press release

This December, Nottingham Contemporary presents From Ear to Ear to Eye, an exhibition exploring the politics of sound, music and listening in myriad forms. It traces the acoustic lives of cities across the Arab world, and the varied ways in which translation, notation and recording can map memories and migration, territories and conflict.

From Ear to Ear to Eye brings together installation, sculpture, photography, film and music by 17 artists of different generations. With a title borrowed from a text by Anna Boghiguian, the exhibition comprises graphic scores, field recordings, musical instruments and sonic archives.

Exhibiting artists include: Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Etel Adnan, Haig Aivazian, Mounira Al Sohl, Basma Alsharif, Ziad Antar, Marwa Arsanios, Ania Dabrowska, Malak Helmy, Joana Hadjithomas & Khalil Joreige, Hiwa K, Jumana Manna, Joe Namy, Setareh Shahbazi, Raed Yassin, Shirin Yousefi.

From Ear to Ear to Eye considers sounds travelling across borders, or being used to define them. Mounira al Solh tells the stories of Syrian migrants living in refugee camps around Beirut through woven portraits. Other works engage with the lived and imagined experience of places, such as Shirin Yousefi’s The Tales of the Cortex, which evokes the fleeting sounds and fragrances of the Kurdish landscape, or Ziad Antar’s hazy photographs taken from a boat travelling up the coast of Lebanon.

The ways in which histories can be told through music are represented through Haig Aivazian’s sculptural installation, which grew out of his research into Turkish oud music, and its ties with religion, cultural identity and national aspiration. A film by Jumana Manna represents the rich musical traditions from across Jerusalem and its relationship to the West.

Elsewhere, From Ear to Ear to Eye is concerned with how sounds can provide evidence or testimony, such as Lawrence Abu Hamdan’s forensic analysis of the sound of gunshots. Made in Kurdish Iraq in 2011, Hiwa K’s video This Lemon Tastes of Apple documents a musical intervention, a score by Ennio Morricone, in a civil protest. The relationship between sound, image and notation is explored in the work of Joe Namy, who limns the limitations of translation and the disconnect between subtitles. The hand-painted leporellos of Etel Adnan combine the verbal and visual in accordion-folded booklets.

The process of recording history is a theme of From Ear to Ear to Eye. Raed Yassin’s Ruins in Space rewrites musical history by crafting a fictional friendship between two musicians, to imagine a utopian cultural crossover involving the Egyptian chanteuse Umm Kulthum. Ania Dabrowska navigates a vast photographic archive, drifting through and collating images from different decades.

Through a diverse range of work and practices, From Ear to Ear to Eye represents sound and notation as means of tracing histories, identities and experiences. The exhibition is concerned with that which might be voiced or heard, but resists being visualised.

Supported by the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture – AFAC