21 October – 7 November 2009: Chelle MaCNaughtan – (De)Bordering Indeterminancy Between Architecture and Music



‘Chelle Macnaughtan’s universe of work, located at the productive boundary of architecture, is characterised by indeterminacy, intertextuality, iterability and sound. Her reconfigurable aluminium constructions, notations, etchings, scores and realisations, pavement photographs, and cartographies that become architectural details augmented through listening, continue the legacy of John Cage’s experiments in indeterminacy, and bring these procedures into the arena of architectural thinking and doing. Reinscribed scores become three-dimensional, reconfigurable sculptures, while her sound recording in Daniel Libeskind’s Jewish Museum Berlin becomes a score or instructions for further experimental work. Cagean indeterminacy is about locating one out of many possibilities, here precisely developed in Chelle’s novel compositions of line, signature and sonority. A cartography of tracings onto zinc plate, aluminium, polished stainless steel, and transparent acrylic sheets, allows for transparent and translucent layerings that open the work to multifarious permutations for performance and reading. Simultaneously, the collected projects, five major and three minor, rework in material and sound the thought of Jacques Derrida, Jean-Luc Nancy, Umberto Eco, and draw on the spatial choreographies of architects such as Daniel Libeskind, Bernard Tschumi and Peter Zumthor. In particular, Derrida’s concepts of signature, trace and différance are given their material counterpart through Chelle’s explorative spatio-temporal gestures. 


These sidereal as well as earth bound constellations of line, articulated by the careful interplay of indeterminacy and its process of determination, are complex and require serious and focused reading. The collected projects challenge the participant to enter what Chelle has named a terrain of negotiated exposition between sound compositions and spatial compositions that are open to the varied speeds and slownesses of ontological time. Transdisciplinarity is at work between architecture and music, which are drawn together through an alternative theory of use and become radically transformed through their encounter. An attention to material is paramount, including ways in which it decays with time and use, much as sound dissipates following its projection. Aluminium elements, aged through chemical processes recover traces of their silvery sheen in the scratchings produced as one component is introduced to another by explorative hands. Hand-made inks from pigments react with zinc plates and the resulting etchings proceed from invisibility through a spectrum of greys to black. In other projects filters of red and blue operating in various ways across the colour spectrum of cyan, magenta, yellow and black signal silence, sound and assorted permutations for reading, listening and performance. In a similar vein, philosophical concepts are creatively engaged as agencies that assist in the production of the work from the point of view of the pre-philosophical plane that emerges in-between disciplines. Across this body of experimental projects, across the seasons, across the colour spectrums, through quiescence, creation, preservation and destruction, indeterminacy reveals an exactitude that is measured, as well as endlessly open to future expression.’

Hélène Frichot, 2009


Chelle Macnaughtan would like to thank the AIA, Lysaght, Hélène Frichot, Michael Fowler, Timothy Foster, Julie Potter and Janice Fisher for their assistance with this RMIT PhD by Project exhibition.

Chelle Macnaughtan studied music at the Elder Conservatorium of Music in Adelaide Australia, before completing degrees in interior design at The University of South Australia, and architecture with first class honours at The University of Melbourne. She is currently submitting her PhD in Architecture by Project for examination at RMIT University in Melbourne. Chelle is the recipient of numerous awards and scholarships, including the Baillieu Research Scholarship and an Australian Postgraduate Award, and in 2005 she became the  inaugural Australian Institute of Architects Lysaght Research Scholar. Chelle has participated extensively in local and international solo exhibitions, conferences,  presentations and collaborations, including with Compagnie Philippe Genty, the Melbourne International Arts Festival, the Queen’s University Sonic Arts Research Centre in Belfast and the Merce Cunningham Dance Foundation in New York. Her research is published in various edited books, journals and conference proceedings.