Elana Mann

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What Is My Work About?

In my artwork I make visible the unseen power of sound and listening. Although sound moves in invisible waves, I am fascinated with the ways sonic matter impacts our bodies/psyche in a physical and political manner. Through a range of media I explore how acts of listening, speaking and singing radically activate individuals and communities. My investigations into the history of listening technology, from nineteenth century personal hearing aids to twenty-first century military spying devices, reveal the politics of the individual and the state. In tandem with producing objects, my experimentations in making and receiving sound have expanded to diverse social contexts. I create interventions in a variety of spaces, such as economically depressed neighborhoods, cultural institutions and the internet, which alter the ways people interact with each other and their environment. My art practice offers new strategies of communication and probes the border of art and pedagogy.


Artist Statement

In my artworks I make visible the invisible power of sound and listening. My art practice considers recent transformations in communication that simultaneously offer so much potential and contain so many drawbacks. Mass movements are organizing online like never before, yet government surveillance increases; the culture of texting, emailing, posting, etc. facilitates exchange, yet encourages monologues instead of dialogues. My artworks meditate on the utopian/dystopian shifts of human communication while revealing the ways sound can move us emotionally, form deep interpersonal connections and initiate social change.

For the past few years I have been creating collages, sculpture, video and performances revolving around the question: “What does listening look like?”. My transformation of ephemeral acts of listening, speaking and singing is intended to create tension between action and object. Thus, many of my pieces are participatory or involve a viewer’s body in a variety of ways. My artworks also mine the historical, socio-political and pedagogical aspects of sound in culture.

Recent sculptural works delve into the histories of sound and communication technologies, questioning how these technologies relate to contemporary political concerns. The first body of work, including the series “Untitled (Listening Device I-III)” (2013), explores pre-radar listening devices used by militaries around the world during WWI and WWII. Unlike contemporary spying mechanisms, such as invisible online metadata collectors or sleekly shaped drones, the form of these tuba and horn shaped devices refer to their function. I made the sculptures by referencing archival imagery and placed them in an assortment of sites, including an art gallery, Pomona College and NW Pasadena. The diversity of locations amplified the distinct sounds of Southern California. By changing the historical moment and siting I transformed these now defunct technologies of espionage into sites for play, exchange and critique.

A related body of artwork brings the political into the personal sphere through the examination of individualized acoustic sculptures. “Having a choice and having a voice, Having a voice and having a choice” (2014) includes twenty antique hearing aids from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, which were all designed with a particular person/ear in mind. The sculptures offer the option of being a listener or speaker and display the range of forms these two roles allow. Along with the sculptures, I created a piece called “All Ears,” which was purposely not documented. I invited the general public to sign up for ten private one-on-one duration performances where I listened to a speaker in a non-judgmental way for three hours and at the end mirrored back to her/him what I had heard. Rather than acting as therapy sessions, these performances gave space to voices and words that needed to be witnessed.

Along with my studio practice, my investment in promoting active (rather than passive) listening has broadened to include pedagogical and activist concerns. For the past few years I have been creating artworks geared towards specific communities and/or sites such as underserved neighborhoods, educational settings, and virtual spaces. I have developed distinct methodologies to generate public artworks that are meaningful to the communities in which they occur. Oftentimes I will partner with various groups and individuals who are embedded within the community in order to understand the complexities of the spaces in which I am working. These artworks examine how attention to sound and listening can radically activate individuals and groups.

In the spring of 2013 I initiated a series of large-scale temporary public art projects, which explore the power of active listening and foster community engagement through participatory performance and sculpture. The first piece in this series, “Listening as (a) Movement” (LAAM) (2013), was commissioned by Side Street Projects (SSP) a non-profit based in the economically impoverished neighborhood of NW Pasadena. I created this artwork in response to the needs of NW Pasadena, a place where residents felt like their voices were not being heard. For seven months, I attended community meetings, neighborhood functions and spoke with local residents. After the research and development period I built three acoustic sculptures at SSP’s headquarters, located in an open lot on a major thoroughfare, and programmed five events to activate the sculptures. I organized each event with community partners, which led to workshops, participatory performances and civically oriented conversations. Thus, “LAAM” served as an empowering device amplifying real concerns and questions of local residents. As a direct result of the project, various safety measures and youth programming were implemented in the neighborhood.

