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).
To make these drawings Fusinato chose a point on the page and then ruled a line from every note in the composition back to that point. This ongoing series, initiated in 2007, is founded—literally overlaid—on the scores of pioneering avant-garde composers. In the works on view here, Fusinato has drawn on a score penned by the Greek composer Iannis Xenakis (1922–2001), whose groundbreaking post–World War II works were deeply informed by mathematical and architectural logic, and, later, by computer programming. Xenakis worked for more than a decade in the studio of the architect Le Corbusier, and he often composed with an existing architectural site in mind. Here Fusinato has used Xenakis's score in the same way—as a pre-existing space.
This drawing and others in the artist's Mass Black Implosion series have an immense gravitational density, which seems to suggest that all the notes should be played at once. Fusinato's intervention thus shifts the scores away from Xenakis's original intention, collapsing linear/durational performance into simultaneity.