Hearing the World More by Julie Conquest

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The Unheard Walks with Stepháne Marin at HearSay International Audio Arts Festival encourages new ways of listening. It begins in a room circled around a table. We are instructed to clip on a player with headphones as well as a small backpack. Stepháne’s movements are deft and graceful. He pulls our attention to him through eye contact and signaling with his hands. Although we have not yet pressed play on our recorders, the walk begins and we leave the Ballyhoura Apple Farm and wind up a path to a small meadow. Because we are on an audio walk, we are already attuned to the sounds our footsteps make together, far off warblers and nearby finches, and the gentle sound of the sun warming the Kilfinane hills. In the meadow, we circle around and without words, Stepháne motions to us to put on our headphones and press play. Together we follow him down the hill and into the village, behind the grocery market next to a lone generator that hums in an alley. The track in our headphones begins subtly and undulates in and out of our presence. Most immediately, this has the profound impact of turning our ears on with amplitude associated with special states such as meditation. We want to hear more, so we do.

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Stepháne leads us through the market and on to the outskirts of town with a growing tempo, an increasing clip to his pace and the volume in our headphones. Just as we climb a stone wall, there is something of a torrential sonic downpour that sets upon us and together we begin to run across a verdant pasture. This is perhaps, the most joyous moment of our experience. Somehow Stepháne has convinced us, with the layers of sounds we all share, to run together as if we are being chased. When we reach the end of the pasture, our pace slows and we carefully climb a rocky outcropping presided over by a group of schoolboys. It feels like we have found that place outside of town that you only know about when you have grown up there. Together we look out over the rolling hills of Kilfinane and the boys elbow one another and look back at us. Stepháne motions for us to take off our backpacks and remove a second pair of headphones from our bags. We do, and collectively take the plunge into the next chapter of our story.

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You may notice, that up until now, the actual sounds have not really be the subject of this walk. The beauty of Stepháne’s approach is how he carefully blends moments from the world in which you are wandering to create an almost augmented sonic field that builds presence. As we walk together listening, we become more there.

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There is a curiosity with which the tracks build and subside, a longing as we wander on the outskirts of town past still houses. The life is in the track that leads us down the road to face the walls that seperate space. The birds and the deep tones in our ears take us over fences and beside a creek, where we change one more time, back to the first set of headphones.

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We turn back to town and the tempo that carries us builds. As we round the corner back to the still houses, the first human voices we have heard in an hour begin to murmur about silence. Walking in between closed doors and quiet windows, we hear the voices of the residences reflect on how they experience silence. We don’t see these people, but we feel them.

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Their voices grow with us as we circle one last time in between two large trucks and take off our headphones. The walk is over and at once there is the desire to talk and the longing to say nothing at all. More so than superimpose an audio track on our experience of the presence, The Unheard Walks brought us together to deeply listen. By carefully blending field recordings from the Kilfinane area with our actual experience of place during the walk, Stepháne raised the amplitude of our awareness and sustained our collective capacity to hear the world more.

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Styrofoam Sands by Julie Conquest

Sand tells a story about time. The beach at Garrapata State Park is luminous with grains of quartz and feldspar and as of March 24, 2019, styrofoam. I have been regularly visiting this beach on trips to and from Big Sur for the last fifteen years. Sometimes I get tossed around by the waves with surfers and almost always I wander upon the cliffs where the iceplant grows thick and radiates in shades of red. Most recently, I wandered along just after high tide and photographed white, spongy styrofoam pearls where they rested. This series explores how the shores of tomorrow reveal to us of our consumption today.  


Upon the Thirdcoast by Julie Conquest

I just returned from Chicago and my first Thirdcoast Conference . Thirdcoast brings together audio producers and storytellers from all over the world for several days of workshops centered around the “art and craft of documentary production.” Perhaps you can imagine the thunderous din of somewhere between 800-1000 audio storytellers gathered together? I assure you, it was gloriously deafening. Upon most occasions, there were so many conversations buzzing you could feel the sound overtake your body. As a participant, you were amidst a constant conversation, whether you were having one or not. I found the conference to be invigorating and I am planning to share some of my favorite aspects here in the weeks to come, but for now, I would like to introduce you to two friends also attending and a few of their projects.

I first met Raymond Thompson in a course called Documenting America seven years ago. I was struck by his sensitivity as a visual storyteller and the way in which his work listens and attends to the world in a visceral and memorable way. We have stayed in touch over the years and some of my favorite projects of his include Justice Undone and The Divide, that attend to incarceration and the impact it has on families in Virginia. Presently, Raymond is thinking through the African American experience of nature through a photographic project he calls Imaging/Imagining Trees and Imaging/Imagining Creaking Forrest. These images do important work of “Deconstructing colonial optics of African Americans” through stunning photographs situating participants in the forests of West Virginia.

In addition, Raymond is currently collaborating with talented writer, editor, and audio producer Diana Mazzella on a podcast called Sparked that looks beyond the widespread stories of challenging lives in Appalachia to bring to the fore people who are steadfastly creating positive and unexpected changes. Together, Diana and Raymond are looking closer at a place many people look beyond to tell multifaceted, and often surprising stories. Tune in to their special blend of insight and curiosity here!