From a public space to a public sphere of another kind, “Resonate, Reverberate, Roar” (re-re-roar.org) (2013-present), is a web archive of sounds of resistance, which grew out of a residency at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, MN. St. Catherine University was founded by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet and Consociates who are known for their political radicalism. I organized students to interview the Sisters and then created re-re-roar.org to house a larger archive, which contains socially progressive recordings of speeches, experimental music, field recordings, interviews, etc. Visitors to the website can submit their own politically potent sounds, listen, or download the archive. Re-re-roar.org is a site for activ[ist] listening, with the purpose of distributing sounds of resistance to eager ears around the globe engaged with the common space of the internet.

Currently, I am working on a body of artwork stemming from the piece “Villa Murmurs” (2014), commissioned by the Getty Villa. For “Villa Murmurs,” I produced newly designed acoustic sculptures to explore the grounds of the museum, which served as interventions into the normative experience of the museum. I am continuing this series of artworks that offer new strategies of making and receiving sound, probing the boundaries of art, pedagogy and political action.



2007   California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), Valencia, CA, Master of Fine Arts

2003   Washington University in St. Louis, MO, Bachelor of Fine Arts


Solo or two person exhibitions

2015    Commonwealth & Council, Los Angeles, CA (forthcoming)

2014    “Drone Duet,” a collaboration with Matias Viegener, Digital Mural Project at the Culver Center of the Arts, UCR ARTSblock, Riverside, CA

2013    “3 Solo Projects: Audrey Chan, Elana Mann, and Chan & Mann,” Ben Maltz Gallery, Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles, CA

“Meet the Chans and Manns,” 323 Projects, Los Angeles, CA (Chan & Mann)

“Listening as (a) movement,” Side Street Projects, Pasadena, CA

2012    “Chann and Mhann: A Historical Retrospective, 2005-12,” Elephant, Los Angeles, CA (Chan & Mann)

2011    “For more than one voice,” 323 Projects, Los Angeles, CA

“Die Gedanken Sind Frei (Our Thoughts Are Free),” Jancar Gallery project space, Los Angeles, CA

2010    “Artist Bailout: Renegade Bounty Exchange,” a collaboration with Autumn Rooney, Angels Gate Cultural Center, San Pedro, CA

2007   “The usefulness of forgetting,” Gallery D300, CalArts, Valencia, CA

2006   “Conversation Pieces,” a collaboration with Adam Overton, CalArts, Valencia, CA


Selected group exhibitions


“Laugh-in: Art, Comedy, Performance,” Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, La Jolla, CA (Chan & Mann)

“Wunderkammer,” Nichols Gallery, Broad Center, Pitzer College, Claremont, CA


“Writing Sound 2,” Lydgalleriet, Bergen, Norway

“Nine-point perspective: Faculty exhibition at Scripps College,” Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery, Scripps College, Claremont, CA

“Grand Rounds,” Machine Project Field Guide to Grand Park, Los Angeles, CA

“After Noise,” Thomas Solomon Gallery, Los Angeles, CA

“Half the Sky: Intersections in Social Practice Art,” Luxun Academy of Fine Arts, Shenyang, Liaoning Province, China (Chan & Mann) (catalog)

“Beaver,” The Center for Performance Research, Brooklyn, NY (Chan & Mann)


“Resonant Bodies: Landscapes of Acoustic Tension,” ICI Berlin, Berlin, Germany

“Baker’s Dozen V: Marginal Revolutions,” Torrance Art Museum, Torrance, CA

“The Hollow Center,” Smak Mellon, Brooklyn, NY

“Teach-In,” Cypress College, Cypress, CA


“You are breathing in it! Alternative art practices,” Riverside Art Museum, Riverside, CA

“video.mix,” Modified Arts, Phoenix, AZ

“Attitude Cinema,” Zoe Gallery, Rome, Italy (catalog)

“Re/spond/re/peat,” Soapbox gallery, Brooklyn, NY

“Radio Break–Artist Interventions in Broadcast Space,” For Your Art, Los Angeles, CA


“Storefront Video,” Transformer Gallery, Washington D.C.

