Olivia Block is a media artist and composer. Her body of work includes sound recordings, audio-visual installations, performances, sound design for cinema, and scores for orchestra and chamber music concerts.
Her critically acclaimed recorded compositions, including Pure Gaze, Mobius Fuse, Heave To, Karren, and Dissolution combine field recordings, chamber instruments and electronic textures. Block creates site-specific installations and performances utilizing field recordings and found recordings, among other sounds. She also includes images from video, and curated 35mm slides.
Her work has been profiled in The New York Times, NPR's Morning Edition, and The Wire, among many other publications.
Block's current work reflects her interests in site specificity, ethnographic sound, architecture, found/archival materials from the 1950's-1990's. Block investigates themes related to memory, human exceptionalism and different scales of time. She is currently working on installations which combine animal architecture and landscape architecture.
For twenty years, Block has performed, premiered and exhibited her work throughout Europe, America, and Japan in tours in festivals and performance series including The Walker Museum sculpture garden, Incubate (Tilburg), Festival del Bosque Germinal (Mexico City), Sonic Light (Amsterdam), Kontraste (Krems), Dissonanze (Rome), Archipel (Geneva) Angelica (Bologna), Sunoni per il Popolo (Montreal), and many others. Additionally, she has presented work at the ICA (London), MCA (Chicago), La Biennale di Venezia 52nd International Festival of Contemporary Music, The Kitchen (NYC), ISSUE Project RoomExperimental Intermedia (Brooklyn), and TIFF (Toronto).
Block has completed visiting teaching residencies and premiered works at Mills College of Music, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, The Thacher School, Flagler College, DePauw, and The Berklee College of Music, among others. Block has presented talks and workshops at additional universities in film, music, media arts, and anthropology departments, including Yale University, University of Chicago, Harvard University, and Indiana University.
Block has created site specific sound installations for public spaces and exhibition spaces including the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, Sokolowsko Sanitorium (Poland), CONTEXT (Miami and NY), The Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park (Chicago), the library at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, the Lincoln Conservatory Fern Room (Chicago), and at the “Echoes Through the Mountains” exhibit at the 2006 Winter Olympics (Turin, Italy).
Block has developed a body of partially-improvised performances for inside-piano with various materials, including metal pieces and shards of broken glass.
Her scores for orchestra and chamber instruments emphasize timbre and dynamics. Her most recent orchestral pieces include portions of "easy listening" inspired music from the 1970's, playing underneath recordings of room ventilation, white noise and commercial spaces like malls.
Additional solo performances include partially improvised pieces for electronics, amplified objects, and piano, that Steve Smith of the New York Times described recently as having “palpable sensations of volition and emotional involvement.”
Block recently completed a multi-speaker sound installation, Sonambient Pavilion, in Chicago's sprawling Millennium Park, utilizing sounds from Harry Bertoia's Sonambient sculptures. In April 2017, Block was commissioned by The Rennaisance Society and Lampo to premiere 132 Ranks for pipe organ and multiple speaker array in Rockefeller Memorial Chapel. Olivia Block is based in Chicago.