There is no soundtrack

Rethinking art, media, and the audio-visual contract

By Ming-Yuen S. Ma

There is no soundtrack


  • Hardcover
  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-6384-4
  • Pages: 280
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £25.00
  • Published Date: June 2022
  • BIC Category: Contemporary Art, Modern Art, Theory of art, ART / Sculpture & Installation, ART / Mixed Media, ART / Film & Video, Electronic, Holographic & Video Art, Installation Art, Art & Design Styles: Conceptual Art, The arts / Theory of art
  • Series: Rethinking Art's Histories


There is no soundtrack is a study of how sound and image produce meaning in contemporary experimental media art by artists ranging from Chantal Akerman to Nam June Paik to Tanya Tagaq. It contextualises these works and artists through key ideas in sound studies: voice, noise, listening, the soundscape and more. The book argues that experimental media art produces radical and new audio-visual relationships challenging the visually dominated discourses in art, media and the human sciences. In addition to directly addressing what Jonathan Sterne calls 'visual hegemony', it also explores the lack of diversity within sound studies by focusing on practitioners from transnational and diverse backgrounds. As such, it contributes to a growing interdisciplinary scholarship, building new, more complex and reverberating frameworks to collectively sonify the study of culture.


'Sound, Ming-Yuen S. Ma shows, stretches a ladder between body and imagination. Sound reaches past the visual image to shape other temporalities; it creates resonance with things forgotten and things to come. Ma's scholarship is authoritative yet open-ended, his attention to artworks precise, making There is no soundtrack an invaluable guide to the sonic capacities of media art.'
Laura U. Marks, Dena Wosk University Professor in Art and Culture Studies, Simon Fraser University

'Through a series of close readings and quilt-like juxtapositions, Ming-Yuen Ma thinks sound and art through a broader political field. There is no soundtrack brings the discussion of sound more fully into the study of media art and the discussion of media art more fully into the study of sound art.'
Jonathan Sterne, Professor and James McGill Chair in Culture and Technology, McGill University

'More like a DJ than an author, Ma connects the sonic dots between film, performance, installation and so much more. Sound is material to tell stories in space and time, but are our ears more valuable than our eyes?'
Robin Rimbaud (a.k.a. Scanner), composer and artist

'Strong, critical and refreshing, There is no soundtrack is a unique book that leads the way towards new approaches to art history, media art studies and film studies.'
Caleb Kelly, Associate Professor in Media Art and Art History, UNSW Art & Design


Prologue: film without images
Introduction: rethinking the audio-visual contract
1 Radical otherness: voiceover, autoethnography, performativity
2 History, noise, violence: Christian Marclay's Guitar Drag
3 Media soundscapes: listening to installation and performance
4 Sounding a politics of space: acoustic communities, aesthetic colonization, and sound imperialism
Epilogue: notes on acoustic time


Ming-Yuen S. Ma is Professor of Media Studies at Pitzer College, a member of the Claremont Colleges

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