Mathaf’s Project Space is dedicated to emerging artists and their work. The first project in this experimental space features the sound installation of Magdi Mostafa, “Sound Element.” Here, Egyptian artist Magdi Mostafa continues exploring the dialogue between sound and space. Mostafa’s work evokes personal and shared memories, recalling different images and emotions to be experimented by the visitors.
“Using a variety of frequencies, Sound Element is meant to trigger certain layers of ‘chemical reactions’ through the vibrations of sound within the space. The effect that this has is determined by the individual’s nature and becomes a very personal experience. Set in an entirely dark space, Sound Element invites the visitor to use hearing as their primary sense to take in the artwork.”
I had the chance to sit down with Magdi Mostafa during a recent visit to Qatar and have a chat about this project.
How was the installation received on opening night?
It was a great opening and many more people came than anticipated. Some people stayed inside for five minutes and some people stayed for more than thirty minutes. It depends on how ready you are to listen because you have to be quite ready for it.
The installation is up for one month and a half, so whenever you feel like you want to come and meditate it’s there…
It depends on how ready you are to listen because you have to be quite ready for it.
Can you tell us a little bit about this installation?
It’s a series of field recordings I’ve been doing where I live and where I travel as well. It’s like a sound archive that I have started developing since 2009. I use selections from these field recordings and I construct them in a way that can be a live sound performance or a multi-channel sound installation. This is how it started.
I have done three editions of this installation but they are always changing based on the architecture, size of the room, conditions of the place. I did one in Dubai and one in Barcelona and this is the third.
It’s a series of field recordings I’ve been doing where I live and where I travel as well. It’s like a sound archive that I have started developing since 2009.
What is your process of recording?
I started with sound diaries. I carry around a recorder everyday and when I pass by something that my ears are drawn to, I record it. This has been going on for more than three years and as a result I have built a large archive of sounds that I use. It’s a very complicated process and there is a lot more to it.
For example, the longest sound clip that I’m using in this installation is about thirty seconds, so it’s kind of like an embroidery of all these different sounds. Then also there are channels and each channel has its own sound and each sound travels differently in that space.
I started with sound diaries. I carry around a recorder everyday and when I pass by something that my ears are drawn to, I record it.
What kind of experience do you want your viewer to have?
There is no targeted concept and no precise feeling I want them to have. I’m trying to open, or provide an unexpected environment inside the museum to engage your ears more than your eyes because you always go to the museum and your eyes are ready to see things. I’m trying to give priority to your ears and give your eyes a break, especially in such a culture that has such a visual presence and things are always precious and shiny. I’m also trying to break your expectations of what a museum is and what it should be. That is actually the benefit of having a small projects room so that artists can be free to exhibit new mediums and create experimental works.
I’m trying to open, or provide an unexpected environment inside the museum to engage your ears more than your eyes because you always go to the museum and your eyes are ready to see things
I noticed some red blinking lights when we were in the room.
Yeah, so you have a dark room and it’s quite unknown for most people who are entering. They don’t know exactly the dimensions of this room, so they feel a little bit paranoid, “what is this dark room that we have just entered”. So it’s light sensors that glow and give you an endpoint to this infinity. It’s also trying to measure, or give you a clue about which point has built up sounds, strong sounds, and which point has less. It’s like waves of the sea, sometimes they hit each other, and cancel out and sometimes they merge together and create a higher sound.
It’s like waves of the sea, sometimes they hit each other, and cancel out and sometimes they merge together and create a higher sound.
You have these four channels in front of each other in some points they build up each other and in other points they destroy each other. You also have the upper level. So ya I’m trying to put you in a surrounding experience that can trigger your feelings. Abstract sounds are a powerful medium because of that. It’s very personal and it’s very…. Everyone will feel it in a different way. That’s why I prefer to have one person in the space only, or two, not more, because then you have more privacy and your own connection with it.
I’m trying to put you in a surrounding experience that can trigger your feelings
Is there a reason you chose the color red for the lights?
Sound has a temperature also, as does light, and this temperature affects our bodies and our feelings. If I were to choose one color, that represents this sound installation, it’s red, it’s not white and it’s not green, it’s not RGB. I have other installations that are based on xenon lights like the ones used in cars, white, very pure, and shiny that I use for bright sounds. But here you have more of a reddish sound… it’s a warm sound.
Sound has temperature also, the same as light, and this temperature affects our bodies and our feelings.
Magdi Mostafa and I outside his installation “Sound Element” at the Small Projects Gallery in Mathaf