This essay in a peer-reviewed international journal, published by the Association of Art Historians of Canada considers the prominence of sound in installation art of the 1990s. The essay takes as its starting point a complex installation of images, objects and sounds created by the Glaswegian-Ghanaian artist, Maud Sulter, for the Harris Museum in Preston, and reinstalled, with slight variations, at other venues.
Based on detailed research in archives and collections, the essay considers the inter-relations between the various components of the installation, and through comparison with other contemporaneous installation pieces by artists including Cornelia Parker, Mona Hatoum and Chila Kumari Burman, it offers an innovative analysis of the ways in which sound shapes the perceptions and experience of art, interacting with the physical and material properties of the spaces of installation. Taking issue with more recent theories of participation and social action, the essay argued that through sound, hearing beholders enter the work of art, becoming complicit in it, whether they wish to or not. The essay considers sound’s supplementarity to vision, founded on a reading of Derrida’s 'Restitutions', to argue that sound both adds to and displaces a visual experience, unsettling and undoing ocular forms of perception.