Infinite Ear. Exhibition guide

Garage has published a guide in Russian and English specially for the exhibition Infinite Ear.

The twentieth-century museum was constructed based on the misleading idea that some people are able to perceive, move, think, and feel more than others. From this perspective, a museum accessible to all implies that “disabled” visitors need specific mediation to reach this norm. Let’s imagine a museum based on the idea that there are many ways to be “differently abled” and therefore many ways to perceive an art work. A museum where time, space, and the experience of an art work would take into account our various sensing and neuronal conditions. Infinite Ear would like to contribute to this future institution by considering the many forms of deafness as abilities to hear. What did Beethoven actually hear when writing his Ninth Symphony, given that he was almost completely deaf? Do hearing people all hear the same sound when this symphony is played? Can anyone access the totality of an art work, and do we need to have such access to be moved by it?

Infinite Ear has been developed for Garage as a performative exhibition where different modes of hearing—tactile, visual, and imaginary, among others—are harmoniously dissonant. Constructed around three ensembles of works, the exhibition is a space to experiment, understand, and feel sound in a radically different way.

Tarek Atoui’s collection of instruments WITHIN was conceived during a long-term process of learning from deaf culture. The design of the instruments and their playability are the result of workshops and residencies in which Atoui worked with deaf and hearing people, acoustic instrument makers, speaker designers, software engineers, and composers. When left unplayed the instruments in the exhibition seem mute, but they produce imperceptible sounds that can be heard or felt by those approaching them. At the opening and closing of the exhibition, the instruments are played live by a group of amateurs and professionals hearing and deaf musicians. Through WITHIN, Atoui challenges the ways in which deafness can influence our understanding and appreciation of sound’s performance, its space, and its instrumentation.

Sound is also the main character of Alison O’Daniel’s practice. People’s relationship with noise, collaborations with deaf and hard of hearing performers, listening, and reimagining the function of a soundtrack all inform her sculptures and the process of building a script and editing her films. Musicians and concerts are recurring figures in her film The Tuba Thieves and sound is shifted away from the ears into visual clues in her three sculptures Line of Sight, The Audiologist’s Poem, and Nyke and the New York Kite Enthusiasts in Santa Monica. The Tuba Thieves is a film that takes inspiration from and considers deaf and hard of hearing people’s experiences with sound, which include hypersensitivity toward social norms, variations around volume, heightening of other senses, invention of languages, delays in comprehension, frustration, disorientation, humor, and misinterpretation. As someone who is hard of hearing and grew up in the hearing world, O’Daniel’s practice aims to honor everyone’s relationship to sound. Anyone can access her work, but always partially, and that part differs according to the visitor’s way of hearing.

The third ensemble, A (Mis)reader's Guide to Listening, is a specific mediation conceived for all visitors to the exhibition. Developed by Lendl Barcelos, Valentina Desideri, and Myriam Lefkowitz, the work is a fluid combination of artistic, therapeutic, musical, conceptual, esoteric, and poetic practices. It was conceived as the result of a collaborative workshop with mediators who have various relationships to the body, sound, and deafness. Placed at the intersection of different fields of knowledge, A (Mis)reader’s Guide to Listening reveals how the visitor’s body participates in the interpretation of a work, and proposes other ways of sensing that may expand the work’s interpretation within and beyond the exhibition space.

Visitors will end their journey with personal testimonies. Designed by Goda Budvytytė, Infinite Ear: Portraits is a collection of stories of individuals who have experienced a transformation in their perception of sound, a transformation that has affected their hearing ability or that has prompted a new relationship to sound. In the exhibition space visitors can find printed stories of a survivor of torture, an artist who became deaf at an early age, a museum inclusive program manager, a writer who had to adapt to having a cochlear implant, and a psychic who can hear the dead. These stories have been gathered and retold by sound artist Lawrence Abu Hamdan, writer Louise Stern, deafhood specialist Mara Mills, writer and performer Sophie Woolley, and philosopher Vinciane Despret.

Council (Grégory Castéra and Sandra Terdjman)