Advertisement

Tarek Atoui

Galerie Chantal Crousel, Paris, France

The gallery fills with a gusting wave of bass. I can, of course, hear it – it’s like an engine revving from the bottom of a well – but more striking is the way it feels, thrumming through my chest, neither inside nor outside but, somehow, both at once. The musician is playing something called a Sub Ink, a sub-woofer hooked up to a drawing mounted on a music stand: sounds are produced by fingers tracing the graphite marks. It is just one of a collection of unusual musical devices filling the main space at Galerie Chantal Crousel: there are also wooden tables mounted with large metal springs and screws, a laptop operated by a series of finger pads laid out like a hand, and a floor-based cockpit of differently textured textile samples, each of which is connected to a range of noises.

22_tagcc2017_performancesviews.jpg

Tarek Atoui, ‘WITHIN’, performance view, Galerie Chantal Crousel, Paris, February 18, 2017. Courtesy: the artist and Galerie Chantal Crousel, Paris; photograph: Florian Kleinefenn

This strange orchestra is part of ‘WITHIN’, an ongoing collaboration between artist Tarek Atoui and a growing number of individuals, groups and organizations. Atoui launched the project in 2012 to explore the ways that deafness can make us think differently about the experience of both sound and performance. So far, there have been iterations at Sharjah Biennale in 2013, the Berkeley Art Museum in 2015 and several institutions in Europe – most recently the Bergen Assembly in Norway last year. As part of the project’s development, Atoui has worked with the curatorial duo Council (Sandra Terdjman and Gregory Castera) as well as sound engineers, composers and groups of people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. Atoui’s aim is for these instruments to end up in a music school or educational institution. In the meantime, they are in regular use at Chantal Crousel.

6_tagcc2017_performancesviews.jpg

Tarek Atoui, ‘WITHIN’, performance view, Galerie Chantal Crousel, Paris, February 18, 2017. Courtesy: the artist and Galerie Chantal Crousel, Paris; photograph: Florian Kleinefenn 

Tarek Atoui, ‘WITHIN’, performance view, Galerie Chantal Crousel, Paris, February 18, 2017. Courtesy: the artist and Galerie Chantal Crousel, Paris; photograph: Florian Kleinefenn

 

The exhibition, which also includes five videos of the project’s previous iterations, involves a busy programme of events. Aside from the Sub Ink, the highlight of the opening performance was the playing of the Ouroboros. Taking its name from the ancient symbol of a serpent eating its own tail, the instrument is made up of two lengths of transparent tubing held horizontally in the air. The player – one of several professional musicians performing alongside Atoui – places speakers to their throat and lips before one of the tubes. By opening and closing their mouth, the player controls the Ouroboros’s sounds: the effect is soft but insistent, like a spectral calling from through the trees.

6_ta_gcc2017_view.jpg

Tarek Atoui, ‘WITHIN’, installation view, Galerie Chantal Crousel, Paris, 2017. Courtesy: the artist and Galerie Chantal Crousel, Paris; photograph: Florian Kleinefenn

Tarek Atoui, ‘WITHIN’, installation view, Galerie Chantal Crousel, Paris, 2017. Courtesy: the artist and Galerie Chantal Crousel, Paris; photograph: Florian Kleinefenn

On my second visit to the gallery, the Ouroboros had a very different effect. I arrived as Atoui was giving a lesson to a group of deaf children. One girl struggled to control the
instrument: her mouth opened and nothing came out but her determination was striking. So, too, was the way the children communicated: through touch, gesture and a constant attentiveness to the actions and intentions of one another. Sign language requires such focus. It also requires clear sightlines, as Atoui explained, citing pioneering deaf architect Jeffrey Mansfield, in an excellent interview in the exhibition booklet.

Watching the children, it became clear that Atoui’s strange instruments are less geared towards a performance for an audience than towards facilitating a process of discovery. This involves a different conception of play and of sound: not only heard from afar but felt as a texture at the fingertips or a humming through the chest. As an onlooker, it’s hard not to feel left out, but this only reinforces Atoui’s premise: that there are limits to both sight and sound, limits at which each sense blurs, often unnoticed, into something else entirely.

Tom Jeffreys is a writer based in Edinburgh, Scotland. His first book, Signal Failure: London to Birmingham, HS2 on Foot, was published by Influx Press in April 2017.

Issue 187

First published in Issue 187

May 2017
Advertisement

Most Read

Why does the ‘men’s rights’ guru to the alt-right surround himself with Soviet-era memorabilia, which he doesn’t even...
Alongside a centuries-old collection of Old Masters, Delftware and Chinoiserie, the Devonshires continue to commission...
In a Victorian-era baths in Glasgow, the artist stages her largest performance project to date, featuring a 24-woman...
In further news: UK class gap impacting young people’s engagement with the arts; Uffizi goes digital; British Museum...
Italian politicians want to censor the artist’s poster for a sailing event, which reads ‘We’re all in the same boat’
A newly-published collection of the artist’s journals allows silenced voices to speak
The arrest of the photojournalist for ‘provocative comments’ over Dhaka protests makes clear that personal liberty...
The auction house insists that there is a broad scholarly consensus that the record-breaking artwork be attributed to...
‘We need more advocates across gender lines and emphatic leaders in museums and galleries to create inclusive,...
In further news: artists rally behind detained photographer Shahidul Alam; crisis talks at London museums following...
Criticism of the show at the Hungarian National Gallery in Budapest comes alongside a nationalist reshaping of the...
A retrospective at Munich’s Museum Brandhorst charts the artist’s career from the 1980s to the present, from ‘fem-trash...
At the National Theatre of Wales, a performance alive with wild, tactile descriptions compels comparison between the...
There are perils in deploying bigotry to score political points, but meanings also shift from West to East
‘It’s ridiculous. It’s Picasso’: social media platform to review nudity policy after blocking Montreal Museum of Fine...
The first public exhibition of a 15th-century altar-hanging prompts the question: who made it?
Poland’s feminist ‘Bison Ladies’ storm the Japanese artist’s Warsaw exhibition in solidarity with longtime model Kaori’...
An art historian and leading Leonardo expert has cast doubt on the painting’s attribution
How will the Black Panther writer, known for his landmark critical assessments of race, take on the quintessential...
The dissident artist has posted a series of videos on Instagram documenting diggers demolishing his studio in the...
In further news: artists for Planned Parenthood; US court rules on Nazi-looted Cranachs; Munich’s Haus der Kunst...
A mother’s death, a father’s disinterest: Jean Frémon’s semi-factual biography of the artist captures a life beyond...
Jostling with its loud festival neighbours, the UK’s best attended annual visual art festival conducts a polyphonic...
It’s not clear who destroyed the project – part of the Liverpool Biennial – which names those who have died trying to...
Dating from 1949 to the early 1960s, the works which grace the stately home feel comfortable in the ostentatious pomp...
Nods to the game in World Cup celebrations show how dance has gone viral – but unwittingly instrumentalized for...

On View

Latest Magazines

frieze magazine

April 2018

frieze magazine

May 2018

frieze magazine

June - August 2018