Gail Priest: Paris Residency Fellow 2024

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Sound artist and researcher Gail Priest details her travels around Paris, Berlin and Copenhagen, and her time in the snow-bound halls of the Pierre Schaeffer archives in Caen. 

Gail Priest, Audioblast: Resonant Futurs Performance, Nantes. Photo: Eva Ursprung.

Courtesy of the 2024 Nicholas and Angela Curtis Residency Fellowship I had the privilege of residing at the Cité Internationale des Arts from January 3 until March 27 2024. In that time I undertook three main projects using Paris as a studio and base for activities in other parts of France, Europe and Scandinavia.

In Search of Pierre Schaeffer (Paris & Caen)

My initial project while in France was to visit the archives of the composer, writer, TV and radio producer Pierre Schaeffer. Schaeffer’s papers are in the Institut Memoires de l’Edition Contemporaine (L’IMEC) in Caen, which is a two hour train journey northwest from Paris. In January I undertook two trips to Caen, during which I consulted six of Schaeffer’s conference papers and lecture documents.

This was an astoundingly rich experience not only for the access to Schaeffer’s ideas but also the atmosphere of the archive itself. Housed in the Abbaye d’Ardenne on the outskirts of Caen, the reading library contains an astounding wealth of rare materials being consulted by researchers from around the world. To be surrounded by culture dedicated to conscientious and in-depth research was inspiring in itself. While I am not a fluent reader of French to the level of professional translation, I was definitely able to gain a much deeper understanding of Schaeffer as a writer and philosopher dedicated to experimentalism, with a compassionate humanistic approach to intellectual endeavour. This reading then created a contextual framework for the rest of my research, writing and composition that I undertook back in the Paris studio.

The results of this thinking and creating can be seen in the blog that I produced called the Doppler Diaries. Here I have published selected writings in which I reflect anecdotally on my readings and how they influenced the way I listened to and experienced Paris. (I will be exploring this research more formally in future projects.) The blog also has draft sonic pieces that are working through some of these ideas relating to the figure within field recording. Additionally I published my notes reflecting on a number of key exhibitions that I visited while in Paris focusing particularly on exhibitions by female artists.


Audioblast (Nantes)

Building on the opportunity of the residency I received additional funding from both Create NSW and Music Australia/Creative Australia to pursue some key professional development activities while in the Northern Hemisphere. This allowed me to take up the invitation to participate in the Audioblast festival run by APO in Nantes, in southwest France. I was invited to exhibit an audiovisual installation, Stasis Shift, present my work at the Resonant Futurs Colloquium, and to perform as the closing act of the festival. This was an invaluable experience allowing me to present various aspects of my work and meet a range of impressive international media artists such as Shu Lea Cheang, Dafna Napthali, Eva Ursprung, Ali Hossaini, Don Foresta, Laurent Lescop and Nicolas Kisic Aguirre; and to participate in some very productive discussion about technology, society and art.


Listening Linguas Professional Networking (Berlin, Copenhagen)

Making use of my presence in Europe, I also visited Berlin twice. In the first visit I performed a concert at the renowned Madame Claude’s Experimontag, which was well received. In this trip I was able to meet with artist/philosopher Salomé Voegelin, author of a number of key sound texts, and who was an examiner on my PhD. I conducted an interview which I am in the process absorbing and which will be featured on an online resource I am developing focusing on sound and text from an academic perspective. I visited Berlin for a second time at the end of the three months to attend the Maerz Musik festival where I was able to experience a concert by the Groupe Recherche de Musique (GRM, founded by Pierre Schaeffer) utilising the Acousmonium, a multispeaker orchestra created for musique concrète and acousmatic music. I also attended the artist talk, met the current head of GRM and attended several other events and exhibitions.

I combined my second trip to Berlin with a visit to Copenhagen where key academics Holger Schulze, Sanne Krogh Groth (second examiner of my PhD), Macon Holt and Jennifer Graf are based. Schulze invited me to present my work at the International Colloquium | Sound & Sensory Studies (University of Copenhagen), where I was able to talk in more detail about my research and practice and meet a number of interesting researchers. Following a second meeting with Schulze, focused on my current research with the Schaeffer archives, he commissioned me to contribute a chapter in the upcoming Bloomsbury Encyclopedia Sound Art: Vol 2 Artists and Practice (2028). This is a wonderful outcome that would not have come about without the combination of these activities made possible by the Cité residency.


Future outcomes

As I was in experiential mode I only processed a small part of the resources that I collected in terms of sounds, images and ideas, so these things will be feeding into my process and practice for a considerable time to come. I am continuing to work on the sound and audiovisual pieces, translating them into 360VR ambisonic works. I was also able to develop a more disciplined approach to writing—one based on enthusiasm (almost compulsion) rather than struggle—that I am very excited to continue. I cannot express more strongly how valuable this residency has been for me at this moment in my career and practice. As an artist having more recently finished a PhD, it allowed me find a greater organic connection between my practice and my academic research; allowed me to explore an overwhelming amount of wonderful exhibitions and performances; gave me time for deep contemplation, writing and composition; and provided the opportunity to make new connections and consolidate key networks both artistically and academically.

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Institut Mémoires de l’édition contemporaine (L’IMEC) in the Abbaye d’Ardenne, Caen. Photo: Gail Priest.

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Gail Priest, Stasis Shift (audiovisual installation), Audioblast: Resonant Futurs Exhibition, Nantes. Photo courtesy the artist.

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Gail Priest, Audioblast Colloquium presentation. Photo Eva Ursprung.

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Gail Priest, Experimontag, Berlin. Photo: Sam James.

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Institut Mémoires de l’édition contemporaine (L’IMEC) in the Abbaye d’Ardenne, Caen. Photo: Gail Priest.


A photograph showing a woman in profile, against a backdrop of greenery.
Gail Priest

Gail Priest is a sound artist, curator and writer living on the land of the Darug and Gundungurra people now known as Katoomba, NSW. Her practice encompasses performance, recording, sound design for dance and theatre, installation, curation and writing. She has performed and exhibited nationally and internationally at events and galleries including: Experimenta Makes Sense Triennial of Media Art touring nationally 2017-2020; ISEA2016  Juried Exhibition, Hong Kong; Werkleitz Festival, Halle-Saale, Germany; the Sonoretum, Kapelica Gallery, Slovenia; Tokyo Wonder Site, Japan; Artspace and Performance Space, Sydney; The Substation and Blindside, Melbourne. She has performed her live compositions at major Australian festivals as well as undertaking several international tours performing in the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Norway, Finland, Iceland and The Netherlands. She has several music releases on her own label, Metal Bitch Recordings as well as Flaming Pines and room40. She curates events and exhibitions and writes fictively and factually about sound and media art including editing and contributing to the book Experimental Music: Audio Explorations in Australia (UNSW Press 2009) and was the Associate Editor of RealTime Magazine (2003-2015) Gail has recently completed a PhD at the University of Technology, Sydney exploring ficto-criticism as an alternative approach to sound theory.

As a 2024 Paris Residency Fellow, Gail plans to to study the rich history of musique concrète as developed by sound artist, composer and radio producer Pierre Schaeffer, exploring the Institut Mémoires de l'Édition Contemporaine (L’IMEC) in the Ardenne Abbey in Caen, the Bibliothèque Sigmund Freud, the Institute for Research and Coordination in Acoustics/Music, and the Groupe de Recherche Musicales (which Schaeffer founded in 1951).