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27.09.18 - 16.12.18

We cordially invite you to the opening of the exhibition on Thursday September, 27th between 7pm and 9pm

“Silence itself […] is less the absolute limit of discourse, the other side from which it is separated by a strict boundary, than an element that functions alongside the things said, with them and in relation to them within over-all strategies. […]

There is not one but many silences…”

Michel Foucault

Latitude: N 38° 34.5896'. Longitude: E 128° 22.9731'.

At the end of August 2017 Berlin-based Nik Nowak was part of a delegation of international artists invited to participate in a purported programme of fostering ‘cultural exchange’ with North Korean counterparts at the University of Fine Arts, Pyongyang. It was an encounter that was to coincide, and be intensified by the belligerent posturing volleyed between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un and the escalation of geopolitical tensions in the region, reaching its ground-shaking apogee in North Korea’s testing of its latest nuclear capabilities. Against this backdrop, Nowak attempted to realise his conception of aSymphony of Silence, a project that was to be redolent, but yet an inversion, of the Cold War’s war of decibels that had, using the latest mobile and sound technologies of the day, engaged in the retaliatory launching of competing ideological sonic salvos across the newly-constructed Berlin Wall. Proffering a motif of silence, Nowak envisaged the creation of a temporary vacuole of no-sound, or anti-sound, in the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea (DMZ), as an interruption of the propagandistic sonic militarism of each side. By using their respective confrontational sound system installations to play an identical but phase-inverted sound, with the purpose of letting the sine waves cancel each other out thus creating an active silence, the artist sought to question the potential of the absence of sound to be non-ideological. Continually negotiating with a litany of intractable officials, at both State and university levels, in a highly regimented, sonically regulated society, his attempts at every turn were thwarted, silence being regarded by the North Korean apparatchiks as an unacceptable provocation suggestive of a surrender and running counter to their revolutionary struggle to reunify the two Koreas “with one single voice”. The main featured short film No Silence for the Great Leader (2018) documents the artist’s observations and challenges during this project.

WhilstSymphony of Silence remained unrealised—an ostensible silencing—in a compensatory gesture, Nowak was permitted by the North Korean functionaries (although not without further restrictions) to play his un-sound soundscapeInfra Ultra (2017) on a portable loudspeaker in the public space of the Pyongyang riverside – the first Western fine artist ever to do so. Recorded in the naturally inaudible frequency spectrum over 20KHz and below 20Hz, where it is capable of producing neuro-affects or physiological resonances, of modulating both thought and the body,Infra Ultra captures, and then denaturalises, those dimensions and frequencies of nature and the built environment’s that escape human audibility—the fissuring and melting of 1000-year old ice; electro-magnetic atmospheric pressure; the physiologically eerie infrasound of wind turbines; the nocturnal chorus of bats darting at moths—rendering them accessible through the technologising of nature to circumvent the perceptual apparatus of the normal limits of the human sensorium and to illuminate a hidden parallel reality.

Known primarily for his series of large-scale mobile sound system sculptures including Panzer (2011), Echodrohen (2014) Sentinnel (2018, launch forthcoming) which have earned him worldwide recognition, Nik Nowak is a German artist, curator and musician whose interdisciplinary artistic projects are concerned with the wider cultural, political and neuro-affective nuances of the sonic ambiguities and acoustic weaponry inherent in the attraction-repulsion nexus of sound.

Jessica Edwards

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