Dave Shulman on the creative process as an entangled part of making

Dave Shulman speaks with STIR about research as a creative process and making as practice, both integral to his sound and video works and installations.

by Girinandini SinghPublished on : Mar 04, 2022

Dave Shulman’s creative practice explores found materials, sound, and immersive experiences as modes to create works that can best be described as embodied expressions. To the artist, however, he is first and foremost a musician. Talking about the winding journey (a fact he credits to his neurodivergence) that makes up the bulk of his artistic career and creative research, Shulman says, “I will always consider myself to be an improvising musician. Having trained as a jazz saxophonist and clarinet player some 20 years ago, which I see now as more of a kind of artisan skill set, the creative ‘fine art’ or visual art practice I developed alongside my musical playing career gradually became more immersive and research-oriented. That’s when I really got interested in found sounds, or more accurately, found energy (converted into sound and other sensory modes).” For Shulman, improvisation has always been part of his evolving process and practice, feeding into and impressing on his creative body of work, it was a kind of habit that developed from his skills as a musical improvisor finding their way into other avenues of his creative expressions.

Electrical Sound walk close-up: Binaural electromagnetic sensing and recording assemblage, 2021, Photo documentation of an electrical sound walk utilising a DIY assemblage of electromagnetic sensors, 360 camera, multichannel recorder, recycled laser cut mdf, headphones, Dave Shulman| STIRworld
Electrical Sound walk close-up: Binaural electromagnetic sensing and recording assemblage, 2021, Photo documentation of an electrical sound walk utilising a DIY assemblage of electromagnetic sensors, 360 camera, multichannel recorder, recycled laser cut mdf, headphones Image: Ru Yin Liu; Courtesy of Dave Shulman

Process in fact seems to be central to Shulman’s work, the nuance with which his creative vocabulary is built being almost as important as the output itself. “Processes are always involved in a creative act and making them visible by exposing the underlying methods of making can give a ‘criticality’ and add a sort of reflexivity to the creative practise,” explains the visual artist. He continues to add, “The technology that we consume has a tendency to make invisible the messiness and chaos of reality and existence by making things smooth and shiny and hiding or ‘black-boxing’ the underlying complexity. I am interested in showing the unseen processes not only in how an assemblage for collecting sounds and information is constructed, which in itself is designed to detect unseen electromagnetic processes, but in the experience or ‘embodied’ expression as you mentioned earlier of the work, it may also contain auto-ethnographical information which relates to the by which it was made.”

04 mins watch South Woodford, 2021, 360 video documentation of electrical sound walk with ambisonic audio and sonic visualisations | Dave Shulman | STIRworld
South Woodford, 2021, 360 video documentation of electrical sound walk with ambisonic audio and sonic visualisations Video: Dave Shulman

What Shulman shows through his work is the entangled nature of things, relating also to psychological concepts of synchronicity and the re-evaluation of casual relations that are so intrinsic in our experiences that we often take them for granted. Examining the ways in which one re-thinks this idea of casual relation, especially in the context of the act of creation and making is intriguing to the artist, as many creatives do in fact sometime speak of those delirious experiences where the work makes itself, coming together in an assemblage, performance, or as an artefact. “I don’t know if the idea of sculpting a work as a process of ‘revealing’ its identity as opposed to the mind over matter way of thinking is particularly new. This is largely a poetic way of framing the situation. The thinking through making idea proposed by Tim Ingold,” the artist says, “also implies that the objects and tools involved in the process also have their own kind of agency, implying a kind of partnership or collaboration between the maker and their tools and materials as opposed to a master artisan type view. This indicates the material or tools are less passive and the maker less active than traditionally conceived of.

However, if you expand this kind of thinking by keeping in mind that our common sense notion of the linearity of time is largely inaccurate, you can begin to conceive of the revelatory conception of making as no longer merely poetic. Being open to improvising, prepared to embrace the unforeseen in our making, using found objects, happenstance and intuition.”

01 min watch Sound walk 360 Video (Marylebone), 2021, 360 video documentation of electrical sound walk with ambisonic audio and sonic visualisations | Dave Shulman | STIRworld
Sound walk 360 Video (Marylebone), 2021, 360 video documentation of electrical sound walk with ambisonic audio and sonic visualisations Video: Dave Shulman; Courtesy of Dave Shulman

Shulman is interested in creative agency through utilising technologies in novel, unconventional, and unorthodox ways. An example is his piece that super-imposes grids with wave oscillation over equirectangular 360-degree video footage. Explaining how often times the level of technical fluency in a certain type of software one needs to realise a project cannot be developed as swiftly, requiring a certain degree of artistic improvisation, a skill-set that Shulman is certainly comfortable with. The unconventional ‘adhocism’ itself becomes a creative act that defines the piece as can be seen here. This is in no way to say that these skills cannot be refined and honed over time, but that the unorthodoxy of their use matched with the high-production values and skill sets of previously mastered technologies all come together to create a tension that often can be the really interesting aspect of the work. Shulman’s work intrinsically binds together aspects of making and documenting as it pertains to the capturing a historicity or social time, it’s an entangled reality that uses a 360-degree camera to collect footage that is further woven into an assemblage for capturing sound and image. “It comes back to our sense of agency by using what is available in the current infrastructure,” says the artist, “for making art and documenting research in a post-digital age.” This March, Shulman will be presenting his research at IRCAM forum workshops in Paris, showing a multichannel sound and video installation, which is a way for him to merge the research intrinsic aspect of his practise with the performative.

Electrical sound walk, East London, 2021, Photo documentation of an electrical sound walk utilising a DIY assemblage of electromagnetic sensors, 360 camera, multichannel recorder, recycled laser cut mdf, headphones
Electrical sound walk, East London, 2021, Photo documentation of an electrical sound walk utilising a DIY assemblage of electromagnetic sensors, 360 camera, multichannel recorder, recycled laser cut mdf, headphones Image: Ru Yin Liu; Courtesy of Dave Shulman

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