Sum of Days

Monday, I went to the Museum of Modern Art. In the main atrium currently is an exhibit by Brazilian artist Carlito Carvalhosa, entitled Sum of Days.

The exhibit consists of a 5-story gauze labyrinth with speakers playing ambient noise from previous days. The idea is that the noise inside the exhibit is recorded, and then added to the previous days’ recordings. Eventually, the older noises are drowned by the newer ones.

The gauze billows as people walk through it. At first it reminded me of being in a foggy mist: you couldn’t see what was ahead of you or where the path would turn. You could see figures ahead of you, deeper into the maze, but because of the gauze, they were obscured. You couldn’t be too sure if they were right near you.

As I got to the center of the labyrinth, I stopped and took in the space. As I looked up, I saw that the drapes of the fabric formed a modified yin/yang figure, although both sides were white. This was crisscrossed by electrical cables and wiring. After a few moments I noticed that other people had walked into the center as well. I heard one person say “What are we looking at?”, he and his companions looking upward. I stood there longer, after they had passed. If people — whether one or many — were looking up when people entered the center, they would look up. If nobody was looking up, it was less likely that anyone would look up.

Another thing that I noticed in the exhibit was that people wanted to take pictures of it. Some people posed as if they were having their 3rd grade picture taken. Others took a more fashion-like pose. There was one Japanese woman and her granddaughter who playfully peeked out from behind the curtain, laughing as their picture was taken. Another couple took turns of making scary faces from the other side of the gauze. They too laughed as they looked in the camera’s viewfinder.

I liked knowing that their laughs, the audible trail of enjoyment, was being recorded and would be added to the next day’s sound. At times during the exhibit, musical performances are held. If you listen closely, you can pick some of them out from the noise. I like it though, that there is more spontaneous noise recorded.

What would the sound track of your life sound like? I hope in the end mine has more laughter than grumblings, more ohs! and ahs! than ughs! and that if someone could play it back, they would hear joy and wonder.


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