Dr Aura Satz
School of Fine Art
Moving Image Tutor
Reader in Fine Art (Sound and Moving Image)
Dr Aura Satz is Moving Image Tutor and Reader in Fine Art (Sound and Moving Image) on the Contemporary Art Practice programme at the Royal College of Art.
Aura Satz completed a practice/theory PhD at the Slade School of Fine Art. Between 2002 and 2005, she was a recipient of the Henry Moore Post-Doctoral Sculpture Fellowship, hosted at the Slade School of Fine Art. From 2009–10, she was artist-in-residence at the Ear Institute, UCL, funded by the Wellcome Trust. In 2012, she was shortlisted for the Samsung Art+ Award and the Jarman Award. From 2014–15, she is practitioner-in-residence at Chelsea college of Arts. She has also been awarded a Leverhulme artist’s residency to make a film at the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research, the Department of Music, and the John Hansard Gallery, hosted at the University of Southampton.Show more
Aura has performed, exhibited and screened her work nationally and internationally. This has included events and exhibitions at Tate Modern, Tate Britain, the Hayward Gallery, the Hayward project Space, Barbican Art Gallery, ICA, the Wellcome Collection, BFI Southbank, Whitechapel Gallery, (London); Oberhausen Short Film Festival (Oberhausen); the Rotterdam Film Festival (Rotterdam); the New York Film Festival (NY); Gertrude Contemporary (Melbourne); De Appel Art Centre (Amsterdam); AV festival (Newcastle); Arnolfini (Bristol); Turner Contemporary (Margate); and Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art (Gateshead). She has had solo exhibitions at the Wellcome Collection (2010–11, London); the Hayward Project Space (2013, London), Paradise Row gallery (2013, London), Gallery 44 (2014, Toronto), The Gallery, Tyneside Cinema (2014, Newcastle), George Eastman House (2015, Rochester NY), John Hansard Gallery (2015-16), and Dallas Contemporary (2016), as well as mini-retrospectives at the Rotterdam Film Festival (2013, Rotterdam), The New York Film Festival (2013, NY), and The Cinematheque (2015, Vancouver). She is included in the 20th Sydney Biennale 'The future is already here — it’s just not evenly distributed.'
Aura Satz’s work encompasses film, sound, performance and sculpture. Interested in modes of heightened perception and sensory disorientation such as flicker and psychoacoustics, Satz has used various technologies as the subject of her work, including the Chladni plate, Rubens’ tube, theremin, mechanical music, phonograph grooves, dial tones, drawn/optical sound and early colour film. Her works look at how the physical and sonic properties of such objects tap into ideas of knowledge and communication in their use of notation systems, languages or codes.Show more
Satz is also interested in bringing to the fore key female figures that are largely excluded from mainstream historical discourse in an ongoing engagement with the question of women’s contributions to labour, technology and scientific knowledge. She has made projects on women such as the British electronic music pioneer Daphne Oram, the Hollywood actress and inventor Hedy Lamarr, Technicolor film-colour consultant Natalie Kamus, and astronomers Henrietta Swan Leavitt and Maria Mitchell. Many of the projects are informed by the history of media and the unusual migration of one technology into another, and involve extensive research, consultation and collaboration. Satz has worked collaboratively with filmmaker Lis Rhodes, and with a wide range of composers, vocalists and musicians, including Laurie Spiegel, Pauline Oliveros, Maja Ratkje, Jennifer Walshe, Anton Lukoszevieze, Mikhail Karikis, Lydia Kavina, Dorit Chrysler, Aleks Kolkowski, Steven Severin and Scanner.
Aura Satz has taught widely in art schools across the UK at BA, MA and PhD level. This has included posts at the London Consortium (2005–13), University of Kent, Goldsmith’s College, University of London, Chelsea College of Art & Design, Camberwell College of Arts, Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design, the Slade School of Fine Art, London College of Communication, the Royal Academy of Arts, amongst others.Show more
She has also been invited to speak internationally and has coordinated workshops and tutorials for students on the MA in Media Design & Communication a the Piet Zwart Institute in Rotterdam (Netherlands), the MA course at the Bergen Academy of Art and Design (Norway), the Pratt Institute, School of Visual Arts, Gallatin School of Individualised Study at NYU and the New School (New York).
