VACUT GROUP, The Whistle, 2022. Courtesy of the artist and OTO Sound Museum.

VACUT group
The Whistle

OTO Sound Museum

October 21–November 27, 2022
October 14, 2022


Opening: October 21, 5–7pm

Wasserturm
Badweg 10
8001 Zürich
Switzerland

oto.museum
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OTO Sound Museum presents the new sound project The Whistle by VACUT group in one of the oldest towers of Zurich.

Like an architectural flute hiding in the urban fabric of the city, the ancient water tower of Zurich will once again come alive with the sound installation The Whistle. The work is a site-specific intervention by the VACUT collective (Voices Against Corruption and Ugly Trading), initiated by Gilles Aubry in collaboration with Ale Hop, Aya Metwalli, Gabi Motuba and Sabina Leone. For the third project of OTO Sound Museum at the Wasserturm in Zurich, the voices of The Whistle will pass through the silent body of the tower to interrogate the near and distant realities which we live in.

The installation The Whistle features voice recordings presented inside the Wasserturm, water tower in Zurich, audible from the surrounding public space. Informed by data leaks and NGO reports highlighting Switzerland's involvement in international money laundering, tax evasion, and predatory extraction of raw materials, the work seeks to address the affective cost of racial capitalism from a situated perspective. The VACUT Group (Voices Against Corruption and Ugly Trading) was formed to this end, gathering sound artists and musicians from countries involved in dubious business activities with the alpine nation.

The work relies on voice as an embodied manifestation of perceived social and environmental injustice. Each performer engages with a number of sources documenting corruption, land grabbing, human exploitation and environmental devastation in their home countries, along with their own perception of such phenomena. They respond to this experience through vocal improvisations in the course of recorded sessions. Assembled into a composition, the voices blend with the local ambient sound in Zürich. For the visitors, listening becomes a matter of participation, empathy and accountability, an invitation to attend to one's boundedness to near and distant realities.

The project further interrogates existing acoustic representations of Swissness, a term rebranded in the 1990s for marketing purposes, largely associated with attributes of fairness, precision, reliability, political stability, naturalness and cleanliness. An early example of Sonic Swissness can be found in the composition “Symphonie Les Echanges” by Rolf Liebermann, created for the 1964 Swiss national exhibition in order to introduce the visitor to the interaction of the economy in a novel way. Another instance can be found in the Sound Tower installed in Bienne by Andres Bosshard for Expo.02. Essentially a streaming dispositive for immersive aural experience, Bosshard's Klangturm offers a perfect metaphor for neoliberal soundscaping—smooth, consumption-oriented, and depoliticized. Following the rejection of the Responsible Business Initiative by a majority of Swiss voters in 2020, conversations on Sonic Swissness certainly deserve an update. This imperatively should include voices from Switzerland's partner countries, who can attest of the actual human and environmental cost of Swiss wellbeing.

VACUT Group members: Ale Hop (voice artist); Aya Metwalli (voice artist); Gabi Motuba (voice artist); Gilles Aubry (composer and project initiator); Sabina Leone (voice artist).

The project is curated by Zaira Oram.

Zaira Oram is a curatorial collective focused on experimental displays and interdisciplinary projects. Her practice involves research on visual art, performance and sound art and the creation of networks between different disciplines and areas of studies. Her main research threads are migration, contemporary narrative and border experiences. Zaira Oram has an open identity: she travels and transforms herself. The collective was initiated by Francesca Ceccherini and Eleonora Stassi, and expanded with the participation of Chloé Dall’Olio, Camille Regli and Elisa Bernardoni. @zairaoram.

OTO Sound Museum is a nomadic museum that produces, presents and collects sound works by contemporary artists from different backgrounds, geographies and generations. The museum was born digitally as an iconoclastic environment and a utopian architecture on the platform. It is also used to travel across different places in the physical realm, transforming its identity along the way.

The Whistle, VACUT group, Wasserturm, Zurich.

Opening: October 21, 5–7pm / 5pm: collective listening (Badweg 10, 8001 Zurich and Old Botanical garden).
October 21–November 27, 2022Listening hours: Monday–Sunday, 2–6pm (Badweg 10, 8001 Zurich and Old Botanical garden). 

Workshop and soundwalk: October 22, 2pm (Badweg 10, 8001 Zurich and Old Botanical garden).

For press enquiries, please contact: [email protected].