Silent Sound

, Verblassende Stimmen, Sonja Höglinger (AT)

The Prix Ars Electronica’s u19-create your world category invites the next generation to submit exciting projects and ideas about the world of tomorrow. Here, children and young people up to the age of 19 can show what topics are currently occupying them: In terms of content, there’s room for everything here, offering a whole new insight into young people’s creative and critical perspectives on the future.

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For her work “Verblassende Stimmen” (Fading Voices), Sonja Höglinger was awarded the Golden Nica of the Prix Ars Electronica 2023 in the “u19-create your world” category. In “Verblassende Stimmen,” Sonja Höglinger uses a unique method to deal with the loss of a loved one and preserve their voice and timbre in a special way. In the interview with the artist we learn more about the process of the work and the idea behind it.

How did you come up with the idea to visualize your father’s soundtrack in your project “Verblassende Stimmen”?

Sonja Höglinger: The initial idea came from a memory of a conversation with a friend who said, “You know what’s the worst? When you realize you can’t remember a person’s voice.” Since my father quickly lost the ability to speak due to his ALS disease and passed away last year, I was able to experience this phenomenon myself. As a result, I began to look for a way to counteract the disappearance of memories and found that this was possible by consciously evoking typical statements from him. This realization was decisive for my design project “Verblassende Stimmen”, which was created as part of my diploma thesis on the topic of “memories”. I decided to represent this method of memory visually.

Verblassende Stimmen, Sonja Höglinger (AT)

Can you tell us more about the process of making it, specifically how you used a sewing machine to get the soundtrack onto the fabric and what techniques you used?

Sonja Höglinger: To implement my work, I printed the pre-recorded soundtrack in large format on paper and then transferred the outlines to the fabric. Now I could begin the many hours of sewing. I used different variations of the zigzag stitch for both the grid and the soundtrack. By continuously sewing back and forth, the artwork “Verblassende Stimmen” was finally created.

Why did you choose to focus on a single phrase or statement from your father? How does this focus contribute to the clear delivery of your message?

Sonja Höglinger: I initially thought of many typical statements that I found extremely characteristic. However, I felt that visualizing all these phrases would create too many impressions that might prevent viewers from allowing their own thoughts and memories. In addition, I found that among the numerous quotes, there was one that best represented my father. A single statement can be enough to remember his voice a little bit again.

Verblassende Stimmen is an analog work that, despite everything, manages to capture digital and weave together the best of both worlds in a wonderful way. – Jury Statement

You mention that you don’t directly state the actual message behind the soundtrack to give viewers room for their own interpretations and memories. How do you want viewers to experience this work?

Sonja Höglinger: With my work I would like to give the viewers the opportunity to take a moment to bring their own memories back to life. It’s about memories of people and their voices that you may not have heard for a long time – voices and statements that make us laugh or make us think. They are the voices of people we would like to have around us again.

Sonja Höglinger comes from St. Valentin and is a graduate of the HBLA for artistic design in Linz. She enjoys working with various materials in the three-dimensional field and plans to train as a goldsmith in the near future in order to deepen her knowledge of craftsmanship and technology and to pursue her fascination for jewelry art. Both music and visual arts are important means for her to express her thoughts and feelings.

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