“Beyond Conventions: Reimagining Human Rights in a Time of Change,” Ford Foundation, New York, NY

“SUR: Biennial,” Cerritos Community College Gallery, Los Angeles, CA

“Some City Angels,” Edward Cella Gallery, Los Angeles, CA

“Gathered in a Clearing,” LEVEL, Brisbane, Australia

“Open Daybook,” Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, Los Angeles, CA


“TBA: A Group Video Exhibition in 7 parts,” Kristi Engel Gallery, Los Angeles, CA

“The Purpose of Being,” a collaboration with Vera Brunner-Sung, Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, CA

“Never Very Far Apart,” REDCAT, Los Angeles, CA

“Actions, Conversations, and Intersections,” Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery at Barnsdall Art Park, Los Angeles, CA (catalog)


“Grito e Escuta,” 7th Mercosul Bienial, Porto Alegre, Brazil (catalog)

“Print Matters,” General Store, Sydney, Australia

“Needle in a Haystack,” Eagle Rock Center for the Arts, Eagle Rock, CA

“Stay Bite: Modes of Operation,” University of Texas, Dallas, TX


“Just how does a patriot act: A response to US policy at home and abroad,” Orange County Center for Contemporary Art, Santa Ana, CA (catalog)

“From A to B: A Field Guide to the Urban Commute,” Fellows of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA


“Deeesire,” The Gatov Galleries, California State University, Long Beach, CA

“The Girly Show,” Wignall Museum, Chaffey College, Rancho Cucamonga, CA

“The Collective Body,” Galerie Califia, The Czech Republic

“The Powder Room,” Track 16, Los Angeles, CA (catalog)

“Abre-Alas,” A Gentil Carioca, Rio de Janeiro, BR


“It was the blurst of times,” Commerce Street Artist Warehouse, Houston, TX


Selected performances and screenings


“Villa Murmurs,” the Getty Villa, Los Angeles, CA

“Transmission,” Center for the Arts, Eagle Rock, Los Angeles, CA and Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, CA


“One, Two, Three,” South of Sunset, Los Angeles, CA


“MIA screening series,” the Armory Center for the Arts, Pasadena, CA

“Myths of Rape (1977/2012),” included as a part of “Three Weeks in January” by Suzanne Lacy, LA Art Show, Los Angeles, CA


“Women Represented,” ArtLab + Film Forum, Hirshhorn Gallery and Sculpture Park, Smithsonian Museum, Washington, D.C.

“Out the window,” Freewaves Los Angeles Metro Project, Los Angeles, CA

“ARLA: Resonate! Receive!,” J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, CA


“Violet Against Women: Confronting Notions of the Feminine,” Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, CA

“Ocean of Noise,” Human Resources, Los Angeles, CA


“Retirement Bash,” commissioned by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los


“Juste à côté de L.A.: CalArts Video, 2005-2007,” Le Cinematographe, Nantes, France


“Conventions & Attitudes” the CUNY Graduate Center Art Gallery, New York, NY

“Come Out & Play; Supermasochist,” Apex Art, New York, NY

Maulwerker Performing Music, SITUATIONS: Art. Life. Transitions. Interpenetrations,” Berlin, Germany

“Publicity,” Vasquez Rocks, CA, a reinvention of Allan Kaprow’s performance, part of “Art as Life” at the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles

“alt_cph, Alternative Art Fair,” Koh I Noor Gallery, Copenhagen, Denmark




Artist in Residence, Amy Marie Sears Memorial Visiting Artist Series, St. Catherine University, St. Paul, MN

ARC Grant from the Center for Cultural Innovation (Chan & Mann)


ARC Grant from the Center for Cultural Innovation


Philadelphia Art Hotel residency, Philadelphia, PA


California Community Foundation Visual Artist Fellowship for Emerging Artists Kitty Chester Series of Curator’s Laboratory Projects, Fellows of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA


Franconia Sculpture Park intern artist fellowship, Shafer, MN


John T. Milliken Traveling Scholarship, St. Louis, MO Secor Sculpture Award, St. Louis, MO

Crescent Hills Research Grant, Tyson Research Center, Eureka, MO


University City Public Sculpture Commission, St. Louis, MO


Curatorial projects


“Chats about Change,” organized with Robby Herbst, California State University and Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, Los Angeles, CA


“Shares and Stakeholders: The Feminist Art Project day of Panels at the College Art Association,” organized with Audrey Chan, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA,


“Performing Economies,” Fellows of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA


“Exchange Rate: 2008,” www.exchangerate2008.com (catalog)


“Exquisite Acts and Everyday Rebellions: 2007 CalArts Feminist Art Symposium and Exhibition,” in partnership with the “WACK!” exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles

“TROCA: USA” and “TROCA: Brasil,” A Gentil Carioca, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and the Feldman Gallery + Project Space, The Pacific Northwest College of Art, Portland, OR


Selected Lectures


Visiting Artist Lecture, Claremont Graduate University, Claremont, CA


Panelist, “Radical Reciprocity,” Pitzer College, Claremont, CA

Visiting Artist Lecture, St. Catherine University, St. Paul, MN

Visiting Artist Lecture, San Francisco Art Institute, San Francisco, CA


Panel co-chair with Audrey Chan, “Colleagues, Co-conspirators, and Partners:

