Hyperallergic: Four Spots in the Venice Biennale to Stop You in Your Tracks

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The grotto-like Mongolian pavilion is just a short walk from the Arsenale’s entrance, but once you enter it, it feels worlds away; like the Icelandic pavilion, music is also essential here. Looming in the semi-darkness are sizable biomorphic sculptures by Jantsankhorol Erdenebayar (Jantsa) made of black polyurethane foam, some illuminated by red lighting. Eventful surfaces with encrusted tubes, bulbous forms, ridges, and indentations feel distinctly organic.

But the big news here is the collaboration, titled A Temporality, between four Mongolian throat singers (N. Ashit, Kh. Damdin, A. Undarmaa, D. Davaasuren) and renowned German artist and musician Carsten Nicolai, aka Alva Noto, interacting with the artist’s sculptures. (The performance is available to subsequent visitors as a sound recording.)

I was fortunate to be in attendance for the live performance. With no announcements and nothing smacking of officialdom or ceremony, Nicolai began performing his signature minimalist electronica on his laptop and various gear. Dispersed throughout the crowd, and sometimes right next to the sculptures, the four throat singers — expert practitioners of the ancient technique characterized by singing multiple notes simultaneously — joined in. Nicolai’s electronica, mixed with this physical, bodily music and its deeply spiritual connection to nature, yielded an alternately swelling and receding, meditative, at times guttural, sonic environment. All around me people were rapturously swaying, often with eyes closed. The 45-minute or so performance, echoing across the sculptures and through the labyrinthine old building, was transfixing.

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