PAPER SPEAKERS — Exhibition and Interview with Bangkok Biennial, Artist in Residence, Scot Cotterell

For the Bangkok Biennial 2018, media installation and sound artist, Scot Cotterell from Tasmania was Jam’s artist in residence.

During his stay, he performed no input mixing twice, conducted a workshop on live coding for sound, and exhibited 2 single-channel video works produced in Bangkok and a series of micro-sound sculptures he created during his stay titled ‘Paper Speakers’. These objects handmade entirely out of found paper empherma—things that would otherwise be used and discarded such as ‘boxes, flyers, posters, (and) packaging’ from around Jam and Bangkok. When listened to closely, each device acted as autonomous portals to familiar memories and places within this city.

After Scot Cotterell had returned home we both had time to reflect on the experience, I sent him a bunch of questions I really wanted to know the answer to. He discusses the ‘big ancient machine’ that is Bangkok and gives us a better understanding of how he observes and participates in the flow of culture and production.

You previously visited Bangkok during your artist residency at Speedy Grandma in 2014, what was your first impression of the city?

Visually incredible. Vastly different than the southern island of Tasmania I call home. Ad-hoc. A big ancient machine with wires hanging out and water dripping through and geckos on the walls. Raw concrete stained by the tropical climate. People getting things done in myriad ways.

What made you decide to want to return to Bangkok?

Mostly the people I met and the energy that surrounds contemporary art here. To catch up with friends and develop new relationships, like the one at Jam. To try and glimpse a bit more of the scale and speed and movement of the city. To stay a bit longer and embed a little more.

To let my work be shaped by the encounter. To participate in the Biennial and contribute some energy to it.

How has it been participating as an artist in the inaugural Bangkok Biennial?

Refreshing, exhausting, fun, welcoming. To spend a concentrated period of time at Jam, meet people, test ideas and show new work has been very valuable. To see the works of the many other biennial artists and meet new gallerists, artists and audiences has been fun. To travel and work here with my son was a lovely experience for us both. I hope to participate again. Running the live coding workshop at Jam, performing no input sound and to wrap it all up with my sculptural show were particular highlights. Jam challenged me through involvement in the cinema program and through working out how to best utilise the gallery space for the works as they developed.

How has it been travelling around Bangkok with your 14 year old son?

We had a great time, teenagers have the advantage now of being connected where ever they are, so while I was working on the exhibition and sound shows, he was chatting to mates around the world and gaming. We would go walking and travel around various parts of the city looking for supplies and getting lost. Our Jam hosts introduced us to lots of new faces, and some day trips for ramen and gallery visits meant that he had plenty to see and experience. Some of our most memorable moments were just wandering around in the rain, observing the pace of life in Bangkok, and hanging out at Biennial events. My son is often a young man of few words, about a week into our trip and walking through the sois surrounded Jam, he said “fuck I’m glad you brought me here”, enough said really. The two of us alone in a foreign city was great to develop our friendship too.

How does Bangkok compare to Tasmania?

Another planet. Tasmania is small, cold, sparsely populated, quiet, slow, relatively amnesiac about its pre-colonial history, a far south as one can get before Antarctica. Both places are wild and beautiful and harsh in completely differing ways. Amazing creative people in both cities.

For Paper Speaker exhibition at Jam you have created intricate sculptures that force the audience to get very close to listen to, is this a reaction to the overwhelming scale and noise of Bangkok?

Not really, though it is a nice narrative that you and some other people have pulled from the work.

I have wanted to use micro-sound in various ways for a long time, being an experimental musician as well, there is often this fetishisation of volume, and in some ways this is inverted in the Paper Speakers works. I think there are two semi-deliberate things going on with the intricacy and low volume. They are sculptures, usually gazed upon, the low level sound forces the viewer to change their relationship to the small object, they must move toward it, bend down, locate their ear close, so they oscillate between visual and auditory. The other thing is using incidental sound to evoke memory, or a place, or an everyday event. The passing of a car, the sprinkle of rain, the sound of a distant scooter, they are specific in that I recorded them around Jam, but also very subjective, almost generic containers to be filled with meaning, if they evoke something for the listener.

…they are specific in that I recorded them around Jam, but also very subjective, almost generic containers to be filled with meaning, if they evoke something for the listener.

—Scot Cotterell

Why have you used cultural byproducts of the space Jam and Bangkok, such as event flyers, cardboard boxes and used packaging as material for this work?

Boxes, flyers, posters, packaging – all have this similar function they convey a branded or designed message, through their travel and distribution. A beer Leo box holds products, but it also carries externally imagery, the logo, the lion. Flyers have a similar function, a temporarily pertinent message or call to action, attend this show, come to this gig. Rather than being any kind of re-use or recycling message, its more a mixed appraisal of these found and encountered things, both for their visual qualities – colour, typography, pattern, text and their conceptual context – carrier of messages across and through consumption – of products and culture.

