For the hundreds of thousands of visitors to the Venice Biennale, the major international art show is a time to experience contemporary art throughout the city and co-mingle with artists. Visitors can meander in and out of old Venetian buildings transformed into art installations, and artists invite viewers to lunchtime conversations at “Open Table” events.
This year, artist Xavier Veilhan created a recording studio called Studio Venezia, where visitors can filter in and out while an ever-evolving roster of artists experiment with sound. To create the studio, the interior of the French pavilion–designed in 1912 by the Venetian engineer Faust Finzi–was transformed into a plywood grotto, whose fully functional recording studio will host 100 local and visiting musicians to create without restraint at various points throughout the fair’s 173 days.
The pavilion opens today, and visitors can listen to the sound experiments live online, where each scheduled live event is cast as an interactive sound visualization. In this video from Vernissage.tv, you can see–and hear–the space in use:
Veilhan is famous for this type of immersive installation. His previous works include 1998’s The Forest, a plush environ of tree trunks made from synthetic cloth, and his walk-in sculpture The Cave, from the same year. His series Architones transforms revered architectural landmarks into sound installations. Studio Venezia draws inspiration from the 20th-century Dada artist Kurt Schwitters, whose studio Merzbau was constructed with found materials, and designed to look like a physical version of Schwitters’s 2D collages. Merzbau was famously ever-evolving–friends and fans would visit to find the space completely transformed from their last visit.
Studio Venezia is made completely of plywood, a material ideal for absorbing sound, and the sharp angles of the wooden installation “break the sound waves,” as curator Lionel Bovier puts it. Musical instruments made of the same wood are scattered throughout the space as well, though musicians are also encouraged to bring their own.
Throughout the biennale, visitors to the fair will filter in and out of the space while artists–musicians that range from French DJ and producer Chloé to famed 1960s electronic music composer Éliane Radigue–are recording their music projects. It’s meant to be a fluid exchange, with no pre-determined program, no concert seating or rehearsal, but rather a building animated by the sounds of a rotating cast of visiting residents.
For those not present at the biennale, Veilhan and creative director Rémi Babinet, co-founder of French advertising agency BETC, created a website that will livestream the music as its being made in the studio. Beyond that, says Bovier, there are not plans to have all of what is recorded there in one space. “It‘s a difficult question because the idea is that the musicians own the music they produce there,” he tells Co.Design. “We do hope they will release it as an LP or online,” but it’s ultimately up to them.
For the time being, the music projects are as ephemeral as performances. The space itself will also continue to change: After Venice, it will go on to become Studio Buenos Aires, and Studio Lisbon, built-out in those cities respectively as a studio to host local and visiting artists. In each city, however, the studio will retain the original intention to exist as a space for artists and audience to come together.
“The pavilion is a laboratory, as much for musicians who will create their music outside of normal commercial channels, as it is for visitors, who will be able to make musical discoveries outside of the traditional concert setting,” Bovier says in a press release about the project. “It is this halfway point that Xavier Veilhan offers with the pavilion, which becomes as much an exhibition space as an experimental one.”