice and experimental filmmaking. He is currently at work on an asynchronous exploration of glass making.


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