Exhibit explores ways to listen to the sound of artwork

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Exhibit explores ways to listen to the sound of artwork


“Fantome” by Matt Coco is an abstract portrayal of the 2011 tsunami in Fukushima, Japan. [JAMES GIROUDON]

In Lewis Carroll’s book “Through the Looking-Glass” (1871), Alice walks into a mirror to encounter a world she had never seen before. Evocative of the book, an exhibition under the name “Through the Listening Glass” has arrived at Total Museum of Contemporary Art in Jongno District, central Seoul. In celebration of the 2015-6 Year of Korea-France Bilateral Exchanges, the museum invites 12 pieces from Grame National Center for Musical Creation in Lyon, France. In the artworks, a total of nine artists deliver sound through reflections of images and “transparency,” the exhibition’s theme. Each piece introduces visitors to new ways of listening, and some even enable them to create sound for themselves.

The compelling display kicks off with “Fantome” by Matt Coco, a piece with two layers of thin paper drawing curvy waves with white plaster pieces lying under them. Explained by the artist as an abstract portrayal of the 2011 tsunami in Fukushima, Japan, the holes on the paper depict the damaged land. Coco created this by extracting identical colors from a photo taken at Fukushima and cutting them out. The plaster pieces are in the form of crushed bowls and bottles, seemingly the debris left behind by the tsunami. Though the piece does not make a sound, the silence of the structures recalls the eerie quiet after a disaster.

“‘Through the Listening Glass’ is a sound exhibition where silence has its share,” said curator James Giroudon. “This may seem paradoxical. But as you know, John Cage gave silence a major role in his musical compositions, and to music in general.”

Iuan-Hau Chiang welcomes us with a piece emitting a vibrant energy called, “Time. Passing Through. Travel.” For Chiang, light isn’t just what gives objects color and brightens up darkness. With the advent of new technology, light has become an important medium for communication. In other words, humans are connected through light.


“Time. Passing Through. Travel.” by Iuan-Hau Chiang has visitors think about light’s influence on their lives. [PASCAL CHANTIER]

Chiang explains this relationship with 30 transparent rectangular cases holding white lightbulbs. The lights flicker as vibrant city sounds accompany them, ranging from cars horns, police sirens, radio broadcasts, to ring ing cellphones and more. But as the lights turn on and off more frequently, all of a sudden, the speakers cease to make sound and the room turns completely dark. For a few moments of silence, visitors get to feel as though they’re standing alone in a sleeping city, thinking about the role and influence of light.

Visitors may also create sounds through “GreenSounds,” a piece by Pierre Alain Jaffrennou. This piece is unique as visitors are not just spectators, but creators. The room is filled with sounds from gardens and parks, but the “GreenSounds” mobile application makes this only the background music for what’s to come. Through the app, visitors may add more sounds or remove them, and control the tonality of each added sound by tilting their phone.

The exhibition runs through until Oct. 23 at Total Museum of Contemporary Art. It opens from 12 a.m. and closes at 6 p.m. The museum is closed on Mondays. Ticket cost is 5,000 won ($4.45) for adults and 3,000 won for students and children. For more information, call (02) 379-7037 or visit www.totalmuseum.org.

BY SHON JI-HYE [shon.jihye@joongang.co.kr]
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