Edited by Rudolf Frieling and Tanya Zimbardo

Foreword

The gentle clinking of porcelain bowls. A melody played by a group of friends. The hidden world of magnetic fields. An absence where tones would ordinarily be. In the background, conversations and footsteps, the hum of an institution at work. Following the paths that Soundtracks lays throughout the museum, from the seventh to the first floors, visitors encounter these and other sonic experiences.

This presentation is SFMOMA’s first large-scale group exhibition centered on the role of sound in contemporary art. The diverse experiences it offers point to the range of approaches artists have taken to sound as a medium, yet it is not a survey of the genre. Rather, Soundtracks takes a close look at the relationship between sound and space in various ways, primary among them the relationship between sound-based art and the space of the art exhibition and the museum.

By exploring the malleability of museum galleries in response to a temporal element of contemporary art, Soundtrackscontinues the investigations of two previous exhibitions at SFMOMA, The Art of Participation: 1950 to Now in 2008–9 and Stage Presence: Theatricality in Art and Media in 2012, which were organized by Rudolf Frieling and focused on participatory and performative artworks, respectively.

While SFMOMA has a long history of presenting sound-based works, exhibiting multiple pieces in a gallery context has often posed challenges. As the exhibition’s co-curators, Rudolf Frieling and Tanya Zimbardo, note in their introductory essay in this publication, “sound cannot be limited by walls and creates overlapping acoustic layers.” Embracing this condition has been central to the conception of this exhibition.

The result offers compelling engagements with individual works and an intriguing new way to experience the museum. With a focus on the the spatialization of sound, Soundtracks offers opportunities for discovering public architectural features and galleries throughout the newly expanded building. I applaud Rudolf and Tanya for their pioneering and innovative approach to conceiving this exhibition, and join them in thanking the many dedicated staff members who helped to bring it to fruition.

This cross-generational presentation highlights past SFMOMA commissions and new acquisitions on display for the first time, reflecting our commitment to expand the representation of sound-based art in the museum’s media arts collection. We are exceedingly grateful to the artists who have collaborated with us in the past, and to the many artists who worked with us as we prepared this exhibition to make its presentation possible. We offer our deep thanks too to the lenders who generously shared works from their collections for the duration of the exhibition. Finally, we thank the French American Cultural Society and the Office for Contemporary Art Norway for their support.

With this exhibition, SFMOMA is expanding its innovative ventures in digital publishing to include an online exhibition catalogue for the first time. Soundtracks offers an ideal opportunity to explore the possibilities of the digital space for the documentation and interpretation of sound-based work. Accompanying the wealth of insightful writings and still photography is an array of multimedia content, including audio and video documentation of the works presented in our galleries and video interviews with several exhibition artists. This forward-looking undertaking points to the rich potential of this approach for art with a durational component, a key aspect of much contemporary art. We are pleased beyond measure to offer the results of this endeavor free to audiences around the world.

— Neal Benezra, Helen and Charles Schwab Director




Artists

Download

Exhibiting Sound
Rudolf Frieling and Tanya Zimbardo on the exhibition as a medium for the presentation of sound-based art

“Unruly from the Get-Go”: Sound, Audience, and Space
Dena Beard and Frank Smigiel discuss the disruptive power of sound in spaces for art

Room Tone
Artist Brandon LaBelle presents an “experiment in acoustical imagination” that explores sound, architecture, and community

Guy Ben Ner
Céleste Boursier-Mougenot
Paul DeMarinis
Brian Eno
Bill Fontana
Jacqueline Kiyomi Gordon
Chris Kallmyer and Mark Allen
Christine Sun Kim and Thomas Mader
Ragnar Kjartansson
Christina Kubisch
Rafael Lozano-Hemmer
Amor Muñoz
Camille Norment
O Grivo
Susan Philipsz
Amalia Pica
Anri Sala
Sergei Tcherepnin
Richard T. Walker
Lyota Yagi

Exhibition Checklist

ALL ARTWORKS LOCATED ON FLOOR 7 UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED

Guy Ben Ner
Israeli, born 1969
Soundtrack, 2013
Single-channel video projection, color, with sound, 11 min.
Courtesy the artist and Postmasters Gallery, New York

LOCATION: PHYLLIS WATTIS THEATER; HOURS: SATURDAY–MONDAY, NOON–3 P.M.