From 2014–15, Satz was practitioner-in-residence at Chelsea college of Art & Design. She was also awarded a Leverhulme artist’s residency to make a film at the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research, the Department of Music, and the John Hansard Gallery, hosted at the University of Southampton.
In 2015–16 she is involved in a collaboration with composer Tim Watts and historian Ulinka Rublack at Cambridge University centred on Kepler and the Witch, culminating in a film and opera.
She is on the advisory board of the artist run organization and film lab no.w.here.
Publications, exhibitions and other outcomes
Selected Solo Exhibitions and PerformancesShow more
Her Marks, a Measure, solo show at Dallas Contemporary, Texas
The Trembling Line, solo show at John Hansard gallery, Southampton
Eyelids Leaking Light, solo show George Eastman House, Rochester New York
Dial Tone Drone, New sound Commission for Telephone, outside Royal Academy London
Chromatic Aberration, solo show at the Gallery, Tyneside Cinema, Newcastle
Colour Opponent Process, Solo show at Gallery 44, Toronto, as part of the Images Festival
Blink Comparator: Her Luminous Distance, performance at the 60th International Short Film Festival Oberhausen (1 to 6 May, 2014), part of the themed programme, 'Memories Can't Wait - Film without Film', curated by Mika Taanila
Blink Comparator: Her Luminous Distance performance at De Appel, Amsterdam
Soundfigures, solo show at BLAAK10 gallery, Rotterdam, as part of the 42nd edition of the International Film Festival Rotterdam, curated by Edwin Carrels
Impulsive Synchronisation, Solo film installation and sound piece for Hayward Project Space, London
Drone Rorschach, performance at Turner Contemporary, Margate, as part of the Hayward touring exhibition Curiosity, curated by Brian Dillon
In and out of Synch, film scripted and voiced in dialogue with Lis Rhodes, performance screening, with live vocals by Maja Ratkje, Kunstnernes Hus, ‘Only Connect’ festival, curated by Anne-Hilde Neset, Oslo
Head to Head: Aura Satz and Nicola Ellis, Castlefield Gallery, Manchester
Solo looped mini-retrospective screenings during the 51st New York Film Festival, Lincoln Centre, New York, as part of the ‘Views from the Avant-garde’ section, curated by Mark McElhatten
Colour Opponent Process, Solo show at Paradise Row gallery, London
Portrait of Daphne Oram & Aura Satz, screenings curated by Anne-Hilde Neset, SNYK (Copenhagen)
Drone Rorschach, Whitechapel Gallery, London, film performance as part of Jarman award.
In and out of Synch, performance screening, with live vocals by Mikhail Karikis and cello by Anton Lukoszevieze, Tate Tanks, Tate Modern, London
In and out of Synch, performance screening, with live cello by Anton Lukoszevieze, Arnolfini, Bristol
Sight of Sound commissioned performance, Deutsche Bank VIP lounge, Frieze Art Fair, NY
Ventriloqua performance with Dorit Chrysler on the theremin, Cabinet, Brooklyn NY
Flights of Fancy, Tatton Park Biennale, new visual score and performance with Jane Chapman
Universal Language: A Lost Manifesto, Barbican cinema, screening performance
Supersonix event, looped screening of films, and curated screening of films selected by Aura Satz, Christie’s, South Kensington, London
Vocal Flame performance commission for Radar, with vocals by Jennifer Walshe, Loughborough University
Ventriloqua performance with Lydia Kavina on the theremin, BFI, Southbank, London, as part of the Samsung Art+ award
Oramics: Atlantis Anew, Science Museum
Duet performance, Barbican Gallery, London
Sound Seam, Wellcome Collection, London
Onomatopoeic Alphabet, performance, VIVID, Birmingham
I Am Anagram performance at the Barbican Gallery
Ventriloquist book performance, part of ‘Magic Show’, Hayward touring exhibition, Chapter Art Gallery, Cardiff
Turntable Tableau, film performance at ICA, Live Weekend, etc., London
Sound Seam, with the collaboration of Aleks Kolkowski, at Great North Museum, Hancock, Newcastle as part of the AV festival
