Cinco variaciones de circunstancias fónicas y una pausa

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“Men need stories; otherwise they would die of narrative atrophy”1


The Laboratorio de Arte Alameda presents Cinco variaciones de circunstancias fónicas y una pausa (Five Variations on Phonic Circumstances and a Pause), an exhibition by Mexican artist Tania Candiani. As its title conveys, the show is mounted around five original commissions, created especially for the exhibition, as well as what we are calling a “pause,” an inflection that penetrates each and every one of the phonic circumstances that take place as part of the show.



For over ten years, Tania Candiani’s work has explored different paths and social phenomena that link aesthetics and language. In the present show for the Laboratorio de Arte Alameda, the proposal is oriented toward processes and artifacts generated by what we are calling phonic circumstances; each of them contains and expands a type of imaginary associated with machines, instruments and specific technologies whose sonorous/phonetic quality is exposed to one of the eponymous variations. They represent new “ways of listening” that call on the affect of what can be heard, but also on a destabilization of the notion of “utility” that is homogenously assigned to machines, instruments and other featured techniques: organ, player piano, sound engineering, the work of scribes, embroiderers and campaniles. Every device refers to a specific technology associated with a particular phonic circumstance (sound, music, orality, sign-based).


To visitors who wonder what first started this proposal, we would have to say unfathomable research into talking machines—sound- and voice-reproduction machines that elicit specific questions with regard to narrative, plot, the sound of writing and reading methods, and that lead to questions about code-system complexity, trans-codification, language encrypting and confession.


As has been the case for some two years, our work perspective has been inscribed within several branches of experimentation generated by media archaeology. As such, the five variations the show stages refer constantly to a number of communications model- and format-transformations that create tension in the relationship between scientific knowledge and the human factor and additionally emphasize the dislocation experience present in contemporary media’s expansive range. Thus various disturbance elements are set in motion within the peaceful  space of the Laboratorio, where media act in programmed and predetermined ways.


In his memorable article “Technology as Magic in the Late Middle Ages and the Renaissance,”2 William Eamon points to a situation that seems not to have radically changed to date, or at least not as it relates to interpretation and social drama. Eamon speaks of Italian philosopher Tommaso Campanella’s novel definition of invention, in which invention is the result of scientific investigation that contains a “magic” side that elicits astonishment and desire in spectators. The variations that Candiani proposes in the present exhibition are also inventions in that they too contain that intention of stirring up a potential for astonishment and unease in viewers, thus spurring desire. This is the fundamental miracle of modern technology that Adlai Stevenson spoke of when he called it “the magic wand that brings us what we wish for,” above all when that wish lies somewhere in the realm of the secret—in those not-yet-but-about-to-be-revealed “pause” moments. Finally—returning to Eamon’s words—“as long as people retain their capacity for astonishment, human invention will retain its magic.” Within all the twists and turns this astonishment elicits, each of the variations activates probes into the feelings of participants—who become aware of their personal involvement in the poetics implicit to any transformation.  


Karla Jasso


1. Innerarity Daniel, La filosofía como una de las Bellas Artes. Barcelona, Editorial Planeta, 2011. p. 18.

2. Eamon William, "Technology as Magic in the Late Middle Ages and the Renaissance." JANUS, Revue Internationale de l'histoire des sciences, de la médicine de la pharmacie et de la technique , 1983. pp. 171-212.