Soundings: A Contemporary Score
August 10–November 3, 2013
MoMA's first major exhibition of sound art presents work by 16 of the most innovative contemporary artists working with sound. While these artists approach sound from a variety of disciplinary angles—the visual arts, architecture, performance, computer programming, and music—they share an interest in working with, rather than against or independent of, material realities and environments. These artistic responses range from architectural interventions, to visualizations of otherwise inaudible sound, to an exploration of how sound ricochets within a gallery, to a range of field recordings—including echolocating bats, abandoned buildings in Chernobyl, 59 bells in New York City, and a sugar factory in Taiwan.
The diversity of these works reflects a complex and nuanced field. Yet the exhibition posits something specific: that how we listen determines what we hear. Indeed, the works provoke and evoke—both in the maker and the museumgoer—modes of active listening, and a heightened relationship between interior and exterior space. At a time when personal listening devices and tailored playlists have become ubiquitous, shared aural spaces are increasingly rare. Many of the artists in the exhibition aim for such realities, and the sound they create is decidedly social, immersing visitors and connecting them in space. In many of the works, links are drawn between disparate topographies and subjects, giving rise to new understanding and experiences.
The artists in the exhibition are Luke Fowler (Scottish, b. 1978), Toshiya Tsunoda (Japanese, b. 1964), Marco Fusinato (Australian, b. 1964), Richard Garet (Uruguayan, b. 1972), Florian Hecker (German, b. 1975), Christine Sun Kim (American, b. 1980), Jacob Kirkegaard (Danish, b. 1975), Haroon Mirza (British, b. 1977), Carsten Nicolai (German, b. 1965), Camille Norment (American, b. 1970), Tristan Perich (American, b. 1982), Susan Philipsz (Scottish, b. 1965), Sergei Tcherepnin (American, b. 1981), Hong-Kai Wang (Taiwanese, b. 1971), Jana Winderen (Norwegian, b. 1965), and Stephen Vitiello (American, b. 1964).
Garet’s work takes many shapes, from sculptural installations to digital projections to live performances. Before Me fits into the first and last categories: it is a sculptural assemblage of outmoded technologies, and the spinning marble amounts to a live performance of sorts. The work’s centerpiece is an old LP record player with its platter upside down and revolving at 33 ½ revolutions per minute. The marble at the upturned edge can advance only slightly before its momentum is overridden and it rolls back to its starting point. This action continues endlessly, suggesting the plight of Sisyphus, a king in Greek mythology who was compelled to push a boulder up a mountain only to have it repeatedly fall back to the mountain’s base. Garet explores what is often considered background noise, and here the background (the platter on which a record is typically placed for playing) is central to the piece, the director of the marble’s fate.
Words from the artist:
Installation: Two iPods – Each playback device activates a sound exciter that is attached to the neck of one electric guitar, consequently vibrating the strings and generating a field of harmonics and overtones in real time.
iPod #1: Top Hot 10 songs of the Billboard, Week of July 17, 2010
iPod #2: 10 most popular YouTube videos with combat footage of the Iraq and Afghanistan war, Week of July 17, 2010