 

Céleste Boursier-Mougenot
French, born 1961
clinamen v.3, 2012–ongoing
Porcelain bowls, plywood, polyvinyl chloride, water pump, resistance water heater, and water
Dimensions variable
Courtesy the artist and Paula Cooper Gallery, New York

Paul DeMarinis
American, born 1948
for de forest, 2016–17
Glass, electricity, heat, and air
Dimensions variable
Courtesy the artist

LOCATION: FLOOR 5 BRIDGE GALLERY; SOUNDS ON THE HOUR FROM 11 A.M.


Brian Eno

English, born 1948
New Urban Spaces Series #4: “Compact Forest Proposal,” 2001
Sound installation with portable CD players, string lights, wood, cardboard, polyethylene foam, and mannequin
Dimensions variable
Commissioned by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Produced by Opal Ltd., London
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, gift of the artist

Bill Fontana
American, born 1947
Sonic Shadows, 2010
Sound sculpture (twelve-channel live sound installation with ten accelerometers, eight loudspeakers, and four ultrasonic emitters on pan-tilt heads)
Dimensions variable
Commissioned by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Executive multimedia production: Josh Cushner, Arup; system and control logic design, programming, and production: Joseph Digerness and Shane Myrbeck, Arup
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, purchase through a gift of Nancy and Steven Oliver, Wendy Webster and Stuart Davidson, and the Accessions Committee Fund

LOCATION: FLOOR 5 OCULUS BRIDGE


Jacqueline Kiyomi Gordon
American, born 1982
Inside You Is Me, 2016
The Lab Box: urethane diffusion tile, walnut box, foam, fiberglass, felt, human hair, sheepskin, silicon, Universal Serial Bus stick (with seven .mov, forty-seven .wav, twelve .tif, one .doc, and five Max MSP files), electrostatic prints, and ink on paper
9 1/2 x 17 x 20 in. (24.1 x 43.2 x 50.8 cm)
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, gift of Marjory Graue and Martin Bloes

Inside You Is Me, 2016/2017
SFMOMA activation: fourteen-channel audio, wool, fabric, carpet, vinyl, silicon, and extruded aluminum
Dimensions variable
Audio equipment provided by Meyer Sound, Berkeley; audio contributions by Laetitia Sonami
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, gift of Marjory Graue and Martin Bloes

Chris Kallmyer and Mark Allen
American, born 1985; American, born 1970
Live Personal Soundtrack, 2010/2017
Exhibition walkthrough with guitarist, headphones, and signage
Courtesy the artists

LOCATION: FLOOR 2 THOMAS WEISEL FAMILY GALLERIES; HOURS: THURSDAY–SUNDAY, NOON–3 P.M.

 

Christine Sun Kim and Thomas Mader
American, born 1980; German, born 1984
Tables and Windows, 2016
Two HD videos, color, no audio, 9:15 min. and 10:17 min.
Courtesy the artists and Carroll / Fletcher, London

Ragnar Kjartansson
Icelandic, born 1976
The Visitors, 2012
Nine-channel HD video projection, color, with sound, 64 min.
Dimensions variable
Video: Tómas Örn Tómasson; sound: Christopher W. McDonald
Jointly owned by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and The Museum of Modern Art, New York, acquired through the generosity of Mimi Haas and Helen and Charles Schwab

The Visitorsscore, 2012
Pencil, pen, and watercolor on paper
16 5/16 x 22 13/16 in. (41.5 x 58 cm)
Courtesy the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York, and i8 Gallery, Reykjavík

Christina Kubisch
German, born 1948
Cloud, 2011/2017
Electrical cable, electromagnetic induction headphones, and fourteen-channel audio composition
Dimensions variable
Technical assistance: Eckehard Güther
Headphone engineering: Manfred Fox, Berlin
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Accessions Committee Fund purchase

Drawing for Cloud, 2017
Ink on paper
11 7/16 x 16 9/16 in. (29 x 42 cm)
Courtesy the artist


Electrical Walks San Francisco,
 2017
Walk through neighborhood surrounding SFMOMA with electromagnetic induction headphones and map
Headphone engineering: Manfred Fox, Berlin
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Accessions Committee Fund purchase