Diana and Raymond outside of the Thirdcoast Awards Ceremony at the Alhambra Palace in Chicago. We were reveling in the realization: the leaves are changing!

Diana and Raymond outside of the Thirdcoast Awards Ceremony at the Alhambra Palace in Chicago. We were reveling in the realization: the leaves are changing!


Collaborating when the cold winds blow... by Julie Conquest

One evening in Austin, the great Nathan S. Duncan and I set out at sunset to drive to West Texas. First we stopped off at an unnamed corporate craft store and got lost in their fake flowers for a bit. I do not recommend this activity before an eight hour drive. But, fortunately the miles passed quickly as there was plenty to discuss. We were headed out to make some kind of post-apocalyptic music video for the band Wae. Nathan had a vision and I was along to help as some kind of tourist on the edge of things.

In the days that followed, I became very ill and a sudden flash freeze overtook the Marfa area while a dust storm blew in. Needless to say conditions became quite challenging, but still we prevailed. Nathan managed to fly the drone in high winds and I braved the freezing temperatures to look mellow. All in all, it was an exercise in making the best of chance and circumstance and I am proud of the kaleidoscopic ride that ensued.

The Last Weekend to See: Sending and Receiving at Currents New Media 2018 by Julie Conquest

Closing weekend of Currents New Media is upon us! In celebration and anticipation, here are a few stellar images by the intrepid Pete Trachy from opening weekend:

An installation becomes alive when people discover it. What has been a space of concentration and contemplation breaths with new visitors and their reactions. In Santa Fe, I was moved by the laughter and looks of surprise when a familiar place was named. People generally took to sharing the installation together. Countless couples as well as children with parents held one another as they became immersed in darkness with a single penlight to illuminate the web. Friends would leave and return a few hours later pulling another friend along who hadn't yet had the experience. 

I think the greatest thing about immersive work is the moment that it comes alive with people to experience it. On that note, I hope you can stop in for the last weekend of Currents New Media in Santa Fe this weekend if you can! 

Currents New Media 2018 by Julie Conquest

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After three days of install, the installation Sending and Receiving is finally up for Currents New Media Festival! I first visited this festival in 2016 and found it to be the most inspiring collection of New Media art I have ever seen in the United States. Two years later, I am truly honored to a be a part of the festival with Sending & Receiving, an interactive installation that first began in Austin, Texas in 2014. Four years later, working with a new set of Craigslist Missed Connections and custom-made light activated sound modules, I am really grateful for the time and the space to see a project through to a more refined iteration. What is more, I can't wait to have my mind blown by the projects I see taking shape around me. Many thanks to Mariannah Amster and Frank Ragano for steadily building such an incredible festival and community!

Dissertation Project Assembled and Sent to Committee! by Julie Conquest

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Guess what?! I can see freedom! Last night I sent off the draft of my doctoral dissertation... a project that has taken me the better part of six and a half years to see through. I am so very thankful to be rounding the bend on this and finding rest and exploring new possibilities. Last night I dreamed of having a sugar cube fight, hovering over a steam bath, and tiny trapeze artists swinging from the ceiling... so anything is possible! I deeply appreciate everyone in my life who has withstood this storm beside me.

Where it Comes Together by Julie Conquest

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One night, in January of 2016, in the midst of a torrential downpour, I slept in the parking lot of Desert Hot Springs just outside of Palm Springs, California. I had just picked up a rental van named Franky Boy from Inglewood and was on the way to Slab City to work on my dissertation project. Roads everywhere had become impassable with the rainfall and I figured what better place to sleep than the parking lot of a hot spring? After what had been such a dark and foreboding day, I awakened to the above view out the window. As I begin to move towards the end of this long process of dissertation research and writing, I think of the little moments like these that somehow get lost in the process but nevertheless are vivid reminders of being with this work. 

Finding Words in New Spaces by Julie Conquest

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I have been thinking about how in the midst of a move, objects become almost abstract devoid of their place. When you pile things up, somehow it all just become stuff. Not usable or sentimental, but nevertheless there. I moved into a new space this week, one that needs more thought and work and time but yesterday provided a momentous occasion to get to know my new workspace. For now, here it is, my space to listen to spring arrive and sort out dissertation words and envision what is next.  

2,260 Feet Above Sea Level in the Ozark National Forest by Julie Conquest

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Sometimes, you can catch the light just right alongside one of your favorite people and for a time the world becomes a stage. In late October of 2017, my dear friend Lauren Neal and I found one of these moments while on a writing retreat at White Rock Mountain in the Ozark National Forest. There are several cabins built in the 1930's by the Civilian Conservation Corps and just outside the door is a trail that goes entirely around the rim. In between the lichen-covered rocks that the mountain is named for are beautiful pavilions such as this one that look out over the top of Arkansas. It was a perfect stage for the occasion that we commemorated with this collage.    

