19 March 2022

Responses from An Archaeology of Sound study group

Part of Coming to Know

Starts 3:00 pm

Ends 6:00 pm

Venue Alserkal Arts Foundation

Warehouse 50/51

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The An Archaeology of Sound study group met over three weeks in the autumn of 2022 with Nida Ghouse. Drawing on their individual practices, four participants will present responses to the exhibition A Slightly Curving Place and Coming to Know programme.


Participating in the intense An Archeology of Sound study group led by curator Nida Ghouse last fall generated reverberations crossing multiple fields, from acoustic archeology to ethnomusicological field recordings, from dance performance to conveying music and the experiences of sound through the audio and visuals of film. This was but the prelude for the exhibition ‘A Slightly Curving Place’ which brought the objects, recordings, photographs, videos, films and other related materials to Concrete in Alserkal Avenue, allowing the study group to experience the phenomena they had studied, now as a live experience within their own time and space. To finally hear and see what initially was studied silently or in mannered discussions generated visceral reverberations, in a sort of sounding of the object. In addition to generating an audio resonance within exhibition spaces, this also generated resonances of different meanings for these sounds, practices and spaces. It was this deep reverberation which made me return to my earlier fascination with how a genre of Indian paintings could be related to the actual performance of Indian musical modes – can we sound those images? When viewing Ragamala paintings, can we hear their resonance?

Woodman Taylor is an educator, curator and musician whose practices negotiate across multiple cultural spheres. While growing up in India, he learned Western classical music, playing with the Calcutta Symphony Orchestra, later learning Hindustani classical music on bansuri, the North Indian bamboo flute. Woodman continued studies in multiple musical systems at Wesleyan University, including learning South Indian flute from T. Viswanathan. After working as a curator of South Asian and Islamic Art at the Harvard Art Museums, Woodman’s interests turned to Art History, ultimately receiving a PhD from the University of Chicago. Given Woodman’s interest in both Indian music and art, he has long researched Ragamala painting, a unique genre of paintings that visualize ragas, Indian musical modes. When curator of South Asian and Islamic Art at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, he organized the exhibition Resounding Ragas: Paintings and Musical Memory in India addressing relationships between paintings, musical memory and performance practices. Dr. Taylor has taught at the University of Chicago, the University of Illinois, Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, the American University in Dubai and currently teaches at Zayed University as Professor of Art History.

What becomes of listening to the space of sound vs listening to the space of performance?

A layered, call-and-response conversation between Himanshu Kadam, who trained as an archaeologist, and Tania Ursomarzo, a spatial thinker and designer.

Himanshu Kadam is the curator for Programmes and operations manager at the Ishara Art Foundation in Dubai, UAE. He was previously the Curator for Exhibitions and Collections at the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum in Mumbai, India (2010-2021). He holds a master's degree in Archaeology from the University of Durham, UK (2009) and a Bachelor's degree in Heritage Management from the University of Mumbai, India (2007). He has been awarded many fellowships from various institutions/organisations including: the University of Durham South Asia Archaeology (2007); Diversify Fellowship from the Museums Association, UK (2009); The British Council & Bonita Trust fellowship for Museum Leadership Programme at the Victoria and Albert Museum (London) (2012); International Visitor Programme, Museum Abteiberg and NRW Kultur International, Germany (2014); The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)’s the International Curatorial Institute for Modern and Contemporary Art fellowship in collaboration with the Center for Curatorial Leadership (New York) (2016). He has co-authored an upcoming book, Mumbai: A City Through Objects: 101 Stories from the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum (2022).

Tania Ursomarzo is an architect by formal training and a multi-disciplinary designer by practice. She is currently an Assistant Professor at the American University of Sharjah where she teaches across the disciplines of Architecture and Interior Design. Ursomarzo’s research-based, inter-disciplinary approach to creative practice is immersed somewhere between architecture, design, fashion, and art. Her creative work centers on the design and construction of space and objects in response to the body and the intersection of analogue and digital technologies. She is the founder and creative director of ETCETERAcreative, and her work has been exhibited, screened, performed, published, built, and received awards in Canada, the United States, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

A Sentence with the Word Mirror in It

Can one space be put inside another? Can you be in open air but have your ears tell you you’re in a cave? A Sentence with the Word Mirror in It; an audiovisual live set incorporating video, granular synthesis, and text; extends these questions — which appear in the A Slightly Curving Place curatorial text, Exhibition as Technology— in contemplation of the shifting material substrates of pictorial space; and listens, in turn, to the places they simulate, while framing insinuations of the elsewhere within the here-and-now as polyphonic.

Isaac Sullivan (b. 1980, US) is a Dubai-based artist whose research interests include artificial intelligence, sound art, and the problematics of space and place. His recent exhibitions and performances – which include Kulturforum, Berlin; 8th Tashkent Biennale; and ECC's 58th Venice Biennale collateral – explore spatial and temporal forms of latency through video, installation, and sonic intervention. Sullivan is currently Assistant Professor of Visual Arts at Zayed University, Dubai.

Listening Over Time

In this 30-minute performance, a soundscape will be played based on field recordings from specific locations in Dubai and Sharjah recorded in a central spot at varying times of the day. Here Zeina attempts to assess how sound can be an acoustic mode of witnessing by envisioning interactions in a specific landscape and its evolution according to time. The recordings are looped and deconstructed with experimental electronic beats enabling listeners to dictate what is artificial and present. These two forms of sound are interrogated and combined to emit a distorted listening experience questioning the role of hearing as a practice of mirroring and transforming the identity of a place.

Zeina Abedarbo is based in Dubai. She has an Art History degree from the University of Brighton and worked in several art institutions in the country with a keen interest in moving image and sound as a disruptive and, at times, a personal mediative contemporary practice. Currently, she holds the title of having an 'undefined practice' composed of random obsessions she cultivates in her home studio.