Till you enter the sparkling white structure that’s the new Khoj art studio in Khirki village, sound has a very different meaning. There’s the tring-tring of cycles and whirring of two-wheelers and clanking of kabadiwallahs and crude calls from kids and their parents in the busy bylanes. A step inside the French-like fantasy of the art oasis that sits silent there, and it’s unbelievable you’re in the same neighbourhood. That’s where noise stops, and the sound workshop starts. Five artists from different parts of the world — South Africa, China, Italy and India — spent two months soaking up every note they heard in the air, created sound-art exhibits from them, and are today treating willing listeners to an otherwise less enjoyed gift of the senses. There’s the cheer of a circus meeting cycle-songs sung by scrap, holy chanting in harmony, and even art that emerges as you walk on a sound-sensitive floor.
Cycle songs and roaches
Of the five artists at the residency, Rudi Punzo, an Italian, seems the most curiosity-friendly. He patiently shows about his raw material, all scrap — an old cycle, discarded CDs, pipes and parts — collected from dealers closeby. “It’s junk, but it creates beautiful sound,” he says, passing on the headphones. He turns his cycle-inspired installation — Aurora Borealis — around a bit, and an unlikely soft tune washes over you. He describes it as “the discovering of such a place as New and Old Delhi”. There’s also a zoo of electronic and photovoltaic ‘roaches’ and ‘cicadas’ he keeps, and they swirl and sing in a semi-automatic orchestra.
Malose Malahlela is on a beer break when we get there. Both he and his instruments like to breathe easy. “Sound requires a medium to propagate, generally it’s air. In my culture, Sepedi, there’s a wind instrument, a copper pipe, blown in one hole, and the wind output controlled using thumb rhythms at the other end,” says the South African artist, showing his string-board inspired from the many Indian instruments that work on the same principle. “Indian instruments are flawless in design and sound. My artistic process was to dislocate them in the context they were designed in, and contextualise them to produce unintended sound.” So, he has installed them just below the surface of the ground, and visitors create his art as they walk on it.
Sounds in the dark
It’s not so cold, but Abhijeet Tambe is wrapped warm, monkey cap and all. He’s resting and turns reluctantly before opening up about his work — an all-sound, no-visual exhibit. He plays with a lot of electronic sound technology, and his piece will be to make listeners experience and play around with his mixes in a pitch dark room, “except for one light pop here and they to tell them that the track has changed.” But won’t the cynics write that off as “DJ-type stuff”? “They don’t see how potent sound is, as a medium of art. “When the lights will go off, they’ll see,” he says.
Making a circus of it
Priya Sen shifts uncomfortably at the click of the shutter. She hesitates a bit and asks if it’s okay that we don’t print her picture. It’s about the ear, so no issues, all sound. She says she does not know where to begin and what to show, except the sounds and sights she has captured from wherever she has been in the world. “I’m trying to combine the spectacle of the two... like the circus ... its different acts will play visually on four surrounding walls, and the sounds — of trapeze, the drums, the elephant, the whip — will pop up from different places. I’m using these wireless sensors and headphones to make it happen.”
Tape for Delhi
Chi-Wei Lin is busy sticking a tape of Chinese syllables across the wall of his sound workshop (see below). That’s his interactive installation. They are characters which when uttered continuously and in unison, create a spiritual melody, a holy note, he says. But he can’t do it for us, not even once. “I can’t. I don’t know how it will turn out to be, why don’t you say it.” So we do. They resemble chants from a monastery, and he’s happy. “See, it’s different, the way one person says it, the way two people say it, each one says it differently, it’s a different sound and still so harmonious,” he explains.
The art of aural
What: Exhibition Auditions: Sound Residency
Timings: 11am to 7pm
Where: New building, Khoj Studios, Khirki Village
Nearest metro station: Malviya Nagar on Yellow Line