Tarek Atoui “The Whisperers”

The FLAG Art Foundation

poster for Tarek Atoui “The Whisperers”

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The recipient of the 2022 Suzanne Deal Booth / FLAG Art Foundation Prize, Paris-based artist and composer Tarek Atoui (b. 1980, Beirut, Lebanon) presents the latest iteration of his multipart, participatory artwork The Whisperers, Atoui was selected for the prize by an independent advisory committee composed of renowned curators and art historians from across the United States and the United Kingdom. As a recipient, he received a $200,000 unrestricted award, solo exhibitions at The Contemporary Austin and FLAG, an accompanying catalogue, and programming at each venue.

Spanning FLAG’s 9th and 10th floors, Atoui debuts a reconfigured and expanded version of The Whisperers, which includes two new sculptural components and a roster of collaborators unique to this presentation. Atoui invited sound artists Jad Atoui, Susie Ibarra, and Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe to use the exhibition as a site for experimentation, and over a two-month run, collaborators will regularly interact with the installation through improvisational activations, community-based workshops, and public performances.

The Whisperers began during the pandemic as a series of workshops Atoui conducted with his son’s kindergarten class in Paris. “[…]Instead of shifting my practice to the net and making it virtual,” states Atoui, “I started to think, what audiences are still available in the context of lockdown.” Working with four and five-year-old students, the artist found ways to generate collective discoveries through four exploratory questions: How can we amplify spaces by using speakers and microphones immersed in solids, liquids, and gasses? How can we create non-repetitive sounds using objects that rotate or spin? How can we use our bodies to articulate sounds through gestures and performance? How can we translate sounds into sources of motion and energy? “These sessions brought me back to the basics of my practice and made me reconsider elementary things: how I work with speakers, how I work with microphones, with rotation and turntables and records, with sound in air, sound in water, sound in metal, etc.”

A continuation of a project presented at the Tai Kwun Contemporary in Hong Kong (2021), Galerie Chantal Crousel in Paris (2021), and The Contemporary Austin (2022), The Whisperers is an open-ended and cumulative investigation of sound and the ways it shapes perception. Atoui’s practice is rooted in experimentation and collaboration, and investigates how sounds can be experienced in multisensory ways, how sounds act as a catalyst for human interaction, and how sounds can relate to and be informed by social, historical, or spatial parameters. Creating assemblages of custom-built materials he calls “tools for listening,” his modules combine wood, brass, water, bronze, glass, and stone to explore each material’s acoustic and conductive properties and to build sonic environments within the gallery space.

Tarek Atoui (born 1980 in Beirut, Lebanon) is an artist and composer living and working in Paris, France. His work stems from performance and investigates how sound can be perceived with sensory organs other than the ear, how sound acts as a catalyst for human interaction, and how it relates to social, historical, or spatial parameters. The point of departure for his works is usually extensive anthropological, ethnological, musicological, or technical research, which results in the realization of instruments, listening rooms, performances, or workshops.

Atoui has presented his work internationally at the Sharjah Biennial (2009 and 2013); dOCUMENTA 13 in Kassel (2012); 8th Berlin Biennale (2014); Tate Modern, London (2016); NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore (2018); Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow (2018); 58th Venice Biennale (2019); Okayama Art Summit (2019); Sharjah Art Foundation (2020); Fridericianum, Kassel (2020); and Bourse de Commerce – Pinault Collection, Paris (2021). He was appointed co-artistic director of STEIM (Studio for Electro-Instrumental Music) in Amsterdam in 2007, and of the Bergen Assembly in Norway in 2016. The 2022 Suzanne Deal Booth / FLAG Art Foundation Prize exhibitions will be the artist’s first solo museum exhibitions in Texas and New York.

The Suzanne Deal Booth Art Prize is a biennial award given to an accomplished living artist selected by an independent advisory committee. Administered by The Contemporary Austin, the prize includes a $200,000 unrestricted award, a solo exhibition premiering at The Contemporary and traveling to The FLAG Art Foundation, related public programming at each organization, and an accompanying scholarly publication. The award recognizes an artist demonstrating outstanding merit with a strong record of international museum and gallery exhibitions and for whom the advisory committee deems the award to be transformative.

Led by Heather Pesanti, former Chief Curator & Director of Curatorial Affairs at The Contemporary Austin, the 2022 Advisory Committee included Darby English, Carl Darling Buck Professor, Department of Art History, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL; Michael Govan, CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA; Ingrid Schaffner, Curator, The Chinati Foundation, Marfa, TX; and Catherine Wood, Senior Curator, International Art (Performance), Tate Modern, London, UK; along with institutional advisor Stephanie Roach, former Director of The FLAG Art Foundation, New York.

The FLAG Art Foundation is a nonprofit exhibition space that encourages the appreciation of contemporary art among diverse audiences. Founded in 2008 by art patron and philanthropist Glenn Fuhrman, FLAG presents rotating exhibitions that include artworks borrowed from a variety of sources. FLAG invites a broad range of creative individuals to curate thematic group exhibitions and works in-depth with artists to provide curatorial support and a platform to realize solo shows.
FLAG fosters dialogue around contemporary art by producing artist talks, artist-led workshops, and exhibition tours for school and museum groups. Based in Manhattan’s Chelsea art district, FLAG and all of its related programs are free and open to the public. FLAG also facilitates loans of contemporary artworks to museums and galleries and maintains an extensive database of artworks available to curators. To view a list of institutional art loan recipients or request access to the collection, visit The Fuhrman Family Foundation.

As Austin’s only museum solely focused on contemporary artists and their work, The Contemporary Austin offers exhibitions, educational opportunities, and events that start conversations and fuel the city’s creative spirit. Known for artist-centric exhibitions and collaborations, The Contemporary invites exploration at both its urban and natural settings—downtown at the Jones Center and lakeside at the Laguna Gloria campus, which includes the museum’s Betty and Edward Marcus Sculpture Park, with a growing program of commissions, temporary projects, and a permanent collection of outdoor sculptures by artists including Ai Weiwei, Terry Allen, Carol Bove, Sarah Crowner, Tom Friedman, Anya Gallaccio, Ryan Gander, Liam Gillick, Nancy Holt, Teresa Hubbard / Alexander Birchler, Paul McCarthy, Wangechi Mutu, Tom Sachs, Monika Sosnowska, Jessica Stockholder, SUPERFLEX, Marianne Vitale, and Ursula von Rydingsvard. Since its inception in 2013, the museum has also focused on its Museum Without Walls program—an initiative that brings art to visitors in new ways at diverse venues around the city of Austin.




from October 01, 2022 to December 10, 2022

Opening Reception on 2022-09-30 from 18:00 to 20:00


Tarek Atoui

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