Woman holding a rubiks cube to a microphone
Sonia Leber and David Chesworth, Sound Before Sound II: Auditioning the Archive (video still), 2022. 4K UHD video, stereo audio, 8 minutes.

Sonia Leber and Dr David Chesworth

The Powerhouse Research Fellowship

March 2022

Project Title: Sound Before Sound II: Auditioning the Archive

Sonia Leber and David Chesworth
Image: Madé Spencer-Castle

Sonia Leber and David Chesworth were granted access to the vast collection stacks and the operational spaces of the museum, to make a video that contemplates how a collection becomes activated through sound. ‘Sound Before Sound II: Auditioning the Archive’ (2022) follows how a team of sound recordists and conservators from the Powerhouse are activating objects, finding ways to produce sounds from otherwise mute artefacts. The video captures the attempts, strategies and care involved in recording the objects as conservators stroke, prod and push levers. The video was shown in Sonia and David’s exhibition at Tarrawarra Museum of Art in 2022. The artists acknowledge the participation of the Powerhouse Digital Engagement team and the Collections team.

Sonia Leber and David Chesworth are known for their distinctive video, sound and architecture-based installations that are audible as much as visible. Leber and Chesworth’s works are speculative and archaeological, often involving communities and elaborated from research in places undergoing social, technological or local geological transformation. Their works emerge from the real but exist significantly in the realm of the imaginary, hinting at unseen forces and non-human perspectives.

Leber and Chesworth have participated in group exhibitions throughout Australia and internationally including 56th Biennale of Venice (2015); 19th Biennale of Sydney (2014); ‘Freedom of Sleep’, Fondation Fiminco, Paris (2021); ‘The Last Reader’, annex M, Megaron, Athens (2018); ‘The State We Are In: Collection of Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw’, Galeria Labirynt, Lublin, Poland (2018); ‘And Tomorrow And’, Index, Stockholm (2018); ‘The Score’, Ian Potter Museum of Art (2017); ‘Looking at me through you’, Campbelltown Arts Centre (2017); ‘Call of the Avant-Garde: Constructivism and Australian Art’, Heide (2017); ‘Borders, Barriers, Walls’, MUMA, Melbourne (2016); ‘Melbourne Now’, NGV (2013–14); ‘Cooperation Territory’, 16thLine, Rostov-on-Don, Russia (2013); and ‘Stealing the Senses’, Govett-Brewster Gallery, New Zealand (2011).

Solo exhibitions include ‘Where Lakes Once Had Water’, TarraWarra Museum of Art (2022) and ANU Drill Hall Gallery, Canberra (2022); ‘What Listening Knows’, Museums Wiltshire, UK (2021); and ‘Architecture Makes Us: Cinematic Visions of Sonia Leber & David Chesworth’, Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne (2018) touring to UNSW Galleries, Sydney (2019) and Griffith University Art Museum, Brisbane (2019).

Leber and Chesworth were awarded the Substation Contemporary Art Prize (2016); Gold Coast Art Prize (2014); and Screengrab International Media Arts Award (2014). Collections include Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw; National Gallery of Victoria; Art Gallery of Western Australia; McClelland Sculpture Park+Gallery; RMIT Gallery, Melbourne; University of Wollongong Art Collection; Gold Coast City Gallery; Mildura Arts Centre; and Australian Centre for the Moving Image.

Sonia is a Senior Industry Fellow in the School of Art at RMIT University where David is a Vice-Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow.

The artists live and work in Naarm/Melbourne, Australia.

The full project can be found at