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Arnolfini - est 1961

Ahead of his forthcoming workshop and performance project at Arnolfini, Marketing Volunteer Caroline Wendling spoke to sound artist Tom White about his influences, his practice and what audiences can expect from Heavy Feet.

CW: How did you get into using sound as an art medium?

TW: At art school I began as a painter and thought something was missing. I’d been experimenting with recording sounds and adding strange soundtracks to films I had been making on super-8 and DV. During a tutorial I looked for approval to begin using sound as an art practice and was given the nod by my then tutor David Blamey ( and artist and Open Editions founder). Earlier this year David and I performed together at South London Gallery, to launch his Continuous Tone sound series.

CW: What materials do you use to make your work?

TW: It entirely depends on the project. For example my live sound performances involve using a Revox reel-to-reel tape recorder that I bend and manipulate pre-recorded material and amplified objects on. For my source material it’s a fairly basic set-up of portable recorders and stereo mics, most recently binaural microphones. I try not to get too bogged down with techy specifics; it comes down to the idea essentially. My practice encompasses a wide range of materials though; certain pieces have involved using large reconstituted foam blocks, tannoy or horn speakers, postcards and Perspex.

CW: What/who inspires you? Who are your favourite artists?

I’m interested in imprint, the impact we have on our surrounding environment; the affect this has on our everyday lives and the inevitable causes i.e. anxiety, ecstasy and so on. The work I want to make is visceral and intense, a physical impact – sound seems to be the most effective medium for me to achieve this currently.

Mike Kelley, Alighiero Boetti, Luc Ferrari, Walter Marchetti, Werner Herzog & Susan Hiller continue to inspire me.

CW: What can we expect at the Arnolfini workshop and performance on Saturday?

For Heavy Feet I wanted to come up with a participatory performance idea that didn’t involve using any technology, and instead give people the chance to express themselves using the fabric of the Arnolfini building through sound; exploring a very familiar action, walking! I hope participants will surprise me (and themselves) with novel ways of doing so with the materials we’ll be providing. We’ll then perform collectively in our modified footwear through the transitory spaces of Arnolfini, sounding out the building. It’ll be exciting to hear the variety of sounds or whether it’ll be a wall of disjointed noise, either way I’m looking forward to it!

Tom White: Heavy Feet is on Saturday 8 August between 11am and 3pm. Read more…