Automatic Ensemble performance, at the Church of St Leonhard (Leonhardskirche), Basel & Museum of Music Automatons, Seewen
Glissolalia, Soundtrap III commission, installation and live event, Beaconsfield Gallery, London
Automamusic, Artprojx Space, London
Selected Group Exhibitions and Screenings
20th Sydney Biennale 'The future is already here — it’s just not evenly distributed.', Sydney
Mirror City: London artists on fiction and reality, Hayward Gallery, London
They Used to Call it the Moon, Baltic Centre for Contemporary Arts, Gateshead
Screening as part of the 44th International Film Festival Rotterdam
Screening at EMAF, European Media Art Festival, Osnabrueck
Mini-retrospective screenings at DIM CINEMA, The Cinematheque, Vancouver
Screening as part of Vanguard Competition at Filmadrid, International Film Festival, Madrid
Winner of Best Vanguard Film Competition in Lima Independiente International Film Festival 2015, Lima
Screening as part of Experimental Competition in 23rd Curtas Vila do Conde International Film Festival, Lisbon
Screening as part of FNC Lab Competition at the 44th Festival du Nouveau Cinema, Montreal, Canada
Screening as part of the Fascinations Competition at the 19th Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival, Jihlava, Czech Republic
Screening as part of the International Competition at the 17th International Film Festival Bratislava, Slovakia
Transform: Aura Satz and Lis Rhodes in conversation, screenings at Tate Britain, London
Post-script, group show and screenings as part of the 43nd edition of the International Film Festival Rotterdam
BOOSTER –Art Sound Machine, Marta Herford, Herford, Germany
Pre owned: Looks Good Man, Cell Project Space, London
Transcendence: A Suite, Three-person show at Gertrude Contemporary, Melbourne
RISK Cinema, Screenings alongside Jerome Hiler and John Smith, The Harn Museum, Florida
EUROPEAN SHORTS Competition, New Horizons International Film Festival, Wroclaw, Poland
Screening as part of All Connected, Ancienne Belgique (AB), Belgium
They Used to Call it the Moon, Baltic Centre for Contemporary Arts, Gateshead
Curiosity: Art and the Pleasures of Knowing, Hayward Touring exhibition in association with Cabinet Magazine, curated by Brian Dillon, Turner Contemporary (Margate), Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery, The Exchange and Newlyn Art Gallery (Cornwall), de Appel (Amsterdam)
Screenings as part of ‘Unconscious Archives’: Malcolm Le Grice, Aura Satz, Sally Golding, Gideon Vein, Guy Edmonds, Café Oto, London
Universal Language, screening performance as part of The Voice and the Lens, Ikon gallery, Birmingham
Jarman Award Tour screenings, Whitechapel Gallery, London; FACT, Liverpool; CCA, Glasgow; The Northern Charter in partnership with CIRCA projects, Newcastle; Nottingham Contemporary, Nottingham; Watershed, Bristol; Duke of York Cinema, Brighton
Sight of Sound exhibition, Deutsche Bank VIP lounge, Frieze Art Fair, NY
Soundworks, ICA, London
Psychosis part II, “I is someone else”, Färgfabriken - Centre for Contemporary Art and Architecture, Stockholm
Samsung Media Art+ Prize 2012, BFI, London
Acoustic Mirrors, Zabludowicz Collection, London
Transmediale 2012, The Sound of the End of Music, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin
Flights of Fancy, Tatton Park Biennale, Cheshire
In Search of Alchemic Times, 235 Brompton Road, London
‘Sound Seam’ screened by Artprojx Cinema at the SVA theatre, in association with the Armory show and Volta NY, New York
Onomatopoeic Alphabet, film and sound sculpture commission, VIVID, Birmingham
Locate, Three person show, Jerwood Gallery, London
IV Jafre Bienal, Girona, Spain
Still-Film, Artprojx presents…, LOOP festival, Espai Liceu, Barcelona, Spain
Still-Film, Artprojx presents… Site Gallery, Sheffield
Automamusic screened at Basel Museumsnacht, Switzerland
Still-Film, Artprojx presents… Tate Britain, London
Gallery 44/Black dog publishing, forthcoming monograph on three artists on occasion of the gallery’s 35 anniversary (forthcoming 2015)
