A sound installation by the VACUT group
21 October – 27 November 2022, 15-18h daily
Opening: 21 October, 17-19h
Wasserturm, Badweg 10, 8001 Zurich, CH
curated by Zaira Oram
Like an architectural flute hiding in the urban fabric, the ancient water tower of Zurich will once again come alive with the sound installation The Whistle. The work is a site-specific intervention by the VACUT collective (Voices Against Corruption and Ugly Trading), initiated by Gilles Aubry in collaboration with Ale Hop, Aya Metwalli, Gabi Motuba and Sabina Leone. For the third event of OTO SOUND MUSEUM at the Wasserturm in Zurich, the voices of The Whistle will pass through the silent body of the tower to interrogate the near and distant realities we live in.
The installation The Whistle features voice recordings presented inside the Schanzengraben water tower in Zurich, audible from the surrounding public space. Informed by data leaks and NGO reports highlighting Switzerland’s involvement in international money laundering, tax evasion, and predatory extraction of raw materials,
the work seeks to address the affective cost of racial capitalism from a situated perspective. The VACUT Group (Voices Against Corruption and Ugly Trading) was formed to this end, gathering sound artists and musicians from countries involved in dubious business activities with the alpine nation.
The work relies on voice as an embodied manifestation of perceived social and environmental injustice. Each performer engages with a number of sources documenting corruption, land grabbing, human exploitation and environmental devastation in their home countries, along with their own perception of such phenomena. They respond to this experience through vocal improvisations in the course of recorded sessions. Assembled into a composition, the voices blend with the local ambient sound in Zürich. Listening becomes a matter of participation, empathy and accountability, an invitation to attend to one’s boundedness to near and distant realities.
The project further interrogates existing acoustic representations of Swissness, a term rebranded in the 1990s for marketing purposes, largely associated with attributes of fairness, precision, reliability, political stability, naturalness and cleanliness. An early
example of Sonic Swissness (Oehme-Jüngling 2014) can be found in the composition “Symphonie Les Echanges” by Rolf Liebermann, created for the 1964 Swiss national exhibition in order to introduce the visitor to the interaction of the economy in a novel way. Another instance can be found in the “Sound Tower” installed in Bienne by Andres Bosshard for Expo.02. Essentially a streaming dispositive for immersive aural experience, Bosshard’s Klangturm offers a perfect metaphor for neoliberal soundscaping—smooth, consumption-oriented, and depoliticized. Following the rejection of the Responsible Business Initiative by a majority of Swiss voters in 2020, conversations on Sonic Swissness certainly deserve an update. This imperatively should include voices from Switzerland’s partner countries, who can attest of the actual human and environmental cost of Swiss wellbeing.
VACUT Group members: Ale Hop (voice artist); Aya Metwalli (voice artist); Gabi Motuba (voice artist); Gilles Aubry (composer and project initiator); Sabina Leone (voice artist).
Alejandra Cárdenas Pacheco (also known as Ale Hop) is a Peruvian-born artist, researcher, and experimental musician based in Berlin. She began her career in the 2000s in Lima’s experimental and underground scene. In 2012, she started her solo project, in which she builds layers of sounds by blending a complex repertoire of electric guitar techniques processed by synthesis devices, to create a music of deep physical intensity. She co-founded the Berlin-based festival Radical Sounds Latin America and, nowadays, directs the publication Border-Listening/Escucha-liminal and the editorial platform Contingent Sounds, which facilitate critical discourses, and artistic research on listening. https://alehophop.com/
Aya Metwalli is an Egyptian singer, composer and music producer, currently based in Beirut. She started singing at the age of five, learned the piano in her early childhood and started writing songs on a self-taught acoustic guitar in her early adulthood. She studied music production in 2014 and has been experimenting with voice and synthesizers since.
Gabi Motuba is a South African award-winning jazz vocalist and composer. She studied jazz music at Tshwane University of Technology (TUT). In 2017 she composed 10 string quartet compositions for her debut solo album, Tefiti-Goddess of Creation. In 2019 she was commissioned by the South African Music Rights Organisation (SAMRO) to compose and arrange a composition (Those Lost in Time) which has been published on their website. In 2021, Gabi was commissioned by Concerts SA and Kaya FM to produce 5 string quartet compositions. She currently works at Soweto Theatre as music facilitator and educator and is also a fellow of The Alternative Art School Program. https://gabimotuba.com/
Gilles Aubry is a Swiss artist, musician and researcher based in Lausanne and Berlin. He holds an MA in Sound Art from the Berlin University of the Arts (UDK) and a PhD in social anthropology from the Bern University. His work engages with sound, technology and environmental voices in relation to power and coloniality in various contexts. http://www.earpolitics.net/
Sabina Leone is a singer and multi-instrumentalist based in Zurich. She was a drummer with the all-girls-band “Wemean”, since then she mainly plays her own compositions with her sister Patrizia as “Sorelle Leone”. The album “Mancare”, released in autumn 2007, is her solo debut. http://sabinaleone.ch/
SOUND TURM program 2022
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OTO SOUND MUSEUM is a nomadic museum that produces, presents and collects sound works by contemporary artists from different backgrounds, geographies and generations. The museum was born digitally as an iconoclastic environment and a utopian architecture on the platform. It is also used to travel across different places in the physical realm, transforming its identity along the way.
ZAIRA ORAM is a curatorial collective focused on experimental displays and interdisciplinary projects. Her practice involves research on visual art, performance and sound art and the creation of networks between different disciplines and areas of studies. Her main research threads are migration, contemporary narrative and border experiences. Zaira Oram has an open identity: she travels and transforms herself. The collective was initiated by Francesca Ceccherini and Eleonora Stassi, and expanded with the participation of Chloé Dall’Olio, Camille Regli and Elisa Bernardoni.
WASSERTURM – historical traces
Among the few places that survived the new Zurich urban plan – whose history remains unknown to most citizens and tourists – the Wasserturm was built in 1724 in the Talacker district with the aim of bringing water to the houses, local businesses but also to the fountains placed in the surrounding baroque gardens. Indeed, the district was lacking of independent public water supply. Hence, a group of citizens decided to join forces for a common mission: build a water tower that would distribute this primary good to people and activities in the area. For nearly 200 years, the water tower fulfilled its function, first through a water wheel and then through its transformation into a steam technology. Acquired by the city of Zurich, it later fell into disuse. Today it houses a center for sports activities.
The tower still stands with its white-green verticalism above the waters of the Sihl looking at the Old Botanical Garden. It is characterized by an octagonal plan rising four floors and a curved copper helmet roof that resembles the shape of an onion. Its symbolic presence and its silent memory, hidden between contemporary buildings, make this place of significant historiographic, anthropological, social and even artistic interest.
SOUND TURM is a project by OTO SOUND MUSEUM
Curated by ZAIRA ORAM
Supported by Pro Helvetia, Kanton Zürich, Stadt Zürich Kultur, Migros Kulturprozent and Erna und Curt Burgauer Foundation
Hosted by Kanu Polo Zürich
Media Partner RAM radioartemobile