A thick, rocky river: The artist Lisa Premke turns space into sound

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01. March 2018

A thick, rocky river

The artist Lisa Premke turns space into sound

Lisa Premke

“There are sounds,” says Lisa Premke, “that are like frequencies stored deep in our subconscious.” The “thick, rocky river” is the sound of her own blood. She first heard it during a medical exam and made it the subject of one of her works. In her own words, Premke says she can hear spaces. She is not comfortable with silence. The sonic is life. She moved into her new studio in Adlershof 18 months ago. It is her first permanent studio in Berlin.

A dark cellar in the Dutch Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam is home to one of her first projects. Eight amplifiers and the sound of her own blood. Visitors curled up in meditative, almost fetal positions reminiscing about a sound that was quite familiar to them, or at least to their subconscious. “Most of us last heard this,” says Lisa Premke, “when we were still in our mother’s womb.” Evidently, those frequencies are stored away in our subconscious.

Premke creates spaces that compel their visitors to move in a certain, predetermined way, which transforms them into a piece of her art and into so-called objects of sound. Her interests lie in the obscure, the “in-between”, the relationship of noise and language, and the hierarchy of language.

Lisa Premke’s head is filled with sketches of her material of choice - frequencies. While her perception is also divided into the sonic and the visual, the sonic, to her, is life. Thinking back to when she was studying architecture, she recalls that one aim of architecture was to minimise or even eliminate noise. Following stints in sociology, ethnology and architecture, she studied art in Amsterdam as well as sound design in Glasgow. Her mission is to give a voice to objects, project sounds into space and thus give them a life and a story, or rather give it back to them. “Stories,” says Premke, “are frozen inside objects.”

Stories as told by the colourful carpet from Lima in her studio. Strung on to a frame to form a backdrop, countless individual threads in the carpet’s colours are stretched out in front of it. The movement of the threads creates tiny noises – the carpet reclaims its voice.

Loss, says Lisa Premke, is a very important topic for her. “One of the first things I notice about people is when they have suffered a loss, even if what they have lost is invisible.” She strives to highlight the things that were lost.

The city of Chemnitz also suffered a loss. For a long time, the city in Saxony was a centre for the textile industry. The factory that Premke visited boasted thirty or more industrial weaving looms. Each one of them made a hellish noise. Eighty percent of the factory workers were either deaf or hard of hearing. “Nevertheless,” says the artist, “when the production was discontinued, the people working in the factory felt it was a collective loss – a loss of their story.” The machines were sold to families and small companies in various places, including Peru. The carpet installation in Premke’s studio is inspired by that story.

“Whenever I see movement, I can also hear it,” says Lisa Premke. She probably started to listen and appreciate sounds sitting at the piano. She was never able to read music, so her piano teacher played her the parts and she played it back instantly. She managed to trick her teacher for four years and refined her hearing.

When I ask her about her favourite sound, she stops to think: “Snowflakes,” she says, “a lightly structured cacophony.”

By Rico Bigelmann for Adlershof Journal



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