Karin Bolender

Gut Sounds Lullaby
Audio installation

Artist Statement

“Gut Sounds” is a term with significant resonances in American ass husbandry. Listening for gut sounds, or gut motility, is one of the first and foremost diagnostic tools in equine veterinary practice, where the presence or absence of normal gurglings in a donkey’s or horse’s insides can carry big epistemological, emotional, and economic implications. Indeed, the return of good gut sounds to a beloved equine who’s been sick can make those otherwise vaguely obscene inner gurglings seem like the sweetest melodies on earth. On another and more common level of experience, these thrumming, rhythmic, and liquid sounds of digestive and circulatory inner workings are the first ones we all hear as mammals, as our ears begin to function with months to go in utero and our brains mesh with the sounds of the world, throbbing through the permeable boundaries of our mothers’ bodies.

The Gut Sounds Lullaby installation frames layered sites where gut-sounds phenomena fold in with questions of presence and invisibility in forms of intraspecies being-together. Odd to think that gut sounds are something we seldom attend to, even as their presence signals life and cessation equates to death. Living gut sounds surprise us with their immediacy, bubbling up bigger questions of bodies’ unknowns, along with the ways we manufacture ontologies through the boundaries we draw between inside/outside, human/animal, and self /other. Gut Sounds Lullaby seeks to blur some of these boundaries, pressing our ears to their seams to listen for what hums on the other side. We will invite listeners into the presence of an intricate and intimate auditory mesh, where real-time equine gut sounds are wired into and amplified by the layered resonances of improvisational electronic music/sound collage and an invisible but present human fetus, who we presume will be listening on the other end of the intraspecies transmission wires.


Karin Bolender’s interdisciplinary practice investigates the brackish places where our human selves meet other domestic species. For the past decade, she has lived and traveled with a small family herd of American asses, exploring a sort of barnyard ontological choreography that negotiates between human logos and other, embodied ways of being and knowing. Since 2007, Bolender has presented solo and collaborative works nationally and internationally under the auspices of the Rural Alchemy Workshop (R.A.W).