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Mounir Fatmi, Save Manhattan 03, 2006/2007. Architecture sonore, sound installation.

Ears Wide Shut 

By Giuseppe Gavazza

In Italian, the title for the 2007 Venice Biennale is: “Pensa con i sensi, senti con la mente.” “Think with the senses, feel with the mind.”

In everyday Italian usage, “senti” means “listen” as well as “feel,” but it seems to me that the sense of hearing is not well represented in this international landscape of contemporary art, despite the fact that Sound Art has a history and is a milestone on the main path of contemporary art.

Maybe not by chance, the soundwork I remember best from the Biennale is the good piece in the African Pavilion in the Arsenale. A skyline is projected on the white wall as the shadow of a collection of hi-fi equipment gathered on the floor. Loudspeakers, amplifier, and cd players are silent and send into the air only the shadow of a silent city; no good/bad vibrations. Years ago, under a similar skyline, on a subway’s walls, I read: “silence = death.” 

The 2007 Venice Biennale title sounds in my mind more as, “Think with the senses, listen with the mind.” Are the ears useless to the arts of our time?

Giuseppe Gavazza is a composer

who lives and works in Turin, Italy.

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