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Ph.D. candidate Nolan Lem receives 2019 FETA Prize in Sound Art

The FETA Prize in Sound Art was established in 2013 to promote a broad range of contemporary American sound and installation arts. Through a two-stage evaluation process, the judges Jessie Marino, Natacha Diels, Jennifer Beattie, and Kristina Warren chose a small pool of finalists: Joe Cantrell’s copy|write, Julian Stein’s a room that i take care of, YoungEun Kim’s Red noise visit, Katherine Young’s Resonance, or the inhibition of, Asha Tamirisa’s Piece for Fog Space, and Nolan Lem’s Tentacule. For the seventh edition of the prize, our honorable master judge Alba Triana selected the winning work Tentacule by Nolan Lem (USA), who will receive a 1,000 USD monetary prize, presentation of Tentacule at the Emerson Dorsch Gallery in Miami, FL, and a spread on the FETA web.

About Tentacule

Tentacule is a site-specific sound sculpture that examines the sonic materiality of Velcro as it is situated within the ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) and BDSM (bondage, dominance, slave, master) communities. This machine houses 10 speakers that are mechanically driven by Velcro extrications that occur on top of the speakers’ paper cones. The kinetic dynamics of the velcro becoming hooked and unfastened is transmitted through large plastic tubes that resonate and transfer the acoustic energy into different parts of the space. This “BDSMR” object complicates our awareness of sound and sensuality by casting materiality as an erotic fetish, one that derives from our darker, more lurid impulses. The imposing cephalopodic presence of the black machine suggests a cyborgian instrument somewhere in between an organ, a music box, and a Luigi Russolo noise machine.” — NL

About Nolan Lem

I create dynamic acoustic environments that render sound and movement through kinetic gesture, synchronization, and physical materiality. My sculptures explore the interplay between the sound and function of the quotidian cultural materials embedded into 21st-century life. Oftentimes, I activate multiplicities of everyday objects to interrogate contemporary anxieties surrounding compulsive behaviors, erotic fetish, and automatization. I'm interested in revealing the invisible forces at work within the composition of sound through the use of repetitive movement and visual phenomena. My work aims to promote alternative ecologies of sound, one that is at once investigative, transformative, and playful in its evocative potential. I’ve presented my work at a number of diverse spaces including the Museum of Modern Art Buenos Aires (MAMBA), Pioneer Works, L'HOSTE Art Contemporain, and the Danish National Museum of Music. I’ve held residencies at IRCAM, MassMoCA, Cité internationale des arts, and the Vermont Studio Center. I received an M.F.A. at Columbia University in 2015 and am currently a Ph.D. candidate at Stanford University, where I study at the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA). — NL