‘The World is Sound’ Exhibition Relates Sound and Tibetan Buddhism

Curated by Risha Lee, ‘The World is Sound‘ is an exhibition at the Rubin Museum of Art (New York)​ in which sound and listening are explored from the perspective of Tibetan Buddhism. On view/listen between June 16, 2017 and January 8, 2018.

“Learn to listen with your whole body. Visitors will explore how sound and our sense of hearing shape our daily lives, our traditions, our history, and all of existence. The World Is Sound employs sound in new ways to animate and intensify the experience of art in the Rubin’s collection. Organized cyclically—from creation to death to rebirth—the exhibition explores different dimensions of sound and listening and its many functions in Tibetan Buddhism.

Featuring work by more than 20 artists, The World Is Sound juxtaposes new site-specific commissions and works by prominent contemporary sound artists with historical objects from the museum’s collection of Tibetan Buddhist art to encourage reflection on how we listen and to challenge entrenched ways of thinking.

The Museum space itself will become an instrument of transformation. The centerpiece of the exhibition is Le Corps Sonore (Sound Body), an immersive, site-specific installation composed for the Rubin Museum’s iconic spiral staircase by the pioneering electronic sound artists Éliane Radigue, Laetitia Sonami, and Bob Bielecki. Ambient drone sounds inspired by Buddhist philosophy are “tuned” to the building, and will ascend and descend as visitors wind their way up the staircase. The subtlety and ephemerality of the sounds prepare the listener for understanding a core tenet of Buddhist philosophy, where music is a metaphor for change and impermanence. As with the entire exhibition, Le Corps Sonore invites visitors to slow down and consider their bodily engagement with sound, space, and their individual perceptions.

The exhibition features works by contemporary artists including C. Spencer Yeh, Christine Sun Kim, Ernst Karel, Hildegard Westerkamp, John Giorno, Jules Gimbrone, MSHR, Nate Wooley, Pauline Oliveros, Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe, and Samita Sinha.

The exhibition also includes Tibetan Buddhist ritual music from several monasteries in Nepal and India, the voices of Rubin visitors recorded in the OM Lab (software and 3D sound design by Terence Caulkins of Arup). Daniel Neumann is Lead Acoustic Designer for the exhibition.”

Accompaning the exhibit there is the first issie of Spiral, a free publication from Rubin Museum meant to amplify contents related to the themes of their activities, in this case sound, thus featuring “scholars, scientists, writers, artists, and practitioners [who] share their expertise on sound…how it envelops us and impacts our lives.”

For example, there is an article by Christoph Cox entitled “The Cosmic Drone“, or “Listening as liberation” from Risha Lee. Also an interview with Moby and neuroscientist Daniel Levitin, an essay on listening and wisdom by Krista Tippett, or a short beautiful text on silence and chocolate by tibetan monk Khenpo Pema Wangdak.

Read more at Rubin.

Miguel Isaza M

Listener, speaker.