Images used for essay by Marina Warner, in: Vivian Sky Rehberg (ed.), The Symbol Gives Rise to Thought: Writings on Art by Marina Warner Volume 1, Violette Editions (forthcoming 2015)
‘Aura Satz in conversation with Jussi Parikka’, in: Ryan Bishop and John Beck (ed.), Cold War Continuities, Technicities series, Edinburgh University Press (forthcoming 2015)
Thomas Gardner and Salome Voegelin (eds), Music - Sound Art: Historical Continuum and Mimetic Fissures, (forthcoming 2015)
Films included in The New Contemporaries/LUX DVD publication, with roundtable transcription ‘Changing practices in a changing landscape: Artists working with the moving image and New Contemporaries’ (forthcoming 2014)
‘Tableaux Vivants: Inside the Statue’, essay excerpted in: Antony Hudek (ed.), The Object, Documents of Contemporary Art series, Whitechapel Art Gallery, 2014
INFRA publication, based on artistic research project devised by curators Anna Gritz and Fatos Ustek (May 2014)
‘Touching Sound: An Interview with Jayne Parker by Aura Satz’, The International Journal of Screendance, special issue: ‘After Deren’, Volume 3, Spring 2013
‘On Creativity’ commissioned text and images for The Gallery of Senses, published by the BE OPEN cultural foundation, in collaboration with Interni Magazine, Mondadori
Interview with Alastair Cameron, Arnolfini curator, available here
‘Typewriter, Pianola, Slate, Phonograph: Recording Technologies and Automisation’, in: Sas Mays and Neil Matheson (eds), The Machine and the Ghost: Technology and Spiritualism in 19th to 21st Century Art and Culture, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2013
‘The Inner Sleeve’, The Wire magazine, November 2012
Commissioned blogpost on occasion of ‘In and Out of Synch’ premiere, Huffington Post
‘Shapes with the Sound of Their Own Making, The many resonances of the Chladni plate’, Cabinet, 24 Hours, issue 44, Winter 2011/12
‘Music of its own Accord', Leonardo Music Journal, issue 20, December 2010
'The Conviction of its Existence:' Silas Weir Mitchell, Phantom Limbs and Phantom Bodies in Neurology and Spiritualism’, in: Laura Salisbury and Andrew Shail (eds), Neurology and Modernity: A Cultural History of Nervous Systems, 1800-1950, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010
‘Inside the Statue’ in: Aura Satz and Jonathan Wood (eds), Articulate Objects: Voicing and Listening to Sculpture and Performance, Oxford, Bern, Berlin et al: Peter Lange publishers, 2009Aura Satz and Jonathan Wood (eds), Articulate Objects: Voicing and Listening to Sculpture and Performance, Oxford, Bern, Berlin et al: Peter Lange publishers, 2009
Awards and Grants
Arts Council England Award for the production of Between the Bullet and the Hole
Leverhulme Artist’s residency at the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research, the Department of Music, and the John Hansard Gallery, hosted at the University of Southampton
Practitioner-in-residence at Chelsea college of Arts.
Shortlisted for the Jarman Award, Film London
Shortlisted for the Samsung New Media Art+ Prize, Suum projects
Arts Council England Award for the production of In and Out of Synch
Arts Council England Award for the production of Universal Language: A Lost Manifesto
Artist-in-Residence at the Ear Institute, UCL, London
2009–10Wellcome Trust Award for Sound Seam
Current and recent research
‘Chromatic Aberration’ (2014) is a film that explores the early technologies of colour filmmaking in the 20th century. Featuring vibrant close-ups of eyes from fledgling archival experiments in colour film, Satz turns the cinematic lens in on itself: from the prosthetic recording eye of the camera, to an evocation of the abstract inner screen of one’s eyelids. The film is inspired by a scene in Powell and Pressberger’s 1946 film A Matter of Life and Death, where the transition from the reality of colour to the black and white of the afterworld is conveyed from the viewpoint of David Niven's eyelid, from inside the body, behind the eyes.