Perspectives from Feminist Men,”Shares and Stakeholders” symposium, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles


Panelist, “The Aesthetics of Deficit,” a symposium sponsored by Woodbury College, Human Resources, Los Angeles, CA

Panelist, “Progressivism and the Museum,” Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, CA

Guest speaker, “Still Doin’ It: Fanning the Flames of the Woman’s building,” Otis College of Art and design, Los Angeles, CA

Panelist, “New financial architecture for creative communities,” State of Independence: A Global Forum on Alternative Practice, REDCAT, Los

Angeles, CA


Visiting Artist Lecture, Pacific Northwest College of Art, Portland, OR


Panel Moderator, “Strategies for Contemporary Feminism,” “Exquisite Acts and Everyday Rebellions” symposium, with panel members Mary Kelly,

Catherine Lord, Andrea Fraser, CalArts, Valencia, CA


Selected writing and publications


“My Tribe: An interview with Senga Nengudi,” co-written with Vera Brunner-Sung, and “Between Radical Art and Critical Pedagogy, with Suzanne Lacy and Leslie Labowitz,” In the Canyon, Revise the Canon, edited by Geraldine Gourbe, Shelter Press: Switzerland

“Searching for Murmurs of History,” The Getty Iris, June 21, 2014


“Rupture and Continuity in Feminist Re-performance,” co-written with Audrey

Chan and Alexandra Grant, Afterall Journal, Issue 33, Summer 2013


“Radical Receptivities,” co-written with Juliana Snapper, Art21, January 4


We are the Art, created and edited by Elana Mann, published by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles

“The Participant,” Journal of Aesthetics and Protest, Issue #7


“Performing Economies,” Day to Day, published by Carolina Caycedo


Public Collections

The Getty Research Institute


Selected bibliography

Moss, Avigail, “3 Solo Projects: Audrey Chan, Elana Mann and Chan & Mann,” exhibition brochure, Ben Maltz Gallery, Otis College of Art and Design, Summer 2013

Gardocki, Matthew and Moore, Catlin, “”Emergent Presence: Eight LA Artists You Should Know,” Fabrik Magazine, Issue 21

Yank, Sue Bell, “In the Space Between Bodies: Women Artists and Occupy LA,” n.paradoxa: international feminist art journal (London), vol. 32 (July 2013),

Citizenship, pp.23-31 Jao, Carren, “Elana Mann Tunes noise out to let the signal in,” KCET Artbound, April 4, 2013

Colbert, Maile, “Radical Listening and the People’s Microphony: A conversation with Elana Mann,” Sounding out!, March 11, 2013

“Artist Bailout: Renegade Bounty Exchange,” Guidebook of Alternative Nows, edited by Amber Hickey, published by the Journal of Aesthetics and Protest Press, June 2012

Wagley, Catherine, “Occupy Used a ‘People’s Microphone’ to Spread Info Through a Crowd. Now There’s a People’s Mic Choir,” LA Weekly, Sep. 17, 2012

Hebron, Micol, “Putting the Words Back into the F-Word. An Interview with Elana Mann and Audrey Chan,” Artpulse Magazine, Summer 2012

Xiao, An, “Turning the Seven Year Itch into a Retrospective,” Hyperallergic, April 18, 2012

Conwell, Donna, “The Art of Commuting,” X-Tra Magazine, Vo.12, No. 1, Fall 2009

Denny, Drew, “Performing Economies: would we like a beer?” LA Record, July 20, 2009

Cornell, Lauren, Gioni, Massimiliano and Hoptman, Laura, Younger than Jesus: Artist

Directory, New Museum and Phaidon Press, April 2009, pg. 332

Bosco, R, Caldana, S., “Los ‘netartistas’ ofrecen su vision de las elecciones norteamericanas,” El Pais, Thursday, October 30, 2008

Ruud, Claire, “Elana Mann on Exchange Rate: 2008” …might be good magazine, Issue #109 Bring Your Umbrella, Oct. 31, 2008

Sydell, Laura, “Los Angeles Exhibit shines light on Women in Art,” Weekend Edition, NPR, March 11, 2007

Muchnic, Suzanne, “Landmarks from a younger vantage,” Los Angeles Times, Sunday, March 4, 2007

Osório, Luiz Camillo, “Exposição revela poética das trocas,” O Globo, February 9th, 2007

Orosco, Dolores, “O império contra-ataca,” Jornal do Brasil, Volume 116, No. 279, Saturday, January 13th, 2007