New York (April 22nd, 1999) The Bohen Foundation, a private foundation that supports arts and culture, announced today that it has commissioned American artist Bill Fontana to create a new site-specific work for installation during the forthcoming 48th Venice Biennale. Entitled "Acoustical Visions of Venice," Fontanas project will be installed at the Punta della Dogana, one of the most celebrated vantage points of the city, from June 9 through October 3, 1999. The installation is part of the official program of the Venice Biennale.
"Bill Fontana is one of Americas leading practitioners in the media arts," said Fred Henry, President of The Bohen Foundation. "His use of sound to transform our awareness of our surroundings has helped expand our thinking about contemporary arts methodology. The Bohen Foundation is pleased to commission this extraordinary new work in order to encourage experimentation and innovative approaches to new media and creativity."
"Acoustical Visions of Venice" will be a live audio collage of sounds collected from 12 key sites within the city by microphones concealed at strategic points selected for both their acoustic richness as well as their historical and cultural significance. The acoustic signatures of these sites will be simultaneously transmitted in real time to the Punta della Dogana, enveloping it within a rich mosaic of sound, many of whose origins are visible from the Dogana itself. Thus, visitors awareness of their surroundings will be transformed by the relocation of sounds emanating from around the city. The overlapping textures of these different locations will be continuously modulated and re-mixed, creating an endlessly unique interpretation of the citys acoustical landscape.
Since 1974, Bill Fontana has worked in the genre of sound sculpture, but his explorations of the compositional aspects of ambient sound (as opposed to electronic sound) date back to the 1960s. Influenced by Marcel Duchamps strategy of the found object, he realized that the relocation of an ambient sound source within a new context would radically alter its acoustic meaning. These relocations have been conceived in sculptural terms because of their manifest relationship to a particular space, but they also bear a strong relationship to music, which has the capacity to alter our spatial perception through auditory sensation. Working with public spaces in major cities around the world, Mr. Fontana has distinguished himself by grafting the sounds of non-urban sites into the citys fabric, refocusing our experience of the acoustical environment and undermining our reliance on visual cognition.
One of his more celebrated commissions, Sound Island, occurred in 1994 in Paris where he enveloped the Arc de Triomphe, at the center of a notoriously frenetic traffic circle, in the white noise of the ocean crashing along Frances Normandy coast, thus obliterating the sounds of the city. The installation was especially poignant as it was created for the 50th anniversary of the D-Day landing at Normandy and the liberation of Paris.
Mr. Fontana has received fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Berliner Künstlerprogramm of the DAAD, and the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission. His works have appeared in the 1988 Biennale of Sydney, Australia; Resource Art, Berlin, 1989; the 1991 Whitney Museum Biennial; and Artifices 2, Saint-Denis, France, 1992.
"Acoustical Visions of Venice" is the precursor to
another major work by Mr. Fontana that The Bohen Foundation has
commissioned for presentation by the Guggenheim Museum. Entitled
"Mappings," the work will be a series of simultaneous
audio installations that map the different Guggenheim Museumsin
New York, Bilbao, Venice, and Berlin by transmitting and mixing
the sounds of each museums various architectural spaces, as well
as the adjacent urban spaces that they inhabit. The piece is scheduled
to be installed at each location in January 2000 for three months.
"Acoustical Visions of Venice" will be accompanied
by a fully-illustrated brochure with an interpretive
essay by Matthew Drutt, Associate Curator for Research at
the Guggenheim Museum in New York.