Ei Arakawa and Sergei Tcherepnin
Looking at Listening: Insights from the Forest

Part of a series entitled “Looking at Listening”, 2011, the piece invited the spectator to experiment and consider sound as a kinetic and synesthetic process, where multiple experiences and senses can cross. The presented photographs were selected from the New York Public Library and found in an archive called ‘Listening,’ with the sub-genres ‘town meetings,’ ‘investigation,’ ‘audiences 1960–1970’ and ‘conversation.’ Taking the photographs from the city’s archive of frozen moments of audio exchange, Arakawa and Tcherepnin give sound and movement back to past moments. In each of the photographs, people are listening in different situations—public, and private. Transposed from recorded events to archival status, then from facsimile inks to copper and reflective aluminum, these moments are then connected to a sound device playing Tcherepnin’s compositions that have been recorded in previous performances in New York and Tokyo. The artist’s replace the original auditory fundamentals of each of these images and create a new meaning to the images. The work is activated by the public and thus transformed into a sound sculpture. Invited to manipulate the metal plates as instruments, deafening the metal with fabric or whirling them around, the visitors create sound ripples, dissolving the visible aspects of the work to give form to listening.

Ei Arakawa (b. 1977, Fukushima, Japan) and Sergei Tcherepnin (b. 1981, Boston, Massachusetts), both currently based in New York, began their audio-visual and performative collaboration in 2007. The two artist’s kinetic and synesthetic performance, composition and installation works explore the materiality of sound. Ei Arakawa has initiated and participated in numerous performances and collective experiences. Most of his projects give rise to new collaborations with artists, musicians and poets. Whatever form takes of the installation, whether a festival or event, in appearing as an improvised performance, Arakawa and Tcherepnin’s work is always participative and joyfully chaotic.