NY exhibition asks what creation of world sounded like

Source:AFP Published: 2017/6/18 17:18:39

When the universe came into being, what did it sound like?

The question underlies an inventive and challenging new exhibition in New York that explores the fundamentals of sound and how they relate to the quest to understand the self and the cosmos.

The Rubin Museum of Art, the 13-year-old institution devoted to India and the Himalayas, shakes off the visual bias of most exhibitions.

Instead, visitors to The World Is Sound, which opened Friday and runs until January 8, enter with their ears.

While the exhibition showcases visual artifacts, such as an 18th-century trumpet made of human leg-bone played in Tibetan funerals, the focus is on sound, which can be felt powerfully by putting on headphones, touching wall panels or even walking a spiraling six-floor staircase.

Outer space is silent, with no air to carry the vibrations that cause sound. But the exhibition asks artists to imagine the sound heard in the vibrations from the Big Bang, the sudden expansion of matter considered by astrophysicists to mark the birth of the universe.

C. Spencer Yeh, the Taiwan-born artist who leads the section, imagined a trio of 45 diverse and shifting computerized voices that say the letters "A," "U" and "M," which merge continuously together.

New York-born artist Samita Sinha's work builds off a recitation of the Hindi alphabet. Another piece, by artist Jules Gimbrone, records and re-records a reciting of a text through a 1.2-meter vessel of salt water until the voice is unrecognizable.

Yeh said he gave loose guidelines to the artists on imagining the sound of creation. Still, he was struck that almost all of the artists chose to use the human voice.

The exhibition also offers introductions into late experimental composer Pauline Oliveros's concept of "deep listening," which involves fully letting go to take in the sound of the environment.

Posted in: ART

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