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"Music while We Work" (2011) by Hong-Kai Wang exhibited in MoMA

  • Date:2013-08-05

Soundings: A Contemporary Score @ MoMA, NYC
August 10–November 3, 2013

The Museum of Modern Art presents Soundings: A Contemporary Score, the first group exhibition at MoMA to single out sound as a form of artistic expression, and one of the first of its kind in New York. The exhibition is on view from August 10 to November 3, 2013, in the third-floor Special Exhibitions Gallery and other locations around the Museum.

Soundings features the work of 16 contemporary artists working with sound, from the United States, Uruguay, Norway, Denmark, England, Scotland, Germany, Australia, Japan, and Taiwan. With a broad understanding of art, architecture, performance, telecommunications, philosophy, and music, these artists move comfortably among mediums, while listening and hearing remain central to their practice. Soundings is organized by Barbara London, Associate Curator, with Leora Morinis, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Media and Performance Art, MoMA.

At a time when the experience of sound is increasingly private—delivered through earbuds and headphones—Soundings is a communal exploration of how and what we hear, and what we might make of it. Sound art, still a relatively undefined territory, satisfies artists’ urge to pioneer new forms. They inventively link sound both to the other human senses and to a variety of rich metaphysical and philosophical projects, and their works run the gamut from immersive tuned environments to sound-emitting objects to conceptual schematics on paper. The works include architectural interventions, visualizations of otherwise inaudible sound, an exploration of how sound ricochets within a gallery, and a range of field recordings of everything from bats to abandoned buildings in Chernobyl to 59 bells in New York City to a factory in Taiwan.

For Music while We Work (2011), Hong-Kai Wang (Taiwanese, b. 1971) assembled a group of retired workers from a Taiwanese sugar refinery. She and her collaborator, Chen Bo-We, led a series of recording workshops for the retirees and their spouses. They then returned to the factory, where Wang asked them to “paint a world composed by their listening.” The video installation is a document both of their collective learning process and of the resulting compositions.