Sunday 23 April 2017 – Professor Esther Johnson to present paper on ‘Asunder’ at ‘The Sound of Memory’, Whitechapel Gallery

Still from Esther Johnson's Asunder

Esther Johnson, Professor of Film and Media Arts in ADRC, will present a paper on her poetic documentary film Asunder at The Sound Of Memory – Sound-track / Sound-scape at the Whitechapel Gallery on Sunday 23 April 2017. Esther will present as part of the third section of the event, entitled Construction / Reconstruction and Sonic Representation.

The Sound of Memory symposium brings together filmmakers, artists and composers to explore the broad domain of acoustic ecologies and soundscape’s engagement in place. Concerns for working with the sounds of the environment – and engaging in how they impact on us and we on it – sprung out of the World Soundscape Project, inaugurated at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver in the early 1970s. The ethnographic turn in contemporary art has prompted a renewed engagement with place.

This symposium explores the aesthetic, philosophical and political approaches of composers working in acoustic ecologies and artists working within social ecologies where the primary engagement is a form of sonic ethnography.

Zilkha Auditorium
Whitechapel Gallery
77-82 Whitechapel High Street
London E1 7QX
Sunday 23 April 2017
Tickets and further information here

Asunder tells the story of what happened to an English town during the First World War, with almost all of its men fighting abroad and its women and children left behind. Asunder has a soundtrack composed by Sunderland’s Mercury-nominated Field Music and Newcastle’s Warm Digits, performed with the Royal Northern Sinfonia and The Cornshed Sisters. The narration for the film is voiced by journalist Kate Adie, with the actor Alun Armstrong as the voice of the Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette.

Using archive and contemporary footage and audio, Asunder collages the stories of people from Tyneside and Wearside to uncover just what life was like on the home front, with bombs falling on Britain for the first time, conscientious objectors sentenced to death, and women working as doctors, tram conductors and footballers. The narrative moves from an Edwardian golden era, in which sport grew in popularity and aircraft and cars pointed to a bright new future, to a war that horrifically reversed this progress. In the Battle of the Somme, British, French and German armies fought one of the most traumatic battles in military history. Over the course of just four months, more than one million soldiers were captured, wounded or killed in a confrontation of unimaginable horror.

Esther Johnson works at the intersection of artist moving image and documentary. Her poetic portraits focus on marginal worlds, revealing resonant stories that may otherwise remain hidden or ignored. Work has been exhibited internationally in 40 countries, and has also featured on television and radio. In 2012 Johnson won the Philip Leverhulme Prize in Performing and Visual Arts for young scholars. She is a Professor of Film and Media Arts at Sheffield Hallam University.

Asunder is co-commissioned by Sunderland Cultural Partnership and 14–18 NOW: WW1 Centenary Art Commissions, supported by The National Lottery through Arts Council England and the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Sunderland Business Improvement District, Culture Bridge North East and Sir James Knott Trust.

Asunder is on Twitter @1916asunder. Find further screening information here.