Ross Oliver is based in Lincoln. Working mainly with analogue audio equipment, he has been exploring sound and composition for the past decade particularly within themes of looping, ambience and degradation. Using performance, installation and sound recording Ross explores how to generate tone through intuitive technique. His performance work is almost always improvised and in collaboration with other performers, exploring freeform dialogue and experimentation. This can also be said for his tape installations as the crudeness of his constructions have a dramatic influence on how the prerecorded sound gets delivered, and often this will be precarious at best.
Since the beginning of his practice he has collaborated in a number of arrangements and environments, including visual, performance, sound and multidisciplinary. Ross is currently a core member of the General Practice arts collective based in Lincoln where he curates exhibitions and facilitates field-recording workshops. He is also one of two in the band Angry Gang who focus on improvisation and live film scoring.
Tell us about your practice
I work with sound recording, installation and improvisational music and I’m interested in learning about mechanical and electronic systems by way of dissecting and reconfiguring analogue audio technology. My installation work often takes the form of miniature dioramas built around cassette players, this can be a very precise process which is in stark contrast to my performance work, however the most exciting moments for me are when the devices I make start to perform unexpectedly. In a way I work very much like a sculptor, I act with intent but really it’s the material that tells me what to do.
How long have you been practising?
What is it about analogue technology that appeals to you?
Mostly because of how easy it is to decipher, I can learn a lot from analogue devices and this has enabled my making process to become a lot more fluid with a lot less head scratching. I also just really love the sound of analogue tech, and if I’m honest I find it more appealing when the device is failing or it’s struggling to work, again, it’s the unexpected occurrences that seem to spark my intrigue.
Has being part of the group General Practice influenced your work? If so, how?
I now work almost predominantly with General Practice, I’ve always thrived in collaborative environments and gP has been the most effective so far. There’s a portion of the group including myself who are involved with creating collaborative paintings, this has stared to become multidisciplinary process as we realised that the process in centred around technique over substance, the main technique being distortion through layering, I’ve employed this in my work time and time again but I’ve never deliberately highlighted the process, this has definitely refreshed my attitude towards the piles of unused audio I have lying around.
What is the most interesting or inspiring thing you have seen or been to over the last month, and why?
I’ve realised that sound has a tendency to be able to draw things together visually and make the everyday fascinating. The most influential experience I’ve had recently was when I was stood on the roof top of my studio and a flock of birds made several passes over head, it immediately got me thinking about how I could replicate the experience with in an installation form using a multichannel speaker system.
I adopt this attitude when I’m making, I’m always looking to experience an emotive response to a subject; this is why I’m drawn to improv and precariousness.
Which other artists’s work do you admire, and why?
I was introduced to Stephan Cornford’s work during my Degree and I think this had a big impact on the way I look at delivering sound to an audience. Cornford is very open about the mechanics behind the objects he builds and I’m always impressed by his ingenuity.
Where can people see your work?
I will be showing alongside General Practice in a pop-up event at the Futureshock Analogue festival during November this year at the University of Lincoln (exact dates to be confirmed).
My work can also be seen on my website.
Ross was interviewed in May 2017.
All images are courtesy of the artist.