Silent Walk

Artist: Song-Ming Ang
Location: Institute of Contemporary Arts, Singapore
Year: 2014
Researcher: Sara Black

Song-Ming Ang uses music as a starting point in much of his work and constructs self-­imposed restrictions for processes and situations to unfold. His artwork span a variety of media and is made from the overlapping perspectives of an artist, an observer and amateur. He says that he ‘makes art focusing on how we connect to music individually and as a society. Many of my works are based on ideas and processes. This might involve remaking musical instruments, scores and paraphernalia via a certain logic or narrative. As a result, my artworks appear in different media. In my work, music also becomes an entry point into other subjects. In the last few years, my work has focused on craft and labour within the contexts of music and art making. I am also interested in the roles of the fan and amateur, as they often embody the spirit of dedication while generating knowledge in unexpected ways.’

Silent Walk is ‘A group exercise in which participants listen to the sounds of their immediate environment. Each participant leads the group for 5 minutes, walking in any direction and pausing as he/she wishes. The rest of the group follows the leader, and the exercise ends when all members have taken turns to lead the group. All mobile devices are switched off and all participants remain silent during the walk.’ The participants follow a set of written instructions, which they undertake in whichever urban environment they are currently in.

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Performed at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney, for the programme Sonic Social, Silent Walk enabled the participants to experience a very visually-oriented environment, utilising and giving privilege to two senses, sound and sight. As invited participants to contemplate what usually lies beneath our notice particularly within a busy museum environment, and as a result the potential of sound to transform our perception of the spaces we inhabit.

For the presentation of Silent Walk at Hong Kong Arts Centre, a selection of documentation photographs of the event were installed on the gallery walls, together with the instructions of the walk (mounted as vinyl stickers). Instructions 1. Participants should turn off all mobile/sound-emitting devices, and remain silent during the walk.

2. There should be at least one timer/watch to keep time.

3. Participants take turns to become the group leader, who leads the walk for five minutes. The suggested group size is six to ten participants.

4. During these five minutes, the leader decides which path or direction to walk in. All other participants follow the leader.

5. After five minutes, the leader tags another group member who has not yet been the leader. This tagged participant becomes the leader and leads the group for five minutes.

6. The tagging process continues until every participant has led the group once. The walk ends when the last leader has led the group for his/her five minutes.

7. It is suggested that the group gathers after the walk to exchange experiences on what they heard during the walk. This can be done in a formal or informal setting.

The artist decided only to document Silent Walk through photos and not videos. It’s an artistic decision, because video documentation is too close to the actual performance. Silent Walk is mainly an experiential work, and the artist believes that very often, even video is inadequate in documenting such works. On the other hand, using photos makes sense in this case, because it is a silent medium. The artist uses photos to enable the viewer to imagine what sounds could have been present at each performative action.

Song-Ming Ang has performed the work in several venues, and as a conceptual work each presentation is unique and affected by the site and participants engaged in the act. Each museum/organisation have their own criteria.

All copyright belongs to Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts, Shanghai University.

Progress Agency