Essay by Johny Andonia

Multiculturalism is a subject of the sound art works shown as a part of the exhibition. I saw it interesting how each artist represented the same topic in a different way. Thus it inspired me to think about multiculturalism in the Palestinian context, from the perspective of a Palestinian artist.

Palestine - the land situated on the crossroad between three continents: Europe, Africa and Asia – could be a great example of a place where many people with different backgrounds have always dwelt. The evidences of layers of different cultures – from Natufian through Canaanite, Philistine, Hebrew, Egyptian, Babylonian, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Islamic, Arabic, Crusader, Turkish and so on – could be seen here in any place around us.

I see the multiculturalism of Palestine similar to the agricultural terraces characteristic to this land - some of them have been cultivated since the ancient times in the same way as they are today. For me, multiculturalism is an accumulation of layers that when merged create the culture of Palestinian people, yet still keep certain group’s unique features. Thus we could state that Palestine is a country of turned pieces of different cultures sewed together to create the full and harmonious image of its society.
However, a group of strangers once decided to reach one of the down layers denying the other happenings of the history and thus denying existence of the Palestinian culture. That created a conflict of the century, which became the catastrophe for the entire population of Palestine – displacement, loss and fragmentation… and still today growing apartheid and injustice.

We thank Dr. George Rivera for organizing this and all the previous powerful exhibitions that undoubtedly add to the art scene of Palestine. We are also looking forward to see more. We appreciate all the artists for sharing their creative art works with us.

Johny Andonia
A Palestinian artist,
lecturer and gallery coordinator at Dar al-Kalima University College.


Essay by Paige Hirschey

April 20, 2013

Art is the very essence of a culture, the refined expression of that which it finds beautiful, holy or otherwise significant. It would stand to reason then that any artistic practice would be able to transmute cultural boundaries in order to create work that is collective, or multicultural. Over the last several decades, the world’s cultures have become increasingly integrated as satellite radio, the Internet, and other trappings of post-modernity have facilitated an unprecedented quantity of interchange among them. This exchange has impacted every facet of human interaction but its most visible platform is the arts. As artists have attempted to explore this integration and its implications, certain mediums have given themselves more readily to its application.

Ideally this art would avoid “othering” cultures apart from the one or ones, which the artist identifies with, creating art that speaks of collaboration as opposed to the disjunctive pairing of incongruous parts. In order to avoid this self-other dichotomy, artists attempt to create experiences, which engage their audience as opposed to isolating them. Visual art, in the traditional sense - static compositions in either two or three-dimensions - are in large part incapable of creating these types of experiences. Artists have turned instead to more interactive mediums, including sound art.

Despite being one of the most recent genres of art to emerge out of postmodernism, the desire to create and manipulate sounds is arguably the basest of all creative instincts. The first evidence of written music dates back to ancient Greece but music and human-produced sound surely go back centuries if not millennia further.
Sound has historically played an integral role in ceremony, religion and face-to-face communication. Starting with the telegraph humans have used sound to communicate over incredible distances. In an otherwise disjunctive post-modern world, the enhancement of communication technologies “reverses fragmentation”, is connecting humans on a global scale (LaBelle, 2006). In addition to its technological advances, sound or rather music, as with other creative mediums, has gone through the motions of Modernism and Post-modernism, exploring its limitations and possibilities, eventually stripping it down to the medium’s bare foundations. It is within this context that sound art was created. It is a wonder that sound, such an integral part of our lives, has taken so long to develop into an artistic genre in its own right.

In order to understand why sound art is such a recent phenomenon, we must ask what is sound art, and what sets it apart from its equally aural ancestors? Much like art itself, the definition of sound art is messy, subjective and inconclusive. There is not a definitive quality that separates music from sound art or sound art from noise. According to artist Jim O’Rourke, “it may well be what you call it, and where you are coming from. If you’re an artist, in the (relatively) traditional sense, and you find that neon tube is better heard and not seen, it could be sound art. If you’re a musician and the sound of the piano lid closing on someone’s fingers... you may well have some sound art” (Licht, 2007). Their differences are instinctual and subjective and in the end, sound art can essentially be anything that presents itself as such. Perhaps a more important question then, is not what is sound art but what are the differences between sound art and visual art. What can sound art offer that visual stimuli alone cannot?

In terms of art, aural practices are more experiential than their visual counterparts. Sound leaves behind no imprint. While sound art often relies on objects that can create or translate sound, the medium itself is made up of invisible, ephemeral waves and once those waves have passed through a listener’s ear canal they leave behind no trace, save perhaps for a memory. Visual art, in contrast, is based in material objects that can exist outside of a viewer’s perception of them. The quiet contemplation that we are typically prone to in our reception of visual art is replaced in sound art by an active engagement with the material. As a result the former is isolating while the latter “breaks apart the shell of the subject, eases the borders of identity, and initiates an interdependence whereby one is constituted by the whole environmental horizon” (LaBelle 2006). The viewer in actively listening to the piece becomes an integral component.

Visual art in the traditional sense is often static and lifeless - while it may attempt to convey vivacity through color, line, etc. any illusion of life is just that, an illusion. Sound on the other hand has an inescapable implication of activity, for sound cannot exist without activity. We associate sound with action, with life, and as a result, with companionship. This might explain the human fascination with and attachment to sounds. We as a species find comfort in the companionship that sound implies. We listen to our radios when we’re alone in our cars and iPods while we study. Many people find comfort in hearing white noise as they fall asleep. To this extent, sound art offers a degree of sociality that visual art alone does not. It should come as no surprise then that we have chosen sound as a medium with which to depict our theme of multiculturalism.

Multiculturalism can adhere to two definitions. The first, the mere presence of a multiplicity of cultures, is inherent. The second requires a degree of engagement. It is not simply the state of being multicultural but the act of recognizing, embracing and preserving multiple cultural identities. Creating a piece of art that adheres to the former is simple but to attempt to convey the latter is an entirely different matter. It must go beyond stereotypical representations and identify both the qualities that are unique to a culture and those which transcend cultural boundaries. In this way it can blur boundaries between the viewer/listener and the cultures it aims to represent. In choosing sound art we hope that our pieces will promote tolerance across cultures and allow our audience to look beyond national, linguistic, and ethnic boundaries to dissolve themselves in our sounds of multiculturalism.


LaBelle, Brandon. Background Noise: Perspectives on Sound Art. New York: The Continuum, International Publishing Group Inc, 2006

Licht, Alan. Sound Art: Beyond Music Between Categories. New York: Rizzoli International Publications Inc, 2007.

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