Created using footage from the George Eastman House archive in Rochester, New York, the installation evokes an imagined abstract colour world, a flickering eyelid trapped in a mechanical peephole. The eye shimmers between dreamy reverie, curiosity, terror, defiance and awe. The selection of archival footage is shot in such a way as to highlight its intrinsic colour distortion and misalignment, recalling the blurry effect of looking at a bright light followed by the image-burn on the retina, a series of after-colours under and onto the closed eyelid.
Commissioned by the Gallery, Tyneside Cinema (Newcastle) with the participation of George Eastman House (Rochester, New York).
‘Her Luminous Distance’ (2014) is a slide-based installation which uses a Blink Comparator, a device used by astronomers to detect small pattern differences between photographic plates by alternately switching between images, blinking back and forth between the two. The PROBLICOM (Projector Blink Comparator) was invented by amateur astronomer Ben Mayer, using two juxtaposed slide projectors and a rotating disc, alternately occulting the images at a stroboscopic pace. The accompanying binaural soundtrack is a pulsing rhythmic drone which plays on the perception of patterns.
Developed from research on the pioneering deaf astronomer Henrietta Swan Leavitt (1868-1921), the project attends to the lesser known women who contributed to important astronomical discoveries, in particular the women known as 'Human Computers' at Harvard, who were engaged in painstaking astronomical observation and classification. In her extensive studies of Variable Stars, Leavitt discovered the period-luminosity relation, which ultimately helped calibrate a method to determine the size of the universe. The blinking slide sequence includes images drawn from Leavitt's original annotated photographic plates of Variable stars, archival images from the Human Computers' workplace, and a series of over 20 images of craters on the moon named after women astronomers. The Leavitt Crater is on the far side of the moon, and is also in honour of deaf scientists. Commissioned by and exhibited at Baltic 39 and Baltic (Newcastle), and performed at Oberhausen Film Festival (Germany) and De Appel (Amsterdam).
The starting point for ‘Impulsive Synchronisation’ (2013) is a 'Secret Communication System' patented during World War II by Hollywood star Hedy Lamarr and American composer George Antheil. This invention of 'frequency hopping' was designed to protect radio-controlled torpedoes from enemy disruption by distributing the signal over many frequencies and synchronising the transmitter and receiver in rapidly changing patterns. The idea, which drew in part on Antheil's unsuccessful attempt to synchronise 16 pianolas in his 1924 avant-garde masterpiece 'Ballet Mecanique', suggested the use of 88 frequencies (the number of keys on a piano), and the use of perforated paper rolls to keep the frequency hops in sync with each other. This concept has since become the basis for today's spread-spectrum technology, widely used in wireless telephone and wi-fi technology.
In this film and sound installation, these technologies are referenced to explore visual, musical and data notation, as well as its encryption, synchronisation and decipherment. The work consists of a scrolling screen made from five specially commissioned pianola rolls from Antheil's 'Ballet Mecanique'. The screen is in constant motion so that the film creates a complex light play from the encoded musical score, as the perforated strips of paper interact and produce patterns on the surrounding walls. In addition, a light located behind the screen - a kind of imageless echo of the projection lamp - flashes in systematic intervals, flattening the film-screen and highlighting the materiality of the pianola paper. At times the conflicting light sources overlap and cancel each other out. The film projected onto the scrolling screen is a very short extract from 'Come Live with Me', starring Hedy Lamarr. In this romantic comedy - premiered in 1941, the year she submitted the patent for her invention - Lamarr uses the metaphor of the flashlight, like a firefly, to attract a mate. In the film, the torch footage signals in flashes according to Morse code. The soundscape is composed of vintage underwater recordings of submarines and torpedo explosions from the 1940s, punctuated by the siren sections from 'Ballet Mecanique'. Commissioned by the Hayward Project Space, London.
