Speaking about the Museum of Portable Sound during Resonant Worlds: Curating Sound, Art, and Science at ZKM Medienmuseum, Karlsruhe, Germany, 29 Sept 2017.
(Photo by Ina Čiumakova)


John Kannenberg is a multimedia artist, experimental curator, writer, and researcher whose work investigates sounds as cultural objects, the frontiers and borders of digital heritage, the multisensory geography of museums, the psychology of collection, and the human experience of time. His art practice emphasises process, creating and breaking rules for the work's realisation in ways that blur the boundaries between intention and accident. His art has been presented across the globe, including appearances at Tate Modern and the White Cube gallery in London, the ZKM Medienmuseum in Karlsruhe, Cairo's 100Live electronic music festival, the Notations.nl festival in Amsterdam, the First Glance video art festival in Tripoli, the Switch ON Festival in Kuala Lumpur, and Neighborhood Public Radio's American Life project for the Whitney Biennial (duetting with Glenn Bach).

In his current role as Director and Chief Curator of The Museum of Portable Sound, John has founded an institution that exists on a solitary mobile phone to research the collection, curation, and display of sound as a museological object while critiquing conventional museum practices and music industry-imposed limitations on the digital distribution of sound. As part of the museum's Education Department he teaches Listening to Museums, a course that combines readings and on-site museum listening sessions to explore ideas of museology and sound studies in tandem. 

He has given talks as an invited speaker on the topic of the sonic experience of museums on BBC Radio 4; at London's National Gallery; the Victoria & Albert Museum; the Courtauld Institute of Art; the Royal College of Art in London; University College London's Museum Studies MA programme; Royal Holloway University of London; John Cabot University in Rome; the University of Michigan Museum Studies Program; and the University of Leicester Museum Studies Program. He was awarded the 2017 Science Museum Group Journal Writing Prize for his article about sounds as museological objects of culture.

His work as an independent curator has included exhibitions for radio, online and physical venues including the Herskovits Library of African Studies in Chicago, the ZKM Medienmuseum, the Biennale of Electronic Arts in Perth, London's ResonanceFM art radio station, the Version Festival in Chicago, and the Jean Paul Slusser Gallery at the University of Michigan, as well as a display of ancient Egyptian soundmaking objects for the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology in Ann Arbor.

As a composer, John's graphic notation work has been published in Theresa Sauer's comprehensive survey of post-Cageian graphic scores Notations 21 and performed by Manchester, UK's Chiasmus Ensemble. His drawings of the sounds inside museums have been published in Manifest Gallery's international drawing annual exhibition-in-print INDA10. Recordings of his sound works have been released by a variety of international record labels including Flaming Pines, Entr'acte, 3LEAVES, and Crouton. From 2002–2015, John served as the creator, designer, and curator of Stasisfield.com, a record label and interdisciplinary digital art space presenting works by a diverse collection of musicians and sound artists from around the globe.

 His writings concerning the philosophical and poetic connections between sound, time, memory, collection, and museums can be found at his blog, Phonomnesis


Kannenberg, J. (2017). "Towards a more sonically inclusive museum practice: a new definition of the ‘sound object’." Science Museum Group Journal. Issue 08 [online]. Awarded 2017 Science Museum Group Journal Writing Prize.

Boon, Tim; Jamieson, Annie; Kannenberg, J.; Kolkowski, Aleks; and Mansell, James (2017). "'Organising Sound: How a research network might help structure an exhibition." Science Museum Group Journal. Issue 8 [online].

Kannenberg, J. (2016). "Listening to Museums: Sound mapping towards a sonically inclusive museology." Museological Review. Issue 20 [online].

Kannenberg, J. (2016). "Why Listen to Museums?" Uniformagazine. No. 6. Devon: Colin Sackett Press.

Kannenberg, J. (2014). "Mapping the Sounds of Collections: Listening to Museums and Archives." News Quarterly, World Forum for Acoustic Ecology. Vol. 11, No. 1 [online].

Kannenberg, J. (2013). "Listening to the Active Sounds of History: field recording and museums." Sound and Vision Blog. London: British Library [online].

Media Appearances

Public Work Podcast, Brown University Center for Public Humanities and Cultural Heritage, May 2018

BBC Radio 4 Today Programme, April 2018

Artists and Friends podcast, Central Saint Martins, April 2017

Londonist.com review of Museum of Portable Sound, April 2017

Museums Journal review of Museum of Portable Sound, February 2017



Sounds as objects of culture: Exhibition strategies at the Museum of Portable Sound
Exhibiting Sounds of Changes
The Finnish Labour Museum Werstas, Tampere, Finland
11–13 June

Soundmarks as objects of curatorial care: The exhibition of audio recordings within a museological context
Art History: Undisciplined, The Courtauld Institute of Art, London
19/20 June

Listening to Culture: The Museum of Portable Sound
Science Museum Summer Research Seminar Series, London
8 May

Listening to Culture: The Museum of Portable Sound
Visiting Practitioners Series, London College of Communication
26 April

Panel Discussion with Eric de Visscher and Emily Candela
Listening to the Museum : People, Places, Objects. Aural Culture in the 21st-century Museum
The V&A, London
16 February


Intangible Culture in an Expanded Field: The Collections of Audio Interfaces & Transport at The Museum of Portable Sound
Science Museum Group Research Conference
Science + Media Museum, Bradford, UK
23 November

Intangible Industrial Heritage: The Collections of Audio Interfaces & Transport at The Museum of Portable Sound
Museums, Collections, and Industrial Heritage – International Committee for Museums and Collections of Archaeology and History Conference
Baku, Azerbaijan
5 October

Curating Sounds as Objects of Culture and Human Agency
Resonant Worlds: Sound, Art & Science – International Sound Art Curating Conference Series
ZKM Center for Art and Media, Karlsruhe, Germany
29 September

Sonic Events Native Within the Museum Soundscape
College Art Association, New York
16 February


What is the Museum of Portable Sound?
Museums Showoff
The Phoenix, London
18 October

The Museum of Portable Sound: Establishing a paleonomy of the sound object within museology
Research Week, University of Leicester Department of Museum Studies
Leicester, UK
22 June

The Museum of Portable Sound: Establishing a 21st century museum without walls, a paleonomy of the ‘sound object,’ and a case for a more sonically inclusive museology
Sound Art Matters
Aarhus University, Denmark
1 June


Listening to Museums: Sound Mapping Strategies for Visual Environments
Media and the City – European Communication Research and Education Association
24 September

Cultural Heritage in the Age of 3D Printing: Rise of the Intangible?
Arts in Society
Imperial College London
24 July

Invited Lectures


Pathways to the Past MA course
Royal Holloway
University of London
2 February


Museum Studies MA course
Institute of Archaeology
University College London
31 October

Information Experience Design MA course
Royal College of Art, London
9 June

Department of Communications
John Cabot University
Rome, Italy
10 April

The Courtauld Institute of Art, London
15 March

Tyneside Sounds Society
Shipley Art Gallery
Newcastle, UK
10 March


Points of Listening lecture series
London College of Communication
11 November


Sound Art & Performance MA course
University of Surrey – Guildford
25 March


Tyne & Wear Archives and Museums, 2017
Kendall College Art Department, 2012
So.Cal.Sonic, Long Beach, California, 2005