Natural Forces at the Museum of Human Achievement! by Julie Conquest

If you are in Austin, please come out for the opening of Natural Forces on February 3rd at the Museum of Human Achievement. The opening starts at 7pm and goes until midnight. There will be a variety of experiences to wander amongst, musics, and even tarot readings. I will be sharing an immersive installation that explores the ways our perceptions about ourselves are reflected in the faces we see. I hope you can make it! 

Taken by dear Kenny Erickson in the Autumn of 2017 on Enchanted Rock, Texas. 

Taken by dear Kenny Erickson in the Autumn of 2017 on Enchanted Rock, Texas. 

Shrimp & Petroleum Stories by Julie Conquest

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Each year, in the southern Louisiana town of Bay City, there is a festival that celebrates the shrimp and petroleum industries. I just returned from documenting the festival for Southern Foodways and wow what a ride! The event was singular and enacted through rituals that tell a story of industry, community and gender in the region. I really enjoyed having the opportunity to talk with community members about their everyday experiences, memories, and observations. Truly there is so much living to share! More photos and audio just around the corner! 

In celebration of National Poetry Month! by Julie Conquest

Most of my leisure these days occurs amidst words. I am working to finish a large work of the past several years while starting to make plans for the future. In the midst of all this, Andrew Murphy at the Austin Public Library invited local writers to share work in celebration of National Poetry Month. Following is an excerpt from something I have been working on that I am happy to share with you: 

Opening at the Visual Art Center on Friday! by Julie Conquest

If you are in Austin, please come out for the opening at the Visual Art Center this Friday from 6-9pm. I will be sharing work from the project I have been working on with full time RVers over the last few years is in the Fieldwork space upstairs. Beyond that I am excited for what sounds like a great show with work by many others and Ann Hamilton will even be giving out 900-page photography books! What is not to lose? I hope to see your face(s). 

P.S. If you can't make the opening the show will be up until February 9th so don't you worry none!

Action shot from the install! A million and one thanks to Joey Russo for his intrepid ladder skills and overall install assistance!

Action shot from the install! A million and one thanks to Joey Russo for his intrepid ladder skills and overall install assistance!

Out 365 Windows Across America by Julie Conquest

Wow. The last few months have been a whirl but I am so excited to say that after sifting through about 365 photo submissions taken out RV's across the United States, I have finally narrowed down the selection to 50 images that will be shown later this month at the Visual Art Center. I am so thankful to everyone that submitted images! I wish I could show them all but due to logistical constraints that is not possible. A big reason is because I will be building custom light boxes to display each one! I hope this will create the impact of viewing the images like windows, since in fact these are the views out windows! 

Stay tuned for more images and updates on the installation soon! 

Coming Soon: Sensory Sound Workshop by Julie Conquest

2017, let's make something out of you. No matter if we are missing ingredients or they fell on the floor, let's just make something out of you.

Hello everyone! This spring I am excited to be teaching a new course of my own design called The Sensory Sound Workshop at The Contemporary Austin Art School. This course has three components (field recording, introduction to sensor-activated sound modules, and installation design) that all combine to help us explore what happens to sound when we turn it into an experience that is maneuvered in space. What stories can we tell through activating sounds and moving through them? Well, I look forward to sharing something more about that with you here in a few months! 

Wherever you are and whatever moves you, I wish you clarity and momentum right now. 

In a Pinch, Tires Will Burn by Julie Conquest

The reading on November 9th at Mass Gallery surprised me. Or maybe I surprised myself? Or maybe both? In any case, waking up on Wednesday after the election there was a stillness in the air and on faces. The shock everyone was feeling was completely palpable. Amidst this stillness, I felt a sure horror that nothing I could say seemed meaningful in the face of the election results and their implications. After struggling with myself about this, I decided the best I could do was to offer everyone who made it out to Mass Gallery a bit of a departure from things through the work I am doing. I decided to read a piece I temporarily titled "In a Pinch, Tires Will Burn" set in Slab City two winters ago. It plays around with narrative structure and there are plenty of playful imaginative moments. I think it worked. 

What is more, I really enjoyed the opportunity to hear the work of local writers Benjamin Reed and Allie Rowbottom. Benjamin admirably brought some wit and humor into our gathering and Allie took us on a rich and very visual journey into time and relationships. I think we all came away from the uncertainty of the evening, the uncertainty of our times, remembering that it is our sharing and connecting with one another through doing what feels most true, that makes us most powerful. Thanks to everyone who came out and made this such a beautiful evening!  

Double Rainbows and Wednesday Night Reading by Julie Conquest

Photo By: Joseph V Stern at the Secret Theater in Austin, April 2016

Photo By: Joseph V Stern at the Secret Theater in Austin, April 2016

Sometimes seasons take place in days. In Austin, there is this welcome gray that eases the gaze inward, welcoming a return to the self. Days for writing and trying to write. There is a lot of trying to write that happens with writing. In acknowledgement of words gathered and situated for a time, I will be reading on Wednesday evening November 9th at Mass Gallery. This gathering is called Make America Write Again and it features a collection of readings that consider the narrative phenomena of America. So come on out if you are in Austin, I would love to see you.