Rather than being any kind of re-use or recycling message, its more a mixed appraisal of these found and encountered things, both for their visual qualities – colour, typography, pattern, text and their conceptual context – carrier of messages across and through consumption – of products and culture.

—Scot Cotterell

In conversation, you often talk about the consequences of ‘giving tools of primary production to the people’. Could you elaborate on this?

Hah, it is part a kind of nod to a ‘seize the means of production’ type of statement, given where we are in history and that intellectual property is like the new oil or gold. But also, when people lament the fact that the early utopianism of the internet was hijacked by corporations and governments, you can show them bad memes, blurry mobile phone videos of major concerts, poorly constructed stock photography montages accompanying computerised vocal read outs of conspiracy theories, as ironic evidence that individual voices do break through the quagmire of the ‘connected everything’. It is semi-sarcastic, however, I do still think the appropriation of consumer cultures has an ability to afford insight into that parasitic phenomena.

During your stay at Jam, you did a couple of no input mixing sound performances, can you explain what this is? And what attracts you to this?

No Input is a type of experimental music that uses mixing desks and consoles as instruments. In short, you take all the outputs of a mixing desk and plug them into all the inputs of the desk, turn everything up and attempt to control the resulting sound. Every mixer sounds different and patching it differently will create infinite variation. In terms of its attractiveness, there’s a few things –

A device designed to mix instruments becomes an instrument itself.

The instrument it becomes is very difficult if not impossible to ‘learn’.

The sounds of a mixer listening to itself is quite unlike any other sound and can vary from insectile, to rhythmic, to melodic, to ghostly to noisy.

Attempting to impose some form of structure on the system, to create a sound piece that actually goes somewhere / does something in terms of progression and transcends just twiddling knobs in an exploratory fashion takes a lot of concentration and chance.

bangkok compression, 2018

bangkok compression, 2018 by Scot Cotterell

Posted by JAM on Sunday, 5 August 2018

Can you tell us a bit about what the single-channel video works are about?

They are the equivalent of sketches made during the residency, and are primarily about time.

One is super slow horizontal pan, shot at night from a moving vehicle through Bangkok city. The fluorescent lights of shopfronts pulse and an odd rate, motorcyclists move alongside the shot at varying speeds, the visual flow of shophouses and signage and people becomes a formal motif scrolling past the lens.

The other is a compression, a speeding up of the visual language of Jam. Photos of a wide array of stickers that have accumulated throughout the space, graff writers, DJs, brands, record labels, logos, stop motioned into one frame after the other, a contained little visual onslaught.


A new sound and sculptural installation made during residency, based around found paper ephemera used to make handmade sculptural paper speakers and sounding devices. A body of soundworks made from field recordings of the dense inner city space Jam occupies.

SCOT COTTERELL – Artist Biography

Scot Cotterell is an Australian born inter-disciplinary artist known for his works concerned with the experience of mediated environments. His work uses mixtures of sound, video, images and objects in gallery and live contexts to create experiences that reflect upon cultural phenomena. Scot holds an MFA from the University of Tasmania School of Art and has been nominated for the Qantas Foundation Contemporary Arts Award, The Alice Springs Art Prize and awarded the Shotgun 2010 commission by Detached Cultural Foundation and CAST, a Sound Travellers national touring grant, and several state and national funding supports through the Australia Council for the Arts and Arts Tasmania including projects in the Netherlands, Germany and Spain. Scot has also received the Jim Bacon Foundation Honours Scholarship, and Australian Post-Graduate Award Scholarship and a Gordon Darling Foundation professional development grant. Cotterell’s work has been performed and exhibited nationally and internationally.

In addition to his gallery practice Scot has chaired Hobart’s influential Artist-Run Space Inflight, sat on the boards of Contemporary Art Services Tasmania, The Plimsoll Gallery Committee, and the advisory panel for We Are Here International Artist-Run Initiative Symposium. Scot has been state representative for the ElectroFringe festival and has written commissioned essays and reviews for Cyclic Defrost, Devonport Regional Gallery and Wyndham Regional Gallery. Scot has curated exhibitions and releases for CAST Gallery, Boiler Room: National Improvisation Laboratory and The Academy Gallery UTAS, and co-curated exhibitions at BUS Gallery, The Plimsoll Gallery and Inflight ARI.

Scot Cotterell’s Website
Bangkok Biennial – Scot Cotterell
Bangkok Biennial – Jam

Art to Blast From Paper Speakers in Bangkok Biennial – Khaosod English
Bangkoks Biennial Official Lineup – BK Magazine

This exhibition was supported by Jam Bangkok, Arts Tasmania and The Claudio Alcorso Foundation.

Dhyan Ho