Showing sound: a “Soundwalk Collective” experience

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Location: Ex Oratorio di Santa Maria delle Grazie | Palermo, Italy – 2018 Palazzo Daniele Romasi | Bari, Italy 2015
Type: Exhibition
With: Massimo Torrigiani (curator)

Three collaborations with Soundwalk Collective: a soundscape of the Mediterranean basin.

An intense exhibition, a walk through the abandoned archive of an hospital, which becomes a promenade inside stories and memories listening to Soundwalk soundtracks.

Categories exhibitions, manifesta

Three collaborations with Soundwalk Collective: a soundscape of the Mediterranean basin.

Itinerant exhibition:

. Manifesta 12 | Palermo | June 16 – July 29, 2018

. Bardo Museum | Tunis | September 27 – November 4, 2018

. Beit Museum | Beirut | November 16 – 30, 2018

With: Massimo Torrigiani (curator)



A soundscape of the Mediterranean basin, composed by retracing Ulysses’ journey from Troy to Ithaca. A vastness of fragments songs harmonies: a choir, an audible entropy.
Sailing for over two months across the coasts of the Middle East, Italy, Northern Africa and Southern Europe, equipped with scanners, aerial antennae and recorders, Soundwalk Collective intercepted a technological, augmented hearing, accidental overlaps of noises, music and voices, private conversations and service communications, bouncing back and forth between boats, ships and the coast.
They listened to these recordings again in their studio, in order to grasp the sense of each sound, of each trace, of each diaphony: hints of stories, slices of worlds, letting themselves be led to what turned out to be an état des lieux of the Mediterranean basin.
The result is a musical map in continuous rearrangement, a polyphonic installation, the reflection of a sound archive.

In Palermo, this symphonic drift of the Mediterranean basin finds its home at the former Oratorio di Santa Maria del Sabato, whose walls echo just as many vicissitudes. The choral dimension of the oratory is amplified by the exhibition set up, which welcomes the visitors in a dense, suspended dimension, one which weakens the sight. A reference to nocturnal sailing, overhearing the sea. Located in Vicolo Meschita (“Alley of the Mosque”), in the ancient Jewish quarter of the city, after the exodus of the Jews of the late 15th century, the oratory became the site of a succession of Catholic congregations, up to its closing ten years ago.



On this occasion, with Ulysses Syndrome and Manifesta, it returns to life, with the echo of the Odyssey, of all odysseys. Announcing its imminent rebirth as a Synagogue, thanks to its recent assignment to the Jewish Community of the city by the Archbishop of Palermo.

The inaugural date of the exhibition fosters a further resonance. June 16th is the day in which, in 1904, Joyce’s Ulysses took place. The recurrence of the “Bloomsday”, by which the Irish poet – one of the spiritual guides of this project – is celebrated, and whom we celebrate.



“Listening to Ulysses Syndrome (the signs of Ulysses, or the running together of his routes) I hear this displacement of refrains. I am not fixed within signs but adrift within signals. Like a bat or a dolphin, I hear scanned frequencies otherwise inaudible to my human limitations and these voices and tones captured from the aether seem to me to be our equivalent of those voices of gods who spoke “words that flew”; music asserts its regional and cultural affiliations and yet at the same time it drifts unmoored in the ocean of sound. One of the sirens in Joyce’s Ulysses produces a shell, a seahorn, so that one of her customers can listen. “Her ear too is a shell,” wrote Joyce, “the peeping lobe there… the sea they think they hear. Singing. A roar. The blood it is. Souse in the ear sometimes. Well it’s a sea. Corpuscle islands.” Fluting notes, lamentations, disembodied voices, the hum of contemporary existence. What is the figure; which is the ground? From within our corpuscle islands we close our eyes, set out to sea in order to discover exactly this.”




An intense exhibition, a walk through the abandoned archive of an hospital, which becomes a promenade inside stories and memories listening to Soundwalk soundtracks.

“the ambition of showing the sound” (Marilena di Tursi, Corriere della Sera)

“in Gagliano this ‘invisible sonification’ become a complex spatial experience… thanks to the path defined with intelligent care by Milanese architect Luca Cipelletti the sounds are flowing , inflecting or gathering in silent environments. A dialogue with the ghosts of patients evoked by their hospital records, a sort of Spoon River of melancholy in these extreme
lands” (Pietro Marino, Gazzetta del Mezzogiorno)

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.