Ren Coffey is an Irish sound artist, they work with sound, sculpture and installation, integrating a variety of mediums and materials. Their practice is concerned with sound, where sound is recognised as both medium and subject. Coffey brings experiential knowledge as well as an interest in sound and musical composition to their experimental approach. They explore the apparent intangible medium of sound and attempt to create tangible ways of perceiving it. Their practice considers our perceptions of sound and noise, and how we differentiate between hearing and listening. Coffey seeks to create a dialogue that relate to how we determine and characterise our audible surroundings through interactive sonic installation.
Ambient Dissonance is a sound installation that considers our perceptions of sound and noise, and how we differentiate between ‘hearing and listening’. How hearing is a physical act and listening is a form of psychological processing. How hearing is a passive activity and listening is active one. Deep listening is a proposition coined by the composer Pauline Oliveros, described as a way of listening in every conceivable way, to everything possible, to hear no matter what you are doing. The work aims to highlight overlooked and ignored sounds and noises, while discussing how we characterise our audible surroundings. The work consists of traditional musical elements and non-traditional sonic materials. Within the work everyday materials are transformed into sculptural and sonic objects. The artwork consists of several circuits that work together as one somewhat self-sustaining sound system. There is a sense of agency and intra-action within the work as elements participate with each other to blur the lines of what we deem 'good' sound and 'bad' noise.
The viewer is invited to walk in the space through the installation. The space is activated as they pass through the motion activated elements where their presence adds sound to the installation. The work is activated periodically by electrical timers, turning on fans and speakers. Guitars are played by a fan and the use of magnetic tape found in cassettes. The tape is blown by the fan across the strings, through a multi-effects pedal, to purpose-built speakers. In doing so, the guitar, a conventional musical instrument, has been converted into a noise machine. In the centre of the work, two horn shaped PA speakers sit atop a wooden post, connected to a cassette player, intermittently playing sounds of our surroundings that are often overlooked and diminished as we don’t actively listen to them. Sound is a variable and time-based medium this collection of devices reflects this in that, each time a viewer enters the space they will be met with a new collection of sound and noise that form a cacophony of sounds in the installation.