Curator’s Statement

by Colin Black

“None of the arts is entirely mute, many are soundful despite their apparent silence …” Douglas Kahn, 1999

The Transmuted Signal curated series explores the notion that exclusively visual media, even when highly abstracted is not purely visual but rather is an innately multi-modal experience. To this effect W. J. T. Mitchell has argued that “there are no visual media”, at least no exclusively visual forms that exist in isolation from its tactile, linguistic and audio counterparts or derivatives.  Moreover it has also been argued by Rudolf Arnheim, Gary Ferrington, Andrew Crisell and others that audio media is not a purely blind media, but also creates images in the minds of the listeners.  The impact of this pluralistic nexus between media modalities forms a fundamental element in this series of works that was initiated from one single visual image (also referred to as the non-audio signal), transmuted into audio by eight artists and then finally invites the listener to transmute the signal back into visual media in their minds.

In this sense The Transmuted Signal pays homage to Giorgio Pressburger’s 1970 Prix Italia Award winning work Giochi Di Fanciulli [Children’s Games], which sonically re-created and reinterpreted the 1560 painting entitled Children's Games by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. However the process for The Transmuted Signal is far from recording children playing in the studio in an audio documentary style, corresponding to the images of the children playing games in the painting. With The Transmuted Signal the original image is somewhat more abstract in form and therefore presents a different set of challenges for the artists.

In essence The Transmuted Signal is not about the level of fidelity that can be achieved by the transmutation process, but the combination of transmutation and transformation.  As the Shannon–Weaver model of communication states, noise is unequivocally being added to the signal at every stage of this process. That is, the artist adds noise to the signal as the visual is encoded into audio, the channel (or broadcast) then adds noise both sonically and contextually (chiefly due to the work’s curational framework) and finally the listener adds noise to the signal as it is decoded back into a visual.

So as to filter out some of the noise and gain a clearer picture, multiple artists have been invited to encode the signal so that the listener is able to compare signals and to some extent triangulate the original signal out of the noise. Further to this, all of the artists have been requested to destroy the original visual image so that now this image only effectively exists in its transmuted form and can only be most clearly “viewed” by listening to this collection of derivative sonic tentacles. A pertinent question for the listener is, what part of the signal is the noise that has been added by the artist and the channel, and what part of the signal constitutes the original signal? Nevertheless it is the accumulation of all these elements that forms the whole that is The Transmuted Signal.

Featuring new works by Philip Samartzis, Cat Hope, Nigel Helyer, Colin Black, Lizzie Pogson, Melanie Herbert and Entoptic.

Curated by Colin Black
Produced by Yanna Black


Arnheim, Rudolf. Radio: An Art of Sound. 1936; repr., New York,: Da Capo Press, 1972.
Crisell, Andrew. Understanding Radio, Studies in Culture & Communication, 2nd ed.  (London ; New York: Routledge, 1994), 10.
 ADDIN EN.REFLIST Ferrington, Gary. “Audio Design: Creating Multi-Sensory Images for the Mind,” Journal of Visual Literacy (1993).
 Kahn, Douglas. Noise, Water, Meat : A History of Sound in the Arts.  Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1999.Mitchell, W.J.T. “There Are No Visual Media”, Journal of Visual Culture, 4 (2) (2005): 257–66
Weaver. Warren and Claude Elwood Shannon. The Mathematical Theory of Communication. Univ. of Illinois Press, 1949.

This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body.