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Museo Civico di Prato

Altrove: Soundwalk Collective

Curated by Massimo Torrigiani

Setting by AR.CH.IT Luca Cipelletti

photo by Yu Lin Humm and Luca Coclite

Showing Sound

The search for the right place for Soundwalk Collective led us to the discovery of an ideal place. A wonderful coincidence. Due to its eighteenth century architectural structure (a row of rooms, one following the other) and the use which has been made of it in the last decades, Palazzo Daniele Romasi is the perfect container to showcase – to offer to the act of listening – the work of a group of artists who put narrative and documentation at the core of their work. Their approach is a very literary one.

The Palace, closed to the public since 1980 – and in a strong state of degradation – is filled with shelves, which are overloaded with medical records from the local hospital, now closed. It used to be its archive. A forgotten place of stories and memories of people, whose fates are now joined by those of the people who emerge from the sound plots of Soundwalk Collective.

The folders in Gagliano merge to the recordings of the incomprehensible voices of the Jews of Bessarabia. To the voices of the Mediterranean in Ulysses Syndrome. To the bodies we perceive in the recordings of the Arma 17 in Moscow. To the echoes of students and teachers at the conservatories of Naples, St. Petersburg and Shanghai. To the ostinato of cicadas in the Ibiza summer. Everything involves everything else. We wanted this to be felt and seen. We decided to leave the rooms (almost) as they are, with accumulations of dust and stuff. And we decided to overlay the graphic design of the exhibition to the original regeneration plan of the old town of Gagliano.

The exhibition has a theatrical dimension, in which everyone can choose which elements to use to build their own story. Contrasting the typical white box of many galleries and museums.

This exhibition has a beginning and an end: there is an entrance and an exit. The first audio work, Last Beat, pulsating techno, develops along four rooms, in a path that brings us closer to the sound source, growing in volume, while light gradually fades.

The second work, composed of the sounds and voices of the music conservatories of Naples, St. Petersburg and Shanghai, is located in a room illuminated from above by natural light; as in a small chapel. A feeling, deliberately accentuated by two neat rows of chairs – borrowed from the local school. The lights are only neon everywhere: to emphasize or lighten volume and intensity, to suggest listening points.

Walking through the exhibition, the sounds of the tracks overlap and echo each other. The third track, Ulysses Syndrome, is housed in a room full of archive folders hiding the sound source, where physical access is only permitted to a few people at a time. Sound and light are very strong. The last soundtrack, Bessarabia, is in a more open environment, like the first, but dark.

You go through rooms with abandoned objects. Someone forgot them: as a cigarette left burning in an empty space. Attracted by another soundtrack, we approach the last work: the video in which Patti Smith’s voice reads the last words written by Nico. Killer Road.

We did not swipe the floors: we are interested in the way the dust settled, as in the (random) combination of things. We thought about how to slow down the path, increase the permanence in the space and the desire to listen to the sound pieces, which are very long. Ideally, to a first round another will follow, and everyone will choose where to focus their moments of listening and abandonment.