Lawrence English invites us to consider our understandings of place and the body by drawing attention to our ears – the act, sense and power of ‘audition’ – and how we might come to know the world through listening. Proximities, 2024, tests this by means of a sound object, in the form of a 712-kg bronze bell. In collaboration with bellfounder Anton Hassell, English has created the bell using a technique that eliminates the minor third tone, a trademark of old-world European bells, in favour of an equal temperament tuning, pioneered by Hassell to produce a harmonically pure and uniquely Australian timbre. It is presented in the Elder Wing sharing space with James Oatley’s Longcase clock, 1820, an example of craftsmanship from the early years of Colonial Australia. It is rung daily throughout the exhibition as a companion form of timekeeping.

Apart from its use as a marker of time, locality, worship and labour, the bell has played a role in long-distance communication and as a warning signal. Proximities engages these multiple functions and interests to consider how sound operates within cities more broadly and how it might once again become a unifying agent. During the opening weekend of Inner Sanctum, it is the centrepiece for a series of public activations, in which multiple bell towers and handbells are utilised to create connections between bodies and locations across Adelaide. These events feature local participants, including members of the Adelaide Bellringers and the public, who are invited to collectively create a ‘sounding event’.