LOCATION: COAT CHECK, HAAS ATRIUM

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer
Mexican, born 1967
Last Breath, 2012
Motor, bellows, Plexiglas, digital display, custom circuitry, Arduino processor, respiration tubing, paper bag, and HD video with sound on screen
23 5/8 x 10 13/16 x 9 1/16 in. (60 x 27.5 x 23 cm)
Participant and breath: Pauline Oliveros
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Accessions Committee Fund purchase

Sphere Packing: Mozart, 2014
White polymer 3-D print and 565-channel audio
13 3/4 in. (35 cm) diameter
Collection of the Malin family in loving memory of Charlot Malin

Sphere Packing: Wagner, 2013
Glazed porcelain 3-D print and 110-channel audio
5 1/8 in. (13 cm) diameter
Courtesy the artist and bitforms gallery, New York

Sphere Packing: Cage, 2014
Plastic Formiga 3-D print and 269-channel audio
9 5/16 in. (23.7 cm) diameter
Courtesy the artist and bitforms gallery, New York

Amor Muñoz
Mexican, born 1979
Rhythmic Manufacture, 2015/2017
Watercolor on paper, metronome, table, coverall, clock, and HD video with sound
Performance at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, July 12–15, 2017
Dimensions variable
Video production: 32K Productions
Courtesy the artist

Camille Norment
American, born 1970
Lull, 2016
Dynamic sound installation with pendulum microphone
Dimensions variable
Courtesy the Camille Norment Studio

O Grivo
(Nelson Soares and Marcos Moreira Marcos)
Active since 1990, Belo Horizonte, Brazil
Cantilena, 2017
Kinetic sound installation (wood, bamboo, MDF, copper pipes, brass rods and sheets, steel rods, violin and guitar strings, nylon wires, iron sheets, galvanized steel sheets, brass paper, electrical wires, and electric motors)
Overall dimensions variable
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Accessions Committee Fund purchase

Susan Philipsz
Scottish, born 1965
Night and Fog (Clarinet), 2016
Twelve-channel sound installation, 47 min.
Dimensions variable
Sound: after Hanns Eisler’s soundtrack Nuit et brouillard (1955), arranged by Susan Philipsz; sound engineer: Otto Schönthaler; clarinet: Karola Elßner, Jan von Klewitz, and Ingo Stelzer
Courtesy the artist and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York

Vernebelt II–VII, 2016
Chromogenic prints
Each: 19 11/16 x 13 3/16 in. (50 x 33.5 cm) or 13 3/16 x 19 11/16 in. (33.5 x 50 cm)
Courtesy the artist and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York

LOCATION: FLOOR 6 FRIENDS FROM THE VALLEY GALLERY (CITY GALLERY)

Amalia Pica
Argentine, born 1978
Switchboard (pavilion), 2014
Wood, paint, cans, string, and glue
96 1/16 x 144 1/8 x 144 1/8 in. (244 x 366 x 366 cm)
Collection of Eduardo F. Costantini, Buenos Aires

Eavesdropping, 2011
Drinking glasses and glue
Dimensions variable
Collection of J. K. Brown and Eric Diefenbach

Anri Sala
Albanian, born 1974
Moth in B-Flat, 2015
Altered snare drum, drumsticks, altered snare stand, loudspeaker parts, and mono sound, 7:18 min.
Dimensions variable
Collection of Gina and Stuart Peterson

Sergei Tcherepnin
American, born 1981
Stereo Classroom Chairs, 2015
Chairs, transducers, amplifier, media player, and audio composition, 26 min.
Each chair: 31 x 15 1/2 x 18 in. (78.7 x 39.4 x 45.7 cm)
Courtesy the artist and Overduin & Co., Los Angeles

Richard T. Walker
English, born 1977
a paradox in distance, 2014
Chromogenic transparency in light box, tripod, and Casiotone MT-68 keyboard
78 x 27 x 45 in. (198.1 x 68.6 x 114.3 cm)
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Accessions Committee Fund purchase

Lyota Yagi
Japanese, born 1980
Sound Sphere, 2011
Magnetic tape and player
11 13/16 in. (30 cm) diameter
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Accessions Committee Fund purchase

Contributors

Dena Beard is executive director of The Lab, San Francisco.

