Tarek Atoui : The Ground

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A sketch by Tarek Atoui during the research process in Pearl River Delta..

The Ground is a composition which takes inspiration from the long-term observations of human practices within farming and agricultural context of the Pearl River Delta.

Like the cycles of soil that recovers from fertilizer, The Ground has no beginning and no end.

Its pulses and rhythms are the Mirrored Gardens’ traditional brick walls. Its timbers and textures are its piles of rocks and the aggregates that form these rocks.

Its sound libraries and samples are compost. Some were cut and collected over years, others are unused footage and recordings from past projects.

Its instruments are the swamps, the stones, and the wood of this place. Flutes share air the way ponds do with water, analogue pedals and electronic software filter and distribute sound the way farming spiral structures support plants.

Its space is the neighborhood’s fish ponds and their invisible connections. And like an aging tree in the bottom of a river, it is a space to invite musicians and artists to use it as a record, a bow, an orchestra. A studio, a garden or a temporary place to cultivate sound.

——Tarek Atoui

Daily view of Tarek Atoui: The Gound at Mirrored Gardens, 2017.  Photo: Vitamin Archive Daily view of Tarek Atoui: The Gound at Mirrored Gardens, 2017.  Photo: Vitamin ArchiveDaily view of Tarek Atoui: The Gound at Mirrored Gardens, 2017

Tarek Atoui invites us into an ecosphere of sound via The Ground project. As if to follow the whispering of time, Atoui only gives poetic descriptions instead of definitions to The Ground.

The Ground presents to us an open system for sound creation that has nonetheless an intricate and compound spatial and compositional structure. It consists of a series of instruments, sound libraries and musical tools specially constructed for The Ground. Atoui built those out of sharing observations from his trips to the agricultural environment of Pearl River Delta with creators and instrument makers, engaging them in conversations about sound mechanisms and device they inspire.

Therefore, each of the Ground’s elements has its own history and ways of being activated. Sounds, instruments and objects play autonomously and converse with each other providing an everyday sound situation that can be listened to and experienced in multiple ways. But these elements are also thought as an exercisable, conversational and experimental space/sound structure for musicians, artists, listeners and practitioners to work from, and the daily situation they create becomes a primary state announcing new ones to comes.

Just like the observation of the ponds per se was not for creating structures of sound and space, each element in the composition of The Ground seems to be achieved “unintentionally” in a long time process. On the day launching The Ground, Atoui presented a performance on which he became a guest musician of The Ground, and proposed an interpretation where he improvised in the exhibition’s space and the multiple possibilities it offers. Things set off from here, and over the duration of the exhibition, more musicians, artists and listeners will be invited to explore the Ground and have their own reading and interpretation of it.


The Ground will host the following musicians at Mirrored Gardens:

Shane Aspegren
Born in Nebraska, US, currently resides in Hong Kong. Working at an intersection between sound, performance and visual art forms, his projects span fields such as music, video and installation, with an approach that often juxtaposes obsessively-fixed elements with improvised or temporal aspects. After receiving a BA in Film Studies & Photography, he moved to Paris and formed the electronic music duo The Berg Sans Nipple, releasing seven albums and making hundreds of performances around the world from 2002-2012.

Deng Boyu
From Innermongolia, he is a professional drummer, who has worked with multiple bands. His works include Rock, Jazz, Noise and Inprovisation. He is at the same time a vanguard electronic Musician. Being almost obsessive about constructing minimalistic ambiences, his works are full of exquisit and whimsy compositions which shows his  characteristic aesthetic of sampling and collage.

dj sniff
dj sniff is a musician and curator in the field of experimental electronic arts and improvised music. His musical work builds upon a distinct practice that combines DJing, instrument design, and free improvisation. He has performed internationally at various venues and festivals around the world, and has released 12 DJ mixes and 4 albums, which includes collaborations with Evan Parker, Otomo Yoshihide, Martin Tetreault, and Paul Hubweber. He was appointed as Artistic Director of STEIM in Amsterdam during 2007 to 2012.

Wu Na
Born in Chongqing, China, Wu Na started learning guqin at 9 under the guqin artist Mrs. Zhao Jiazhen and later Mr. Li Xiangting. She became the first postgraduate student majored in guqin performance from The Central Conservatory of Music in 2004. Wu Na is an active trans-disciplinary performer, often collaborating with musicians from various fields including jazz, rock, and experimental music. She actively explores the meaning of guqin improvisation in the context of our contemporary life. Now she is a guqin teacher at the music academy of the Capital Normal University and has established Man Xue Tang, the first guqin online education platform.

Xiao He
Folk singer, music producer, founder of Music Portrait and Echo Action. The third son of Tian Qiaoyun and He Pingsuo, he has released band albums Please Enlarge a Picture of My Cousin and Footsteps Bursts. Released solo albums include: Birds That Can Fly High Don’t Land on the Backs of Oxen That Can’t Run Fast, Identity of the performance, Silly’s Ballad and Soundtrack collection 2006-2013.


Duration: 30th September – 15th December, 2017
Venue: Mirrored Gardens
Daily Opening Hours: Wednesday to Sunday, 11am to 5pm
Address: Hualong Agriculture Grand View Garden, Panyu, Guangzhou, China
Tel: +86-20-31043759
Contact: mail@mirroredgardens.art

Text & Image from Vitamin Archive, © Vitamin Archive, 2017

Tarek Atoui: The Ground / daily situation of the composition (documentation)