October 9, 2012, 7 pm

Peter B. Lewis Theater and Museum Rotunda

stillspotting nyc

On October 9, the Guggenheim Museum and Unsound, creators of the celebrated New York festival, host a variety show of talks, performances, films, readings, statements, and personal reflections by architects, artists, planners, scientists, politicians, philosophers, and musicians as a finale reflecting upon the issues explored within the five editions of the off-site exhibition series stillspotting nyc. Program participants will have the opportunity to join a larger conversation about how man-made environments can be reconceived, reshaped, and redesigned to provide increased opportunities for calm and stillness, and will be invited to revisit elements of the site-specific commissions from each of the five New York City boroughs recreated in the Guggenheim rotunda during the evening of the stillspotting nyc: finale.

An Archtober: Architecture and Design Month program.


S – Sound Intervention
P – Presentation
D – Discussion
R – Reflection

Between the Concert and the Wall (S)

stillspotting nycArtist and musician Sergei Tcherepnin (Brooklyn, NY) constructs temporary architectural interventions that push phenomena of the sonorous towards the haptic through performance, composition, and installation, exploring the materiality of sound and its physical and psychological effects on the listener.


Introductory Notes (P)

David van der Leer (Associate Curator, Architecture and Urban Studies, Guggenheim Museum) launched stillspotting nyc as a two-year project for the museum out of frustration with NYC noise. He is still heavily concerned with the issue but—after his many travels for the museum—he also realizes the city is quiet as compared to many Asian cities. Van der Leer summarizes and calls for stillspotting on a global scale.

Lawrence Kumpf is a curator interested in dematerialized and time-based art practices rooted in traditions of experimental music and performance. He is curator at ISSUE Project Room and is an organizer and co-curator of Unsound New York.

Andy Battaglia is a journalist and cultural critic whose work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, The Wire, Spin, Artforum, and numerous other publications. He is also an organizer and co-curator of Unsound New York.


Sound Histories of NYC (P)

stillspottingHistorian Emily Thompson (Princeton University, NJ), investigates the history of noise and the culture of listening, with a particular interest in New York City. The city’s many efforts to control noise over the past century show the rich and ever-changing complexities of urban life in America.


Urban Noise and Health (P)

stillspotting nycThe studies by leading urban health researcher Dr. Robyn Gershon (University of California, San Francisco) on New York City’s mass transit system have demonstrated that noise levels consistently exceed the EPA and World Health Organization’s recommended guidelines. In a video message from the Bay Area, Gershon assesses the noise-related health risks New Yorkers are exposed to on a day-to-day basis.


On Schwartz #1 (S)

stillspotting nycA sound collage introduces the eclectic aural findings of the late Tony Schwartz, maker of numerous albums and radio shows based on his own concept of audio documentary. Compiled by David Suisman. A discussion of Schwartz will follow later in the program.


Professionalizing Stillness (D)

Trailblazing Department of Transportation representative Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan —known for creating green pedestrian plazas, improved bus lanes, and protected bike lanes on NYC streets —kicks off a discussion on understanding the potential risks of sound in urban space in the city through the lens of transportation.

Data and digital mapping expert Sarah Williams —formerly of the Spatial Information Design Lab (GSAPP, Columbia University, New York, NY) and currently the Director of the Civic Data Design Project (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston) presents the unusual psychogeography of NYC’s 311 noise complaints through the Noise Map, which she and Laura Kurgan, Associate Professor of Architecture, GSAPP created for stillspotting nyc.

Noise consultant and professor Eric Zwerling (Rutgers University, NJ) has trained thousands of city officials around the country on how to enforce municipal noise codes. For stillspotting nyc, Zwerling calls for advanced noise regulation and legislation in the United States.


Water Signal (S)

stillspotting nycSound artist and acoustic researcher Jana Winderen (Oslo, Norway) works with intricately layered compositions comprised of field-recordings that create canny representations and uncanny semblances of inaccessible places. For her contribution here, Winderen will present a new commissioned work made from recordings specially collected from sites around NYC.

The Guggenheim extends thanks to MIC Music Information Centre Norway and the Office of Contemporary Art Norway for their support of Jana Winderen and Water Signal.


On Stillness (P)

Writer and academic Robert A. F. Thurman (Columbia University, NY) has enriched contemporary thought and science through the exploration of the Indo-Tibetan philosophical and psychological traditions. Here, Thurman reflects on the role of stillness in noisy and anxious metropolises through the lens of Buddhist thinking.


On Schwartz #2 (P) David Suisman

stillspotting nycHistorian and sometime radio DJ David Suisman (Philadelphia, PA) surveys the unusual career of the late Tony Schwartz—a controversial “media guru,” acclaimed communications theorist, influential advertising executive, amateur folklorist, and prolific collector of New York street sounds. He lived his life with open ears and, in his prime from the 1950s through the 1970s, helped change how people understand the sonic environment.


The Still City? (R)

Sassy architect Charles Renfro (Diller Scofidio + Renfro, New York, NY) is not known for being quiet. Through humor and intelligence, Renfro has pushed the envelope of architecture to include issues such as voyeurism, gender, and sexuality. Renfro questions the value of silence in the context of New York City, “the city that never sleeps.”


On Schwartz #3 (S) David Suisman

stillspotting nycA final sound collage offers more of the eclectic aural findings of the late Tony Schwartz.


Between Language and Sound (P)

stillspotting nycNovelist and emissary for exploratory forms of fiction Ben Marcus (New York, NY) presents a meditation on notions of poetic silence, clamoring speech, unutterable communication, and interrelations between modes of language and sound at work in his celebrated recent novel The Flame Alphabet.


Sound Intervention (S)

stillspotting nycExperimental musician and instrumental virtuoso Jon Mueller (Milwaukee, WI) makes use of a unique and individual approach to the drums as he performs repetitive percussive patterns over slowly amplified tom-tom sounds that consolidate into a wall of cacophony and reach ecstatic levels of energy and release.


Making Noise (P)

Cultural historian, poet, and public arts consultant Hillel Schwartz (Leucadia, CA) listens beyond the alarms, sirens, and restless giants of the urban night for its quieter arcana in a performative talk arising from his recent opus Making Noise: From Babel to the Big Bang & Beyond, a wide-ranging chronicle of time-bound sounds.


About Unsound

Unsound explores links between cultures, communities, and hidden histories related to music and sound. Established in 2003 as a festival of advanced music in Krakow, Poland, Unsound has expanded to include a similar festival in New York—begun in 2010—as well as international platforms for performances, presentations, commissions, and special projects supported by dialogue and debate pertaining to what we hear when we listen to the world around us.

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Learn more about Unsound here.


The stillspotting nyc finale is supported by the Royal Norwegian Consulate General in New York.

Support for stillspotting nyc is provided by the Rockefeller Foundation NYC Opportunities Fund and a MetLife Foundation Museum and Community Connections grant.

This project is also supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.

The Leadership Committee for stillspotting nyc, co-chaired by Franklin Campbell and Pamela Samuels, is gratefully acknowledged for its support.

Above, from top: Snøhetta. Concept sketch for To a Great City, 2011. Digital photograph with handwriting. © Snøhetta 2011.

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