Artists explore their aural fixation

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 20 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 20 May, 2012, 12:00am


Over the past few days, thousands of art lovers have gorged on a visual feast at the Art HK fair, but for some attendees, it was not the volumes of art on the walls that grabbed their attention, but rather the volume in their ears.

This alternative experience came courtesy of French sound artist Cedric Maridet, who led sound walks through the canvas-covered halls of the four-day fair, which closes today.

With record crowds, the fair - now in its fifth year - cemented Hong Kong's status as a global arts hub. It hosted more than 260 galleries from 38 countries this year.

Those who opted for the sound walk listened to soundscapes that Maridet, 38, had spent the past year collecting at museums and galleries in France, Canada and Hong Kong.

His recordings feature whispered conversations over a painting or sculpture, the sounds of video art and even the buzz of machinery.

'I'm trying to make people drift and not necessarily engage with the fair,' Maridet said. 'It's about disconnecting with the commercial aspect of the art fair, because I'm not sure if it's the best place to experience art.'

Maridet said the goal of the sound walk was to distract fair visitors from visual elements, allowing them to focus on their aural sensations while looking at art.

Maridet said his intention was also to inject some performance art into the fair, because a group of people walking around wearing large headphones and appearing disoriented from their surroundings was an impromptu show for others.

Across the harbour, another sound walk took place in To Kwa Wan, near the old Kai Tak airport.

Organised by art collective soundpocket and led by sound artist Tsang Sin-yu Fish, 25, and art student Wong Chun-hoi, 22, the group walked around listening to industrial buildings, parks and residential areas.

'There are many old buildings around here where we listened to what was happening inside: people playing mahjong, doing housework,' Tsang said.

'We wanted to use this opportunity to show people around special places in Hong Kong, not just inside the art fair in Wan Chai.'

Tsang has led sound walks in Central and Tsim Sha Tsui, and starts with warm-up exercises such as focusing on distant sounds.

About six people joined the two-hour walk, with the rain adding another layer to the soundscape.

'We found that the sound of raindrops was quite interesting, and changed with different-shaped buildings,' Tsang said.

Some of the other sonic works included mechanics labouring in their garages, radios blaring from shops and footsteps.

'They also discover things that they can't see, but they can hear.'

Wong said because To Kwa Wan was an older district, the mix of light industrial buildings and residential areas created a rich melting pot of sounds. 'You can just turn a corner and hear totally different sounds.'