Before you start reading this article, I suggest you take a moment to stand still and simply listen. Close your eyes, and open your ears. Focus on the sounds that surround you, and how these go hand in hand with the visible perception of the world creating an authentic in-depth experience of reality, once you open your eyes again. For those people whos sense of hearing has accompanied them since birth, the absence of noise would make the world a cold, superficial, and unnatural place. Sound is always present, anywhere, anytime. You don’t see it, yet its role in navigating the world is unquestionably crucial.
“Good sound design must be taken for granted.” These are words by the passionate young art student Ayan Paska, whom I had the opportunity to interview about his work, which mainly moves between creations of video and sound. Although this statement may initially seem paradoxical, in truth it supports a very important aspect of the role of sound and its credibility. “What I mean is that when the sound design is well done, the ear catches the frequencies without questioning it, because it feels real. Sound makes the world convincing. Visuals and sound must work together, and when they don’t, people notice it, something feels strange or uncomfortable.” It is important to establish that what we are talking about is not a soundtrack, like music in a movie, but the mere noises that create an atmosphere within a place, like the wind or the closing of a door in the background. These sounds create an atmosphere, which can then be manipulated or transformed to give different emotional experiences of a certain place, in a very subtle but effective way, while never enabling the audience’s awareness of the sound itself.
Soundstage is a video project in which Ayan focused mostly on the creation of the sound itself: because sound is the main means with which the story is narrated, the visual aspect of the video becomes almost secondary, but not less important. Abstract forms of light and color accompany sound, amplifying its sensory experience. “For this project, I was looking for a cold industrial atmosphere. I found a soundtrack of a cardboard factory and took out most of its frequencies, except for the lowest, therefore finding a deep, rhythmical beat for the background. After all, it is a layer-upon-layer work, and the source of the sound does not really matter. Nobody will realize it’s a cardboard factory, or a train, or a woman brushing her teeth.” Yes, he put that in too!
But where does this peculiar and compelling passion come from? Interestingly, his cultural roots have had somewhat of an influence which later made him pursue this path. Son of Czech immigrants parents, Ayan was born and raised in Switzerland, but the Czech Republic always felt closer to him. “Together with my family we always read and sang typical Czech books and folk songs. I later realized that that was a reason why storytelling became something I was very passionate about.” He explains to me that when very young, he began to draw a great number of comic adventures, always creating new stories which belonged in the same science-fiction universe. “Honesty, I never thought I would ever go to study fine arts, and actually, I was always kind of reluctant about it. I wanted to have a safe education that would allow me to have a safe job one day. Living project after project never crossed my mind. But ironically as it seems, I always ended up doing what I actively tried to avoid.” Following the advice of an educational guidance counselor, he enrolled in the one-year preparatory art course, where he was introduced to the art of storytelling through sound design. “I would say that my artistic awakening didn’t happen too long ago, I am a bit of a late bloomer.” But he is a fast, enthusiastic learner!
Radiowaves and Sea – a Duet of Escapism and Hard reality is an eight-minute film project which narrates the fleeting unsuccessful desire to running away. The work has something which deeply intrigues me as if poised between a distant idyllic paradise and a sad universal melancholy. “While I was on vacation in Portugal, I couldn’t stop hearing news about Judge Kavanaugh’s sexual assault allegations in the US and the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istambul. The news was all over the place, and I felt affected and disturbed. This is the reason why Radiowaves became a way for me to have personal control over what was happening. I created a contrast between the calm dreamy images and the sound’s hard reality of what was going on around the world. It was a healing process for me, I finally could frame my feelings and let my thoughts rest.”
“One thing that I also want to make clear, is the significance of being in a position of privilege. The fact that I am able to live in a country like this one, study at a university and have time to explore my artistic expression are circumstances that many don’t have at all. Nevertheless, the fact that I am a white male favors me every day in our patriarchal society. While hard work and talent are important, we tend to forget or even ignore the significance of privilege. I know I am a product of privilege, and it is important for me to point it out.” Ayan states that despite he cannot take away this privilege, he can be aware of it and use compassion to understand other’s people needs. And likewise, he wants to do so with art.
Unpredictable and surprising are the adjectives Ayan Paska wants us to remember when looking at his work. “When things start sounding familiar it becomes predictable. That’s where I know I have to change them. I will always seek new and different ways of expressing something, whilst surprising my audience, as well as myself.” If there is something that art can do, it is precisely its ability to give a shape and form of artistic expression to those emotions that are often overwhelming or difficult to elaborate: these, in turn, can be observed and interpreted by those who look at the work. Therefore maybe this could be a way art can become a crucial means in the elaboration of one’s emotions: to look within, express, and frame one’s feelings. And hopefully, give “sound” to a masterpiece.
Consider taking a look at Ayan Paska’s personal online portfolio, as you will be able to see many other incredible work he has created to this day! Check it out now:
All images where kindly given by the artist for this article.