Making magic from the sound of birds and water

An ambitious solo exhibition by Frenchman Celeste Boursier-Mougenot features music-making birds and six large sound installations.

It is rare to see birds flying freely inside an exhibition hall. But that is what's happening at “SONSARA,” the first solo exhibition of French artist Celeste Boursier-Mougenot at the Shanghai Minsheng Art Museum.

SONSARA comes from “son” and “samsara.” Son means “sound” in French and samsara is a sanskrit word meaning “cycle of life.”

Thumbs-up for the courage of the museum and the artist to feature six large sound installations for a solo show. In fact, it not only tests the artist’s ability in what he is capable of expressing, but also his understanding of the relationship between space and his work.

Visitors will first be drawn to a work named “Clinamen” at the entrance. Imagine a small pond filled with azure blue water, with 200 floating white porcelain bowls of various sizes. The waves carry the bowls. When different bowls meet, collide and separate, the sound reverberates throughout the entire hall.

The spotlight of the exhibition, no doubt, goes to “From Here to Ear.”

Using birds as the leading character, the work places 168 zebra finches among musical instruments. It also incorporates amplifiers and effectors, together with the surrounding nesting areas, sand and plants, to create the experience of listening to live performances in nature.

Sound obviously is the “soul” of this exhibition. In another work named “Scanners,” several white helium balloons with wireless microphones tied to the bottom float and move in the wind caused by the electric fans.

The ambient sound recorded by the microphones is played in real time through speakers on site. The almost undetectable random sounds created by the changes in position and airflow define the space itself.

Born in Nice in 1961, Bousier-Mougenot now lives and works in Sete. After training in musical career at the Conservatoire National de Nice, he worked as a composer for stage director Pascal Ramber’s Side One Posthume Theater for nearly 10 years.

He started creating sound installations in 1994, was nominated for the Marcel Duchamp Prize in 2010 and represented France at the 56th Venice Biennale in 2015.

His 2015 exhibition “Acquaalta” turned the space of Palais de Tokyo into a lake and invited the viewers to feel the changes in tactile, visual and auditory experiences from it.

Bousier-Mougenot's works are widely exhibited and collected all over the world.

Ti Gong

Exhibition details

Date: Through November 12, 10am-6pm

Admission: 50 yuan

Address: 1929 Expo Ave, Pudong New Area

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