‘Doorway for Natalie Kalmus’ (2013) is a film centred around the use of colour in moving image technology, exploring the disorienting technicolour prismatic effects of the lamp house of a 35mm colour film printer. Through minute shifts across an abstract colour spectrum, punctuated by a mechanical soundtrack, the film evokes kaleidoscopic perceptual after-images (bringing to mind Paul Sharits, Dario Argento and the Wizard of Oz). Natalie Kalmus was the ex-wife of technicolour inventor Herbert Kalmus, and was the colour consultant for hundreds of colour films, including The Wizard of Oz, Gone with the Wind, the Red Shoes, Black Narcissus and many more. She would draw up colour scores for each film, like music scores, according to her theories of "Colour Consciousness". She also authored a short article entitled "Doorway onto another world", in which she described her sister’s deathbed experience of seeing deceased family members.
‘In and Out of Synch’ (2012) is a filmic performance which
centres around the optical printing of soundtracks, committing to 16mm film a
technology on the verge of extinction, entombing and encrypting its own
language onto itself. Shot at the post-production facilities of Pinewood
studios, London, the close-up sequences feature abstract patterns of sound
encoded as light, printed onto the soundtrack area of the filmstrip. The film
features the quivering light of a 16mm mono and a 35mm stereo optical sound
camera, providing a seismic glimpse at a sound-wave in formation, on occasions
flashing like a stroboscopic Rorschach inkblot.
Both mesmerizing and assaulting the senses, the visually hypnotic patterns are disrupted by the voiceover, scripted in dialogue with the artist and filmmaker Lis Rhodes. The two voices alternate and coincide, interrogating the sound-image synchronicity and correlation with poetic expressions. The film is accompanied by a live musical performance which animates a Ruben’s tube, a device which similarly modulates light in response to sound, creating spectacular waves of flames. In parallel to the film’s exploration of sound encoded as light, the event features sound encoded as fire; a more primal, dramatic, and almost pre-cinematic counterpart of the same principle of sound as light. Funded by Arts Council England, Tate and private donations.
‘Oramics: Atlantis Anew’ (2011) is
conceived of as an artist's film in homage to Daphne Oram, the pioneer of
British Electronic Music and co-founder of the BBC Radiophonic workshop in
1958, the film features a close-up encounter with her unique invention, the
Oramics Machine, housed at the Science Museum in London.
Oram used drawn sound principles to compose 'handwrought' electronic music, and yet the visual nature of her work remains largely unseen and unsung. The film brings this obsolete technological fantasy briefly to back to life, enabling the visualisation of the drawn sound material, re-interpreting and translating it into new filmic sequences. The soundtrack features electronic music composed by Oram, interlaced with her voicover reading excerpts from a first draft of her book "An Individual Note of Music, Sound and Electronics" (1971).
The film was co-commissioned by The Science Museum, The London Consortium, and Sound and Music. It is included in The Science Museum's exhibition 'Oramics to Electronica' 29 Jul 2011 - 01 Dec 2014
'Sound Seam' (2010) is a film which gives voice to the idea that every surface, in particular parts of our anatomy, is potentially inscribed with an unheard sound or echoes of voices from the past. It draws on Rainer Maria Rilke’s text 'Primal Sound', where he reflects on the possibility of playing the coronal suture of a skull with a phonograph needle.
During 2009-2010 Aura was artist-in-residence at UCL's Ear Institute, where she undertook research into hearing anatomy and shot most of the microscopic footage, used scanning electron microscopy, and sounds of otoacoustic emissions to uncover haunting aural bonescapes. Funded by the Wellcome Trust.
‘Universal language: A Lost Manifesto’ is a short 16mm film which looks at universal language and its various manifestations through abstract film, optical sound on film, phonetics, short-hand, ways of writing sound, and drawn sound animation. The film draws on two mysteriously missing utopian endeavours: the lost film by Moholy-Nagy, 'Sound ABC' (1932), and his attempt to create a grapho-phonetic writing, an opto-acoustic alphabet, as well as the lost manifesto document of Hans Richter and Viking Eggeling, 'Universal Language' (1920). The performance at the Barbican involved a live voice over which converts sound to light signals, as well as a filmic kinetic sculpture in homage to Moholy Nagy’s ‘Light-space-modulator’. Funded by Arts Council England.