Sounding Out the Past is an experiment in investigating the past, by exploring sound. I used to live in Greensboro, and was curious then and now about its history, and the things it shares with the places I grew up, as well as its differences. Thinking about the past is an act of empathetic imagination, looking at other people’s lives from the outside. In this project, I’m looking at the many publicly available historical documents from Greensboro—city directories, fire insurance maps—and trying to imagine the sound of everyday that they describe. What sounds did people hear, that formed the boundaries of their daily experience? This project is an attempt, not to answer these questions, but to suggest possibilities, which is often all we can do about the past.
Seth Ellis is an artist, and designer. He makes site-specific narratives that explore the stories inherent in material culture, place, and everyday objects. His work utilizes the mass-manufactured artifacts of Modernist industrial society as the loci of installations combining multimedia experience design, local history, and storytelling to trace the webs that connect local communities across time and space. Ellis’ work has shown in galleries, streets, and storefronts, festivals and symposia, in America, Europe, and several points in the Atlantic Ocean.