22 September, 2017

Artwork ViaPhono in Southern Cross Close, Kingsford

It is often said music is an art form that transcends the boundaries of language and culture.

Esem Projects artists Michael Killalea and Dr Sarah Barnes are bringing this notion to life with their latest collaboration, an engaging, interactive sculpture blending art, science, maths, history and music.

Titled ViaPhono, Latin for ‘street of sound’, the elegant oversized cygnet style gramophone horn has taken up residence in Southern Cross Close, Kingsford, a cosy thoroughfare hugged by two imposing walls.

With the help of a smartphone, this beautiful and functional piece transforms into a passive speaker, gently amplifying sound into the surrounding space for others to enjoy.

As a passionate music fan with an interest in sound and acoustics, Michael is eager to see the work spark spontaneous gatherings among friends and strangers.

“I’m hoping it will be a spot where people can share sounds that are important to them, and they may be cultural or they may be sounds people are just emotionally connected to, but I thought this would be a great way for people to share music,” he said.

“Kingsford has a very rich multicultural population, and students from all around the world are drawn to the area. Music is a language they can enjoy together and share culture through.”

Much like a gramophone speaker, ViaPhono amplifies sound by small increments as it moves up the flowering horn, peaking at a mildly elevated volume.

The technology is the same as that used by Thomas Edison in 1877 when he invented the phonograph, a device that could mechanically record and reproduce sound. Its later forms became known as the gramophone and record player.

While Edison’s invention may seem a world away from the sleek, compact smartphones carried in almost every handbag and back pocket, there is a direct connection between the technology of the past and today.

“The early scientific and mathematical discoveries that lead to our understanding of sound waves have been built on over time and have been incorporated into your smartphone,” Michael said.

“You’ve got this real connection through time between early mathematics and pioneering inventions such as the phonograph, and modern music players like your mobile phone, you can draw a straight line in terms of technological and mathematical understanding.”

Some of this historical background can be found on the artwork itself, with information on Thomas Edison’s invention etched on a steel plate and fitted to the piece.

ViaPhono’s concrete base also features brightly-coloured soundwaves, a further tribute to the great scientific discoveries of the past that paved the way for today’s musical technology.

Michael and Sarah collaborated with blacksmith Jam Dickson to bring the piece to life, creating an installation that is both beautiful and interactive.

ViaPhono is the third of seven artworks to be installed at five sites along Anzac Parade in Kingsford and Kensington over the coming months.

ArtMoves is a new public art project designed to transform the streets of Kingsford and Kensington with sculptures, street art, outdoor furniture and landscape designs, creating fresh spaces for the community to enjoy.

The art will transform the streets by encouraging locals and visitors to explore the area and use these spaces in new ways.

For more information visit our ArtMoves page at

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