Cavo. Frequente at Standards Milano
This is a coversation between Attila Faravelli and I. Along with Nicola Ratti and Enrico Malatesta, we are part of Frequente, an art organization based in Milan, focused on sounds and auditive culture. From an idea of Attila in dialogue with Nicola, a collaboration was born together with visual artists Nicola Martini and Vittorio Cavallini, in the aim of realizing a permanent site-specific installation conceived with a practical purpose: working on the acoustics of Standards, the space that hosts Frequente’s activities and ideas.
Instead of absorbing the sound, we preferred to realize a structure made of irregular wooden boards, that is able to maintain the energy of waves and modify the trajectories of sounds through complex, and unpredictable, ways. Irregularity is a chosen strategy to ensure the richness of acoustical qualities of the place. Rather than rectifying the aural response of the environment, we preferred to increase possibilities, building up a space able to maintain this differentiation.
Cavo is made of smoked walnut and eucalyptus wood, and has been worked at its natural state, taking advantage of its roughness, looking for the friction of the sound on the material and inside its porosity.
GAIA MARTINO: Do you think the work is concluded?
ATTILA FARAVELLI: Only when people are there can we understand how the space will react acoustically. We tested it with high and middle pitched sounds, but only when twenty people are there with their bodies and clothes, absorbing most of the low frequencies, will the sound in the room be more dry.
GM: According to Frequente’s approach to reality, space is always a work in progress, and the presence of the self-supporting “totems” you made as part of the installation declares this vivid certitude: these pieces might change set position at any time for any live performance. In parallel, the sound is an important element of the environmental work. Every time there will be a sound performance, the space will react differently. Of course we can not anticipate sounds in artists’ intentions, so the aural architecture will always be an ongoing process.
AF: Yesterday I thought that artists invited to perform at Standards will be the subjects most engaged with Cavo. Indeed, we decided to make Cavo after remarks by some artists who said the reverberation was too present in the space. At the same time, after a couple of live performances we might notice that we have exceeded with some elements; for example, some boards have a parabolic shape that will “shoot” sounds straight into the face of the listeners who are in certain positions in the room. If it’s too much, we can always modify the structure in the future.
GM: The audience will notice the aesthetic value of the work first. But an interesting point is that listening might also influence the behavior of someone without aural awareness. Widen the lens, differentiation means taking care of subjectiveness.
AF: I see the wing of an iridescent butterfly in a certain way and you, by your point of view, will see it in another way. To take care of the difference of each individual’s listening within an interior architecture is a precise choice. The work has a handcrafted look: we can modify the structure anytime, with the supervision of Nicola Martini.
GM: Nicola’s contribution has been substantial to the result. As a visual artist, his personal ability to interact with materials reveals all his aptitude as a sculptor. He said that Cavo is born with the intention to not use rational mediations. I think he was referring to his own sense of body intelligence, involved in the work. It’s a skill coming from the hands and from the inner feeling of things, instead of from intellectual knowledge. Often, I can recognize in you, as sound artists, something similar.
AF: His was the last word. The premise of the work was the need to listen to materials. Nicola was the right person, able to look, feel the objects in their three-dimensionality and put them in the space as required by the objects themselves. Furthermore, Nicola and Vittorio have the experience for understanding how things have to be placed into the context. For example, we approached the right side of the space starting from the left wall, anchoring on roof beams as crazy extensions of the structure. We used some curves and downfalls favoring the material and taking advantage of it.
GM: As a group, you have done the same with people: with a workshop attitude, you’ve taken advantage of the peculiarity without imposing control. Quoting Martini, each one brings his experience and works into the others’ work. Cavo follows the same criterion.
AF: I remember Manuel De Landa, who explained in one of his lessons that, according to modern genetics, DNA is composed of a series of proteins that do not exist without their realization: only by having the possibility to grow will they imply specific results. Then, for example, if the zebra mom ate something different, the zebra spots’ coloration would have a different pattern. As well, the relations between people will determine the final result. It is a part, it is a whole, it is a part of a whole.
GM: Do you think this work could have implications with some cultural, political, ethical positions, besides that of sound and listening? I feel that auditory culture is linked to a certain way of perceiving reality.
AF: The combustion engine and the invention of recording have changed the world, in terms of auditive needs. The first one made the world very noisy, the second one induced the need to conceive sound as an object. As a consequence, we have become used to wanting spaces that are isolated from the outside and absorbing on the inside. Working on the maintenance of energy instead of its depletion, creating strategies that refuse control, goes beyond sound, of course. But, to be honest, Cavo exists in a very practical way through listening, and this is our main purpose. Maybe, it is possible to achieve a certain cultural position by hearing the sound, and not before.