Chris Downey is an architect who lives and works without sight in the Bay Area.

Rudolf Frieling is curator of media arts at SFMOMA and a co-curator of Soundtracks.

Brandon LaBelle is a Berlin-based artist, writer, and theorist who works with sound, performance, text, and sited constructions.

Frank Smigiel is associate curator of performance and film at SFMOMA.

Tanya Zimbardo is assistant curator of media arts at SFMOMA and a co-curator of Soundtracks.

Acknowledgements

With a focus on acoustic experiences while moving through space, Soundtracks offers opportunities for discovering distinct architectural features throughout SFMOMA’s recently expanded building. The process of planning Soundtracks, however, began during the museum’s temporary closure to the public for building construction, when we could only imagine our new galleries and how works might sound in them. It took a leap of faith to dedicate the entire seventh floor and select locations throughout the building to this presentation. First and foremost, we must thus express deep gratitude to Neal Benezra, Helen and Charles Schwab Director at SFMOMA, and to Ruth Berson, deputy museum director of curatorial affairs, for embracing the idea behind Soundtracks and suggesting the exhibition’s timing and scale as a way to address our new building. We were fortunate to have the support of our curatorial colleagues to situate contemporary works in various public spaces and new galleries on different floors in proximity to their exhibitions.

Realizing a presentation of this scale and complexity would not have been possible without the dedicated vision and collective effort of numerous individuals who collaborated with us throughout this process. We are especially grateful to the artists who conceived, and in some cases adapted, the work presented in Soundtracks. They provided invaluable input, joined by their studio collaborators, including Joseph Digerness, Arup (programming for Bill Fontana), artist Laetitia Sonami (audio contribution for Jacqueline Kiyomi Gordon), Lilja Gunnarsdottir and Christopher W. McDonald (Ragnar Kjartansson studio), Manfred Fox and Eckehard Güther (technical assistance and engineering for Christina Kubisch), Sergio Clavijo and Karine Charbonneau (Rafael Lozano-Hemmer studio), and Eoghan McTigue (Susan Philipsz studio). Additional help was provided locally by Javier Roberto Carlos Briones, 32K Productions (video production for Amor Muñoz), and by the numerous guitarists who are performing in our Floor 2 galleries over the course of the exhibition, including Erin Allen, Allyson Baker, Mike Ballan, John Burke, Giacomo Fiore, Shaina Lerner, Sean Nieves, Ryan Pate, Elsa Trash, and Christine Tupou (custom soundtracks for Chris Kallmyer and Mark Allen).

For their generous assistance at every turn, our thanks go to bitforms gallery, New York; Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York; Carroll / Fletcher, London; Paula Cooper Gallery, New York; Marc Foxx Gallery, Los Angeles; Marian Goodman Gallery; i8 Gallery, Reykjavík; Luhring Augustine Gallery, New York; MUJIN-TO Production, Tokyo; Overduin & Co., Los Angeles; and Galeria Nara Roesler.

We are also extremely grateful to the lenders to this exhibition: J. K. Brown and Eric Diefenbach, Eduardo F. Costantini, Malin Family, and Gina and Stuart Peterson.

Perrin Meyer of Meyer Sound; Stéphane Ré, former cultural attaché of the Consulat Général de France in San Francisco; and Katya García-Antón, director of the Office for Contemporary Art Norway, were instrumental in generously providing much-needed equipment loans or travel grants for individual artists.

We were pleased to have the opportunity to collaborate with Frank Smigiel and Christian Davies, our colleagues in Performance and Film, for the live performances presented by Soundtracks artists O Grivo and Camille Norment during the exhibition’s opening weekend, and with Dena Beard, executive director of The Lab, San Francisco, for an additional performance by Norment at The Lab as part of the artist’s residency in the Bay Area, organized by SFMOMA.

