It’s hard to imagine the act of listening without the use of the human ear. However, for Lebanese electronic composer Tarek Atoui, listening is an act that engages far more of our perceptual capabilities than simply hearing sound. In fact, Atoui has developed an art practice around composing and performing sound that can be appreciated by a hearing-impaired audience, drawing on an understanding of multimodal listening abilities including gesture, visuality, tactility, and the space in which sound is performed. Atoui presented and performed these ideas at the Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) recently.
WITHIN 2 is the second installation of a project that began at the Sharjah Biennial in 2011 and continued in work undertaken at the Al Amal School for the Deaf. Since then, Atoui has continued to research systems of sonic architecture, in particular Hansel Bauman’s DeafSpace, in which social environments are reconfigured to reduce inherent sonic bias and enhance visuality.
Atoui will be working with music professor Pauline Oliveros and her class on a season-long project to design and develop new instruments for hearing-impaired performance. WITHIN 2 will function as a workshop exploring the preliminary ideas of this project, as well as a performance of Atoui’s many techniques thus far.
Born in Beirut, Lebanon, and currently based in Paris, France, Atoui is known for designing his own electronic instruments, often an extensive circuitry of knobs and switches that requires a manic, gestural performance style. The Metastable Circuit is one of his most sophisticated creations, consisting of four tables with controls capable of triggering 250,000 sounds.
Similarly, his piece “Un-drum,” inspired by his arrest and torture during the 2006 Lebanon War, is characteristic of this interfacing between the machine and human body.