Tarek Atoui

the Shore / a place I’d like to be

In Yukio Mishima’s The Sound of Waves, 1954, the character Hatsue closes her eyes and listens to the tidal swings on the shore, feeling the vibrations reverberate through her body and becoming one with the ocean’s perpetual rhythm. This embodied experience echoes what Pauline Oliveros would later describe as ‘expanded consciousness’ in her sonic meditations in 1971.
This feeling of being tuned with the cosmos exemplifies quantum listening, a practice of engaging with multiple realities simultaneously, both influencing and being influenced by the act of listening. Quantum listening transcends mere hearing; it demands complete presence, empathy, and open-mindedness, fostering deep emotional and intuitive connections.
Just as Hatsue connects with the sound of waves at the shore, visitors to Tarek Atoui’s first solo exhibition at S.M.A.K. are invited to embody these principles, immersing themselves in the sonic landscape he assembles. At the core of Atoui’s show are experimental instruments and site-specific installations. He designed interfaces using synthesizers, electronic boxes, hydrophones, transducers, juxtaposing them with unconventional materials, such as gravel, fertilizer, brass rods, to create immersive experiences that interact not only with the galleries of the museum but with the vital organs of the listener. Atoui’s approach to the exhibition appears akin to a series of chambers, exploring how sound is absorbed by various parts of the human body – from fingertips to palms, hands, heart, and even legs. The overall sound within the galleries is a fusion of direct and reverberant sounds, thereby influenced by the presence of visitors.
While the listening and performance chamber Windhouse #1, inspired by an organ pipe devised by Johannes Goebel, conveys a more individual listening experience; works such as Iteration on Drums #1, The Whispering Playground, or Underwater Birds #2 compel the listener to consider the dimension of otherness and how organic and inorganic entities morph the space through sound. Whether it is the gentle rustle of feathers against metal and wood, children playfully spinning toys in a water circuit, or bubbles evoking a choir of birds, these pieces engage with our primordial and innate empathy, drawing from its primal etymology of ‘inner resonance’ and ‘physical affection’.
Every interaction with Atoui’s devices offers a unique experience, prompting at times introspection and connection with others through acoustic waves. These encounters transcend visual, hearing, and tactile impairment – as it happens when interacting with the ink drawing score of Sub-Ink #1, or the percussion instruments of Iteration on Drums #1, allowing sound to sculpt a liquid environment bridging the space between individuals, between the sea and the land.

Tarek Atoui
the Shore / a place I’d like to be
S.M.A.K., Ghent
6.Apr.24– 25.Aug.24

All images:
Photo by Dirk Pauwels. Courtesy of S.M.A.K.