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Anne-Laure Chamboissier. Photo: ©Gaelle Benoir-Caslot

Voice and sound waves 0

An express interview with Anne-Laure Chamboissier, art historian and curator

The Japanese artist group-exhibition Voice and Sound Waves: The Japanese Scene is currently on view through May 11 at the Felix Franchon Gallery’s project space 26by (26 rue St Georges, Brussels). Developed by art historian and curator Anne-Laure Chamboissier, the project took four years to develop. The artists featured in the exhibition – Yukio Fujimoto, Mamoru, Lyota Yagi, Atsushi Nishijima, and the Softpad collective (Takuya Minami, Hajime Takeuchi, Ichiro Awazu, and Hiroshi Toyama) – represent several different generations, yet they all focus on sound.

Atsushi Nishijima. Sympathetic Wiretap op.6, 2012. Photo: ©Atsushi Nishijima

While the impact of John Cage and the Fluxus movement in Japan has engaged generations of artists to address the issue of sound, contemporary Japanese artists play a major role in the interpretation of the sound experience. This exhibition presents the works of three generations of artists whose practices are emblematic of the contribution of the Japanese art scene to this reflection, as well as the diversity of contemporary Japanese creation, which has yet to be shared with the European public. These artists share a real knowledge of sound and music that inspires different artistic practices: sculpture, installation, video, graphic design, and performance. They question and present a fundamental practice: the experience of listening. 

Lyota Yagi. Music for Lazy Susan, 2018. Photo: ©Nobutada Omote

It took four years to put together the exhibition Voice and Sound Waves: The Japanese Scene, during which time you frequently travelled to Japan. How would you describe the current zeitgeist there in terms of art? How do the Japanese people themselves perceive it?

Surprisingly, despite its reputation and the great number of internationally acclaimed artists in Japan, the contemporary art scene is still confidential in Japanese society. 

The research I have been doing in Japan for the past four years is about Japanese artists working on the issue of sound and music; what seems important is the special attention given to the question of listening. What also struck me is how contemporary art practice is somehow connected to their heritage. It does not appear in a formal way, but through references that intrinsically nourish their work, and in their way of building a work.  

Mamoru Okuno installation view at 20th Domani, “The Art of Tomorrow” (The National Art Center, Tokyo, 2018). Photo: ©Shizune Shiigi 

Could you expand on the conceptual background of the exhibition?

As you mentioned in your first question, I have been conducting research in Japan since May 2015, visiting Japan twice a year. It is important for me to emphasise that I see this exhibition not as the result of my research, but as the first step in a work in progress. In recent years I have met a large number of Japanese artists. What led me to choose these artists is the fact that they share a real knowledge of sound and music. They question and present a fundamental practice: the experience of listening. At a time when personal listening devices and custom playlists have become omnipresent, shared sound spaces are becoming increasingly rare. For this reason, it seems essential to me to work on this question through this exhibition. 

Softpad Scratch Music. Photo: ©Softpad

Three generations of the Japanese art scene are represented in Voice and Sound Waves. What do they have in common, and what are the main differences that distinguish them from one another?

These artists question our relationship to our environment, to our daily life. They evoke history, fragments of memory, time and space. Their differences are rather to be noted in the way that they approach this question through the specificity of the various media that they use, which are of the order of sculpture, video, installation, graphic design… Their pieces are an invitation to an immersive sensory and auditory experience – a single space for various works that echo off one another.

Yukio Fujimoto. Revolution gravity, 2017. Photo: Kiyotoshi Takashima

Sound art has been at the focus of your curatorial practice for many years. Why have you so trustfully followed that specific art form?

I am aware that we always have to use terminology, but the term ‘sound art’ seems a bit simplistic to me. For 15 years now, I have decided to work on the relationship between music and sound, and the visual arts, but not only – also with literature, cinema and video. What interests me is not an idealised fusion of these disciplines, but rather the spaces of creation and new territories that are created through this friction of different entities.

Anne-Laure Chamboissier. Photo: ©Gaelle Benoir-Caslot