Art or Sound in Venice

In the midst of Venice’s fast-paced Architectural Biennial, ‘Art or Sound’, the Prada Foundation’s current show, feels like something of an intellectual’s amusement park: poker-faced journalists find themselves stepping into pieces, pressing on buttons, playing rather than observing.




This is precisely the kind of boundary-shattering the exhibition’s curator Germano Celant (who famously coined the term ‘Arte Povera’, or poor art), was looking for. After all, in today’s highly controlled art world, where does one draw a line between work and play, art and commodity, the intellectual and the emotional?


Man Ray


Sprawling over the majestic three storeys, this ‘theatre of things’, as Celant put it, is laid out as a jolly multi-media, interactive display of artworks, functional objects, and imaginary instruments. They range from 17th century musical boxes to early 20th century experimental trumpets by craftsmen of the time; see Man Ray’s ‘Violon d’Ingres’ (1924) to John Cage’s ‘Water Walk’ (1959), as well as contemporary work such as Loris Gréaud ‘Crossfading Suitcase’ (2004)  – allowing, again, for a disruption between high and low.

To Celant, the sense of hierarchy is also present in the relationship between art and sound: ‘The museum has become a vision-centric territory where all non-visual senses are repressed,’ he said of the show.

The works chosen are missing a dimension if you don’t listen: Laurie Anderson’s ‘Numbers Runners’ (1979) for example, recreating a typical American phonebox, only becomes an entirely fuller proposition when the viewer picks up the receiver to hear the artists existential questions.


O Superman – Laurie Anderson – as displayed in the MOMA, New York


‘I wanted to reinject life into the clinical, aseptic visual art space,’ explained Celant about his choice to hold a series of performances by younger, often local artists such as Ricardo Berreta. ‘In order to generate creative birth, art should be a labyrinth of senses.’
First published at Wallpaper by Alice Pheiffer



Thomas Büsch

Filmmaker, Founding Member and Secretary General of diyalog, promotion of cultural exchange with Turkey. Since 2012 he is also project manager of InEnArt.

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