The Shape of Sound

Exhibition: The Shape of Sound
September 21-October 19, 1996

Curators: Jeanette Ingberman, Paop Colo, Ben Neill

Visual Artists: Lynda Abraham, David Hatchett, Justin Ladda, Jaron Lanier, David Lewis and Paul Lewis, Charlie Morrow, Warren Neidich, Ursula von Rydingsvard, Lynn Sullivan and Wieland Bauder, Jorge Tacia

Sound Artists: MultiPolyOmni and Brian Eno (September 21-28), Byzar and David First (October 1-5), DJ Spooky/Cultural Alchemy and Nicolas Collins/Robert Poss (October 8-12), The Infant Reader and Antenna Tool & Die Co. (October 15-19)

Note: The information on this page is reproduced from the official event flyer.

The Shape of Sound is a month-long, interactive presentation of performances and installations by sound and visual artists. The dynamic exhibition/performance event studies the blurring of distinctions between mediums which has been made possible by new technologies and new sensibilities. Conceived by curators Jeanette Ingberman and Papo Colo, co-founders of Exit Art/The First World, and Ben Neill, a composer and musician, The Shape of Sound provides a forum for ambient sound artists to present their work in an environment created by a group of visual artists. One of the main features is the interaction between the performances and the installations, between musicians and visual artists. The purpose of The Shape of Sound is to comprehend the different experiences of sound and music in common life, and the different ways artists and musicians fashion these experiences.

The 1990s are bringing about definitively new approaches to the production and dissemination of music and sonic art which are questioning many of the most fundamental aspects of musical creation and performance. Fueled by the proliferation of electronic technology and the exhaustion of many cultural paradigms, the new sensibility is characterized by the dissolution of boundaries on all levels, both in the formation and presentation of the work. Sound and visual media are being employed to create new, dynamic environments in which an audience actively defines its relationship to the art at any given moment. This type of multi-sensorial, immersive experience is often described as "ambient," a term Brian Eno coined in the early 1970s to describe his own music. The aesthetic emphasis in all of this work is the fluid integration of wide-ranging elements, rather than juxtaposition and contrast.

Each week for four weeks, two different musicians or collectives will create sonic environments for the space, one artist or group per gallery. The sound artists are also invited to act as curators/hosts in order to create their interpretations of the ambient aesthetic. The Shape of Sound will include the New York premiere of Brian Eno's new "Generative Music" computer music system, as well as installation/performance works by MultiPolyOmni, Byzar, David First, DJ Spooky with Cultural Alchemy, Nicolas Collins/Robert Poss, The Infant Reader, and Antenna Tool & Die Co. Many of the sound artists will also include visual elements in their presentations. Over the period of the week they will combine recorded sound, music, and live performances, making Exit Art/The First World a laboratory for new ambient explorations -- a kind of urban, interactive and evolving sound environment.

The visual artists, spanning a gamut of sculptors, designers and conceptual artists, will create environments in which the public can listen to music -- by sitting, standing, leaning, reclining, etc. The visual interpretations of these environments will range freely from the concrete to the conceptual, from the pleasure of listening to music to the necessity of the comfort of the body to listen to music.

This presentation is a study of the environmental relationship of art, music, performance and design. How do organized sounds, ie., music, belong in the same structure as organized forms, which is art? What is it that we imagine when we listen to music, what is the visuality of organized sound? How does music affect our moods? What materials do artists and musicians manipulate to express this environment? How does design (lighting, spatial, acoustic) affect the ways we enjoy music? The relationship between mediums -- the translation from the intangible to the tangible -- becomes the purpose of the show. The experience of sound becomes design and the experience of design transforms into performance. One of our goals is to offer the public an individual and collective experience of the ways sound affects us -- a chance to explore the relationship between sound, environment and leisure time. Entering the space, the visitor becomes an actor in a transient, ambient theater event. Shape of Sound flyer

The Shape of Sound is funded by The Bohen Foundation, Joel Bluestein, Heathcote Art Foundation, Jerome Foundation, Joyce Mertz-Gilmore Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, New York State Council on the Arts, the Peter Norton Family Foundation, and the members of Exit Art/The First World.

Exit Art/The First World is located at 548 Broadway, New York, NY 10012 (212) 966-7745.