Sounds of Silence - 2018

Museum of Communication in Bern, Switzerland

Silence is defined by the absence of sound. The search for a place where stillness may be experienced, however, becomes difficult: stillness is holding sway only in outer space – yet even there the astronaut is hearing his own breaths.

What then, is silence? Does it exist at all? The temporary exhibition ’Sounds of Silence’ addresses these questions. It is on from November 9, 2018 to July 7, 2019 at the Museum für Kommunikation in Bern (Switzerland).

Silence is one of the most elementary and most sensual experiences man is able to undergo. Anyone who was ever sat in a completely sound-proofed room knows about the brute power inherent in silence. Contrary to the widely-held belief that silence has initially become a rare commodity in today’s hectic and stressful times, a desire and the conscious quest for silence can be traced way back in a historical context from a number of sources.

Silence is subjective: While the quiet ticking of a wall clock may serve as a soothing sleeping aid to someone, it may rob somebody else of his sleep all night long.

Silence is but tangible in contrast to sound: We are only able to experience an environment to be quiet, when we check it against a setting that is less silent. Whoever wants to speak about silence, can only do so with the vocabulary of sound.

These insights formed the pillars of both the conceptual design and the implementation of ’Sounds of Silence’. The dramaturgy builds entirely upon sound. Written text is completely done without, and also exhibits, photographs and videos are but sporadically represented. Abstract spatial graphics function as a guideline and starting point for associations, without anticipating topics though. Sound becomes the key player – a daring reversal of priorities in the clearly visually dominated world of the 21st century.

By means of the so-called Binaural Sound Technology together with interactive programming, a three-dimensional soundscape in the room is being built. A tracking system is evaluating the positioning and head rotation of all visitors. With the aid of this data, the listening perspective of each visitor, in relation to the soundscape surrounding him, can continuously be calculated, enabling some individual interaction and immersion therein. Accompanied by an invisible voice that is daring for a start, thereupon encouraging and sometimes even provoking, the visitor is sent on a journey whose exact route he may determine himself. Hereby he is invited to rely on his ears entirely for once. This shift in focus may be an acquired taste or even an imposition for some, and yet it paves the way for a mode of awareness in which a personal confrontation with the issue of silence finally becomes possible.

’Sounds of Silence’ makes different worlds collide: While the somewhat nearly forgotten genre of the radio feature functioned as a great source of stylistic inspiration, the methods of the  implementation are akin to modern computer games, where the visitor becomes the protagonist.

Nevertheless, ’Sounds of Silence’ is neither tied to a radio device, nor to a computer screen, and only becomes perceptible by freely roaming and exploring in the room. The result is a hybrid form of exhibition, one of its kind and truly unprecedented!

Credits

Client: Museum für Kommunikation Bern
Curator: Kurt Stadelmann
Scenography: ZMIK spacial design
Sound System Development: usomo by FRAMED immersive projects
Author: Bettina Mittelstrass
Graphic Design: Büro Berrel Gschwind
Photography: Digitale Massarbeit