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Tania Candiani: Making Sense of Sound
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Tania Candiani: Making Sense of Sound

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Updated: 10 April 2017
‘Tudo Suena’ – everything sounds. It’s not only the title of the latest blog post by Mexican born and based visual artist Tania Candiani, but an insight into one of the artist’s most influential sources of inspiration. Crediting noises such as the satisfied gurgles of her cat’s stomach as significant, Candiani holds a firm belief in how the sound of everyday things impact life – it is these things that create the enticing sensation of sound. We find out more.
Tania Candiani | © Flickr
Tania Candiani | © Flickr

Born into a musical family in Mexico City in the 1970’s, Candiani has had a long love affair with all things audible, beginning even before the purchase of her first LP – Donna Summers’ On the Radio at the age of five. Since her early exposure to music and its effect on people, Candiani has continuously explored the concept of sound and human relation to it. By seamlessly weaving together different mediums of art such as photography, textiles and painting, she creates a stimulating and sensory experience for all who come across her work.

One of her latest projects is the award winning and interactive Five Variations of Phonic Circumstances and a Pause, originally titled Cinco Variaciones De Circunstancias Fonicas Y Una Pausa. Just one out of 11 solo projects for Candiani, Five Variations was the recipient of the 2013 Award of Distinction from the coveted Prix ARS Electronica innovation competition which celebrates radical uniqueness and encourages artists to take their originality to the limit. Five Variations was celebrated for its ability to fuse together several mediums and components of visual art under the category of ‘Hybrid Art’ – a category highlighting modern interpretations of media art and trans-disciplinary projects.

The competition, whose roster of previous winners include Wikipedia and Pixar, gave recognition to Candiani’s Five Variations, whose goal it was to translate sounds and convert them into tangible text and code through the modification of phonic register. Each of the five separate installations from Five Variations feature machines which were built with the intention of acting as an important tool involved in a much grander scheme. These integral machines can only be described as devices which dull the line between past and present by blending elements from Science fiction and Victorian steam technology with contemporary word processing tools and artificial intelligence.

Through the noises both made and heard by participant and machine, the project explores and examines the individual’s experience with these devices whose technological make up sit somewhere in-between fantasy and reality. All five installations uniquely manipulate the intricate and sometimes delicate connection between the human existence to the very real experience of language and sound, and what we believe to be scientific fact through the representation of heavy machinery. The exhibit is as much about the machinery used to display the sound as it is about the actual sound that is being emitted. In doing so, Candiani examines and draws parallels to the nature of the relationship between the individual being interpreted and the interpreter.

In one of the installations from Five Variations, the fascinating Embroidery Machine or Boradora deeply examines and tests this relationship between human and machine. Participants are asked to fully engage with the mechanism in which they interact with through the use of speech. Embroidery Machine begins with participants entering ‘confessional’ booths, where they admit secrets and confessions which are then transmitted to a functioning embroidery machine. After passing through a double codification system, the embroidery machine then transforms the confessions into graffiti tags on cloth. The use of embroidered graffiti tags as the recording tool maintains the secrecy of the confessions, working as a method that has been linked with cryptography throughout history thus concealing the participant’s private thoughts while bringing them out in the open as something both visual and physical.

Today, as a Guggenheim scholarship fellow in the Creative Arts category and an active member of the Mexican National System of Creators since 2012, Candiani’s work has been featured internationally in more than ten different countries. She has taken part in more than 60 shows over the past 18 years, ranging from both solo to group collaboration projects.