The instruments and wind become vital players
Interview with curator Anne-Laure Chamboissier on the occasion of the group exhibition Encounter in resonance.
ALC: What was your background before joining EPAS? Was sound practice something you were used to before? What has this postgraduate program brought to the development of your artistic work?
FP: I am a cello player and have a BA in performing arts and science of performance. I worked for several years in performing arts as production manager. Since 2015, I’ve been playing cello in performative projects (theater, performances, dance, and lectures) and I became interested in sound as a theatrical language. EPAS has given me the opportunity to learn more about the intrinsic materiality of sound and to develop my artistic practice in an inspiring environment.
ALC: As you know, this exhibition is focused on the question of listening. What is your personal definition of listening?
FP: To listen is to be open to something that you don’t already know. To listen is an act that involves the whole body. To stay in silence and try not to make a noise. To slow down the breath and relax the body, tensions are released. The mind is freed up to make room for sound. It is an exercise of attention and of being present. This both roots the body and opens it to the world. Sounds arrive, some of them stay and resonate with the body while others go away. A three-dimensional score is generated where space and time lose their boundaries. By listening, the relationship with the world and with the body is constantly transformed.
ALC: About the work you are presenting, Field Music, how did you conceive of this audio-video concerto for a cello, a guitar, and a nineteenth-century Asian gong? The sound that escapes successively from these instruments seems generated by the wind. Why this choice to make the presence of the musician disappear?
FP: The video installation documents a concert that happened in a garden in Tuscany during the lockdown in 2020. At that time a lot of human activity was interrupted. As a musician, it was my way of questioning the concept of productivity. Sometimes you just have to listen to what's around you to discover a sound universe and its wonderful offerings. I listened to my instrument, the cello, and then other instruments activated by the wind, and seemingly playing, outside in the garden. Each instrument generated extraordinary melodies, independently from me. There is a change of agency. Human activity does not disappear but is limited to listening, and the instruments and the wind become vital players.
ALC: How has the project allowed you to develop what you call a contemplative practice? What do you mean by this?
FP: It is an exercise in observing and listening to what is there, and it requires slowing down our gaze and a deep listening practice. I deeply believe that if we learn to listen to what is already there, we can access extraordinary sound universes regardless of where we are and what our tools are. Sometimes all we need to do is shift our ears or our gaze, change our point of view or listen from a different physical position. It is a sort of ecology of listening. I had these instruments and a garden at my disposal, I decided to listen to them in a different way, and they surprised me deeply.
ALC: What kind of listening experience do you invite the audience to?
FP: The work is a documentation of a concert that happened on a breezy day. So visitors will listen to a recording and video of the sounds produced by the wind through the cello, guitar, and gong. Initially, the listener will not recognize the source of the sounds emitted by the video installation, but slowly, as the images appear on each screen, the musical instruments are revealed. The sound that emerges is a sound very far from what we normally associate with them. The instruments become vital players and dialogue with each other, creating unexpected melodies. Since this is documentation, there is a part of the video to reconstruct the landscape setting. I would like the listener to feel immersed in the landscape, simultaneously in its concrete/realistic perspective, yet also its illusory/magical standpoint.