What Listening Knows


Sonia Leber and David Chesworth

What Listening Knows

17 July – 5 September 2021


Two years in the making, the world premiere of What Listening Knows by Sonia Leber and David Chesworth was screened on 5m x 3m screens alongside Myriad Falls, 2017 in the barn gallery during the summer of 2021.

Read more about it in the Sydney Morning Herald

What Listening Knows is a 3-channel audio and video installation by Australian artists Sonia Leber & David Chesworth, commissioned for our second Moving Image exhibition at Messums Wiltshire. The research and filming were undertaken here in Wiltshire in the Summer of 2019, when Sonia and David were Messums’­­ first artists-in-residence. The resulting video uses unique Wiltshire environments as sites to explore the act of listening.

What Listening Knows creatively interrogates different concepts around the act of listening, particularly the concept of ‘the microphone’s gaze’, which shifts the idea of the ocular gaze, or camera gaze, into an acoustic dimension:

The project is built up around three individual performers acting as ‘field recordists’ in the landscape, trailing through cornfields, traversing unfathomable henges and earthworks, and scanning anthills and ancient forests. Each performer, armed with microphones and headphones, was prompted to physically interrogate the landscape from non-typical perspectives, activating their listening to find new ways to capture the acoustic forces of the environment.

Following these acoustic cues, Leber & Chesworth have developed a camera style detached from its ocular-centric perspective, imbued with an acoustic consciousness, at times tipping and rotating the landscape, levitating rocky masses, and trailing growths in the forest from both macro and micro perspectives.



Podcast interview: Sonia Leber and David Chesworth interviewed by journalist and presenter Fiona Gruber exactly one year after the start of their residency at Messums Wiltshire.

Film above: Sonia Leber and David Chesworth, What Listening Knows, 2021
3-channel 4K video, multi-channel audio (video stills and excerpts)