We thank David Funk, Annie Hagar, and Jessica Woznak, who worked tirelessly to oversee and coordinate the exhibition staff and endless details. Led by installation manager Brandon Larson, the team of Jamie Banes, AJ Bucknall, Brian Caraway, Sonya Castillo, Bobby English, John Holland, Melody Kennedy, Jess Kreglow, Ryan Onstine, Stephanie Sherriff, Ian Treasure, and Greg Wilson, with the on-call crew of Eli Forbyn, Bink Galbraith, Colin King-Bailey, and Muzae Sesay, executed an ambitious installation with expertise, together with exhibition design manager Kent Roberts and Sarah Choi. The myriad technical details entailed by an exhibition centered on time-based media in various formats were adeptly handled by exhibitions technical manager Steve Dye and his team members Joshua Churchill, John Davis, Sasha Dobbs, Derek Gedalecia, Sean Horchy, Collin McKelvey, and Jesse Walton. Grace Weiss ensured the smooth transport of artworks from around the world and facilitated their presentation in the galleries with the help of Arran Harvey. Martina Haidvogl, joined by her Conservation colleagues Michelle Barger, Emily Hamilton, Amanda Hunter Johnson, and Roberta Piantavigna, provided attentive care to the works on view. This exhibition marked an opportunity to showcase a number of new additions to the collection, accessions activity all graciously overseen by Maria Naula.

Christopher Lentz and the Visitor Experience staff, including Katherine Wallace, Kelly Bishop, Ginger Davis, and Nicole Meshack, are skillfully managing the daily challenges of bringing performative and participatory artworks to our public, in close collaboration with Media Arts administrative assistant Stephanie Guasp, who not only coordinated all travel but is also managing the schedules of screenings of Guy Ben Ner’s Soundtrack and the many performers for Chris Kallmyer and Mark Allen’s Live Personal Soundtrack. We thank Jeffrey Alexander for overseeing the projectionist schedule in our Phyllis Wattis Theater. Curatorial interns Enar de Dios Rodríguez, Ziying Duan, and Ana Fox-Hodess helped us with preliminary research assistance.

We are grateful to our colleagues in Marketing and Communications for their efforts on behalf of the exhibition, in particular Katie Booth, Antonio Campos, Dan Conway, Emma LeHocky, Magnolia Molcan, Christine Laquer Pacheco, Lindsay Saito, Tracy Wada, and Marina Weiner. In Development, Christine Mettel, Amanda Spector, and Lanlian Szeto were instrumental in organizing the joint Summer Bash exhibition reception. Amy Deverell, Suzanne Field, Julie Knight, and Ric Weaver welcomed SFMOMA members through special preview days.

Staff members in the museum’s Content Strategy and Digital Engagement division lent their talents to both the exhibition and this publication. To the museum’s Publications and Web and Digital teams, led by Kari Dahlgren and Keir Winesmith, thank you for welcoming the challenge of creating the museum’s first solely online exhibition catalogue with enthusiasm and for exploring the possibilities it affords to include documentation and dynamic multimedia content during the run of the show. It was an extreme pleasure to work with Jennifer Knox White, the editor of this catalogue and exhibition materials, who moved the entire publishing process graciously yet firmly forward with great attention to detail. Sarah Bailey Hogarty lent her expertise to overseeing its design, development, and content production, and worked tirelessly to coordinate videography and build these pages. James Provenza conceived the beautiful exhibition identity and brought his keen design eye to bear on the printed guide, exhibition signage, and this publication. Carrie Taffel coordinated many design-related details. Brianna Nelson edited texts and signage with great thought and care. Bridget Carberry was crucial to developing the framework for this online exhibition catalogue, and Emily Robbins and Ana Fox-Hodess played a key role in documenting the works on view. Erica Gangsei and Erin Fleming, with 32K Productions, created the insightful new video interviews that appear in these pages.

We also thank Katherine Du Tiel and Mary Ellen Hawkins, with Don Ross, for capturing beautiful photography of the works on view in our galleries. Sriba Kwadjovie kindly assisted with image permissions. The 360° installation videos were produced by the Adobe Design team.

Finally, this publication has been enriched enormously by the guest contributions of Brandon LaBelle, Dena Beard, and Frank Smigiel. We are grateful for their rich insights into the relationships between sound and space, and to Chris Downey for allowing us to republish his thoughtful reflections on Bill Fontana’s Sonic Shadows.

— Rudolf Frieling and Tanya Zimbardo