Objects and Spacetimes: Faculty Spotlight on Riccardo Giacconi
Sound is layered. Conversations sit atop recordings of music and podcasts, nestled between the ambient sounds of the manmade and natural environment. Riccardo Giacconi, Professor of the Practice in Sound, has a practice that touches upon the many ways that we co-create our soundscape. In his Introduction to Sound course, students learn not only the technical aspects of how to record and edit sound, but they learn how to use sound. Music is just one such use of sound, but Giacconi strives to introduce students to other approaches including recorded narratives, or as an ambient quality in an installation or space. While for many, sound is primarily processed through the ears, this is only true for some, and Giacconi is interested in the different ways we experience sound. “I’m interested in how artworks may be created with an invisible medium,” he says.
Giacconi sees himself as both a visual artist and a documentarian. His works are shown in gallery and museum exhibitions, but also in film festivals, featured in radio broadcasts, and podcast forms, as well as via channels and events he has co-founded and curated with others.
He created botafuego.org, an audio storytelling studio, which produces audio works in Spanish and Italian. He also co-founded and co-curates Helicotrema, a festival of collective listening of recorded narrative works that takes place in Italy. “In this festival, we focus on works that deal with sound art and experimental formats- that’s also what we’re doing in the Introduction to Sound course.”
He also teaches a course on Audio Storytelling which covers the history of the radio, as well as sound-based narrative formats such as audio documentaries and audio fiction. Students learn how to tell stories through sound, using voices, sound design, music and archival material.
“I invite guests to come and speak during the courses, and we record these conversations with different practitioners. The idea is to develop an audio series, presented as a podcast: a sort of magazine distributed as sound, as audio.” This aspect of Giacconi’s practice comes alive in the classroom and at SMFA.
Giacconi elaborates, “Teaching is a chance for an artist to be engaged in a situation where you put on the table a series of concepts you have been working with. It’s an opportunity to share them with a community of people and see them in another light.”
If the classroom is Giacconi’s laboratory for testing new ideas, the world is his studio.
“I’ve rarely had a studio, I’ve always worked in different places. Not working in a studio has informed my practice: I mainly work with time-based media, and I don’t produce objects on a regular basis. I tend to only work with objects only if there’s an exhibition I’m preparing,” he says.
This openness to exploring different disciplines, ways of working, and thinking are at the core of the interdisciplinary nature of the work of faculty, students, and staff that thrive at SMFA.
“I inhabit an intrinsically interdisciplinary practice. My work is presented in exhibitions, film and performing arts festivals, radio, and podcasts. That’s something that I feel happy about. I’m not at all interested in distinctions between disciplines – between being a visual artist or filmmaker or researcher or sound artist. Those distinctions often create unnecessary barriers and hurdles. An art school today should be open to different ways to disseminate practices. Rather than disciplines, I believe in intensities that run through communities, objects and spacetimes.” Giacconi stresses to his students that above all, they should be open to different media and formats for sharing their work.
What he tells students is, “You have the chance to explore ways of articulating your practice. I would tell them, why don’t you try working with sound, performance, or moving images? Have you thought about writing, still images, or constructing objects? Art school is a wonderful place to experiment with what you are not familiar with, and what you are not comfortable with. Try to have your practice inhabit different spacetimes.”
Header image courtesy of Riccardo Giacconi