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Sound artist and composer Tarek Atoui opens exhibition at NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore
Tarek with hosts. Courtesy NTU CCA Singapore.

SINGAPORE.- NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore is presenting the first solo exhibition in Southeast Asia by sound artist and composer Tarek Atoui, conceived as a composition that unfolds in space with its unique sound library and instruments. It is the first large-scale exhibition that Atoui has created through interweaving objects, instruments, and recordings, some borrowed from pre-existing projects, others newly collected and produced.

The Ground: From the Land to the Sea comprises two layers of auditory experiences that interact with each other as well as with the spatial and sonic qualities of NTU CCA Singapore’s exhibition hall, merging them into a single composition. Enveloping the main exhibition space are a set of speakers that play the sounds of underwater environments as well as human and industrial activities in the harbours of Athens and Abu Dhabi, recorded for the project I/E (2015–ongoing). Building upon the sound collection, Atoui has, as part of this presentation in Singapore, recorded at local harbours and waterfronts, together with composer and sound artist Éric La Casa.

The recording process in Singapore took Atoui and La Casa to a range of waterfront sites and islands including the Jurong Fishery Port, Pulau Sebarok (an oil storage facility and refuelling port off the Southern coastline), on an oil tanker, and along the Singapore shores. During these trips, the duo picked out acoustic features of these environs, both underwater and on land, and captured them in their diverse forms—as vibrations, audible noise, and inaudible audio waves, etc.—using devices such as a recorder, a hydrophone, contact microphones, and self-made omnidirectional microphones. Drawing reference to the emergence of acoustic ecology, which attempts to understand and analyse characteristics of sonic environments such as geological formations, organisms, and human interactions, Atoui’s auditory library is an artistic interpretation of the ecology of our times. Set within a “white cube,” the audience is transposed into an immersive audio-visual topography, becoming part of the installation.

Most of the instruments shown are part of The Ground project, the result of the artist’s five-year-long investigation of natural cycles in the Pearl River Delta, first presented at Mirrored Gardens, a project space in Guangzhou, China, in 2017. Also presented are instruments created for previous projects, such as The Reverse Collection (2014–16) and WITHIN (2012–13). This ensemble of unusual instruments is enriched with new additions, including a set of porcelain and ceramic discs, on which traditional Arabic rhythms are engraved, and a customised record player that rotates at irregular speeds, never reading a disc the same way twice.

At the core of Atoui’s practice lies an ongoing process of inviting composers, musicians, and artists to collaborate on his pieces in search of new ideas, gestures, and experiences. For the current exhibition, Atoui will engage with local and international musicians who will be invited to appropriate his composition and intervene in the exhibition space. He will work with acclaimed sound artists and musicians Vivian Wang and Yuen Chee Wai, as well as music curator Mark Wong, who in turn will invite other musicians and sound artists to inhabit the installation throughout the course of the exhibition.

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