2017 to 2018
Mechanical Kingdoms: Sound Technologies and the Avant-Garde, 1930-1933
This dissertation represents the first study of sound technologies in avant-garde artistic practice. I explore a cross-section of early-1930s creative experiments in the U.S., France, Germany, and Russia. In this period, artists, scientists, and engineers deployed technologies—namely the radio, synthesizer, telephone, and projector—as new media for exploring perception through the generation and transmission of sound waves. In doing so, they transformed the modernist fascination with machines into a functional practice and extended the avant-garde project into a sonic register. Counteracting dominant accounts of the early 1930s as a time in which artists abandoned experimentalism due to political pressures and economic necessity (narratives consistent with developments in visual art), I argue that aural experiments with technologies, by contrast, furtively persevered in scientific laboratories and corporate research departments. This dissertation re-inscribes sound into the history of avant-garde artistic production, revealing a previously-unexplored relationship between sound, the avant-garde, and technological innovation.
Read more about Lauren's work here.