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'Loose Bodies' makes use of a 44-minute audio recording I initiated in 2006 immediately prior to being given a general anaesthetic and subjected to a surgical procedure to remove a fragment of my left femur, roughly the size of a butter bean, which had settled inside my knee joint and worn smooth over an unknown number of years. The procedure took place at Weston General Hospital in North Somerset at a time when the area health authority was engaged in hiring Scandinavian surgeons on short-term contracts, taking advantage of local low-cost airline transport to facilitate the performance of fly-in, fly-out batch operations – a cost-saving practice which was later to become the subject of national scrutiny and controversy. Using a minidisc recorder and stereophonic microphone placed on my chest I was allowed to make an audio document of my operation as an approximate placeholder for my absent consciousness. My physical presence after being anaesthetised was marked by the rhythms of medical equipment monitoring my vital signs, and the sounds of the surgeon, anaesthetist and nurses working on and around my body, engaging with each other from their respective positions of time-specific responsibility expressed through strictly delineated material practices. I have edited the recording, partly using the structure of monitoring equipment sounds as a guide, reducing it from nearly three quarters of an hour to 20 minutes, removing fragments and suturing the edges of each cut in imperceptible elisions to produce the illusion of an uninterrupted duration encompassing pre-operative preparations and a condensed account of in-theatre process from start to finish. I feel in part like I have recovered intentional agency in relation to a process characterised by a peculiar tension between extremes of intimacy and exclusion, while acknowledging my minority role in a distribution of forces through diverse human-nonhuman assemblages, trans-national bureaucratic formations, economic flows, substantive and affective becomings. These extend through SOUNDWORKS into further formations proliferating the indexical resonance of my document into new spatial-temporal distributions and experiences. I am particularly fascinated by the idea that my relationship to the recorded material, at least the part that indexes my absentient subjectivity, is no more intimate than that of any other auditor as we ally ourselves with my placeholder to encounter a durational imprint – loose bodies in a diachronic, imaginative unfolding.'
Jem Noble works across an expansive array of disciplinary influences reflecting concerns with materiality, subjectivity and their inter-relationships. Encompassing moving and still image, sound, music, text, sculpture, action and social encounter, his practice unfolds in conversation with the history of conceptual art, its questions of the constitution of the art object and the resonance of these with broader questions of agency, determinacy, reception and individuation – of what Karen Barad has called ‘boundary-making practices’. Recently this has come to include an interest in neoliberalism, questioning what dynamics between the individual, the social and the material it assumes/produces and how these relate to humanist and post-humanist approaches to matter and meaning. Among recent projects he has produced and screened structural edits of 1988 feature films Ghosts of the Civil Dead and They Live, comparing their respectiv e Marxist and classical-liberal critiques of the Reaganomic era; created a lending-library of self-improvement materials on commercially obsolete media found in Hobart second-hand shops for permanent installation in the Tasmanian School of Art library; facilitated 100-piece vocal-noise choirs with improv vocalist Phil Minton by disseminating bespoke video training-manuals through community networks in Bristol and Glasgow; and painstakingly hacked and recorded music from the internet in real-time over three months to DJ at Manifesta 7 in Trentino in collaboration with Swedish copyright activists Piratbyrån. Since 1998 he has been an occasional contributor to volunteer-run expanded-cinema space The Cube Microplex and is founding member of both the Blackout Arts collective and the former Stten Aggregates creative imprint; He was co-director of Venn Festival of new and exploratory music between 2004 and 2008 and is currently producing a practice-based fine-art PhD – Fiction in the Expanded Field: Constituting Objecthood in Art and Posthumanist Philosophy – at The New Ruined Institute where he works as sessional Support Staff.
Nominated by Arnolfini
Image caption: Loose Body: monochrome digital image from colour digital photograph. Jem Noble.
This work is part of ICA SOUNDWORKS - www.ica.org.uk/soundworks