Sum of Days and the Surrealists

Sum of DaysSeveral of the readings this week addressed the use of noise as art, so I thought I would share an exhibit that was on display at the MoMA last fall. Sum of Days by Carlito Carvalhosa was a interactive art instillation that captured the sounds of museum goers as they traveled through a narrow pathway of white fabric. The captured sounds were played back the next day as newer recordings were blended in. As the days progressed, older sounds gently receded into the background and the more recent sounds stayed at the forefront.


It is hard to explain. Here is the video I took while going through it:

The minimal use of visual stimuli allows you to really focus on the sound and the experience. As I walked through the instillation, it almost felt as it I was wondering through my unconscious.

Sum of Days picks up on a number of themes present in this week’s readings. For example, here we can see Brecht’s philosophy of participatory performance at work. While Brecht mainly focused on the idea of radio as a means of two-way communication, Sum of Days achieves Brecht’s notion of audience participation; the piece could not exist if not for the footsteps, whispers, and coughs of its audience.

During the course of the instillation, musicians such as Jon Gibson and Philip Glass performed in the center of the exhibit. As the music blended with the ambient sounds, it created the same kind of dual music/noise score the Surrealists pioneered in the early 1900s. But what is interesting to me about Sum of Days is how integrated the noise and music actually are. Whereas the Surrealist plays of Guillaume Apollinaire had separate scores for music and noise, Sum of Days effectively blends the two notions together. As the days go by, the elegantly composed music fades into the background and becomes indistinguishable from the noise.

Categories: Reflective Posts


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