The Musical Brain
High Line, New York
Organized by Cecilia Alemani, Donald R. Mullen and Melanie Kress
April 2021 – March 2022
Featuring works by Rebecca Belmore and Osvaldo Yero, Vivian Caccuri, Raúl de Nieves, Guillermo Galindo, David Horvitz, Mai-Thu Perret, Naama Tsabar, and Antonio Vega Macotela
The Musical Brain is a group exhibition that reflects on the power music has to bring us together. The exhibition is named after a short story by the Argentine contemporary writer César Aira, and explores the ways that artists use music as a tool to inhabit and understand the world. The featured artists approach music through different lenses—historical, political, performative, and playful—to create new installations and soundscapes installed throughout the park.
Traditionally, music is thought of as an art form we construct ourselves. With different organizing rules, instruments, and traditions across cultures, music has underpinned essential collective moments in societies for as long as we know. But music is also the way that we hear the world around us. Often used to described nature (wind whistling through trees), the cosmos (in the Music of the Spheres, or musica universalis), and even the built industrial environment (the rhythmic lull of a train car), music is the order we project onto a cacophonous world. Humans seek order and patterns but also relish chaos and noise; in many ways, music becomes the way that we can experience both at the same time.
The artists in this exhibition listen closely to the sonic world and explore the different temporal, sculptural, social, and historical dimensions of the ways we make music, and the ways we listen. They wonder what stories discarded objects tell when played, what happens when a railway spike becomes a bell, and how the youth of our generation sing out warnings to save our planet. They remind us that music is a powerful tool for communication, especially in times when spoken language fails us. The sonic brings us together to celebrate, protest, mark the passage of time, and simply be together.
The Musical Brain is organized by Cecilia Alemani, Donald R. Mullen, Jr. Director & Chief Curator of High Line Art and Melanie Kress, High Line Art Associate Curator.