My interdisciplinary research centers on three questions:
What are the politics of listening?
How are these politics rendered possible through new media material cultures?
How are they made audible – and knowable – by artists?
I answer the questions by attending to sonic and electronic artworks (analog and digital) that exist in the middle of techno-social systems of power, and which can concisely highlight the intersection of topics including disability, gender, sexuality, colonialism, and race. Rather than studying "sound art" as a distinct genre, my work examines strategies of sounding/listening in postwar and contemporary art in an expansive sense, especially examining intermedia theory and practice.
My book project, Public Supply: Max Neuhaus and the Politics of Sonic Art, argues that sonic art is circumscribed by intersecting systems of power that interrelate gender, race, sexuality, disability, and colonialism to produce a politics of listening. The book argues for a critical sonic art history that connects the formal analysis of sound-based works to the related fields of critical media studies, history of science, gender/queer/trans studies, and postcolonial studies.
My research has also produced numerous publication projects, including three peer-reviewed journal articles (Leonardo Music Journal, 2017; Parallax, 2017; Public Art Dialogue, 2021) and a special guest-edited journal issue on sound and public space (Public Art Dialogue, 2019). A recent article, "Windspun (1981): Liz Phillips, Sonic Public Art and the Greening of the South Bronx" in Public Art Dialogue (Spring 2021) examines a windmill turbine-based sound installation by Liz Phillips, and considers the social networks and sociopolitical relationships between experimental music/sonic art, public art institutions, urban gardening, and gentrification in postwar New York.
In Spring 2023, Charles began editing a special recurring series of Resonance: The Journal of Sound and Culture (UC Press) on the topic of queer sound and listening in sonic art. Spanning four issues, the series, titled "Queer Politics and Positionalities in Sonic Art," will feature scholarly research papers, invited essays, creative writing, interviews, reviews, commentaries, and digital audiovisual supplements. Read the CFP here.