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 Cultural Innovation Editor | | N°39 JUNE 2020 the new destination for discoverers defending the best of Art, Architecture and Design
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Mantras and, in the background, Speechscape 31° 47'N/35° 13'E | Yoann Ximenes©
"The symphonies of nature know no rests. The world is never quiet; even its silence eternally resounds with the same notes, in vibrations that escape our ears."

Albert Camus




Sound is invisible. Its absence is too. During the Covid-19 confinement, certain sounds from nature came forward and took place in urban areas; ducks near the Comédie Française in Paris, wild boars in Barcelona, dolphins in the port of Cagliari… Birdsong cheered up the townspeople listening at their windows. 

All matter is music | Onyx Ashanti©
Mathieu Zurstrassen @ Centre Wallonie-Bruxelles
With everyone indoors, we got to hear nature again. Since half the world’s population was in lockdown, vibrations caused by human activity were reduced and planet Earth got some peace and quiet. It even affected seismic activity!
Recording micro-cracks in wood | Zimoun©
Céleste Boursier-Mougenot @ François Schneider Foundation
This special issue of CULTURAMA showcases an artist who makes vibrations visible — Yoann Ximenes. He explains his cymatic method, a term that comes from the Greek word "κῦμα" meaning “wave”, and his approach with vibration blueprints which represent the energy of sounds.
Vibrations at the time of lockdown
Eric of CULTURAMA: What led you to be interested in Cymatic Art?

Yoann Ximenes: At the start of my artistic approach, it was my husband and the evolution of our lives. When I was still a Visual Arts student, he became an educator. Then, when he specialized in child deafness, a new world opened up to me; that of deaf culture, of course, with its corollary sign language, its own logic, and its apprehension of sound, not articulated in language, but for its physical properties, vibratory in particular. In a situation of sensory deficit, sound is perceived by vibrations, resonances felt in the body. This discovery initiated my artistic research and introduced me to the physics of sound.
Le Big Bang de Louise | Yoann Ximenes©
We live on a vibrant planet, in a vibrating universe. Science continues to provide evidence, of what Hans Jenny explained in the 1960s: “Whenever we look in Nature, animate or inanimate, we see widespread evidence of periodic systems." From the smallest scale to the largest, the things of the universe exist by pulsations, oscillations, and vibrations. It rings in every corner. Sound is therefore everywhere, omnipresent, even if we cannot perceive it through hearing. Sound is an invisible and immaterial energy that only exists if there is matter to diffuse. It is the consequence of a movement of matter which reveals itself by diffusing. It takes shape in matter, and without it, no pulsation, oscillation, or vibration. Cymatics, a term coined by Hans Jenny, aims to study sounds made visible by patterns of vibration waves. These vibrational figures are obtained by the transmission of sounds on a physical medium. Thus, sand placed on a metal plate and subjected to a sound vibration will generate various patterns relating to the waves which propagate. These patterns are known as "Chladni acoustic figures", from the name of their inventor. Through these various discoveries, I have come to include cymatics in my work; a way to make sounds visible.
The symphony of vagrants | Installation | Yoann Ximenes©
Eric: How does the science of resonance influence your artistic language?

Yoann: The term resonance originally expresses a natural phenomenon felt mainly by hearing. It naturally finds its echo in acoustics. To resonate is the action of returning sounds, of echoing. The meaning of this term subsequently broadened to various types of waves other than sound and to various dimensions of Nature, from the smallest particle of matter to the planets.
Speechscape 31° 47'N/35° 13'E | Église des Célestins, Avignon | Yoann Ximenes©
Scientifically, the phenomenon of resonance is accomplished when the amplitude of the oscillations in a given system increases, amplifies. Resonance includes the ability to increase the intensity and/or duration of a sound. A resonant system, related to sound or not, can, therefore, accumulate energy. Resonance conveys the idea of amplification and energy transfer. It is on this idea of sound energy that I articulate my artistic research. In my work, I focus on four main ideas which are central to my artistic creations:
  • Sound is a mechanical energy: sound is a vibratory movement that physically disturbs an environment. Before being an audible manifestation, sound is characterized by a change in a system. With cymatics, we see this energy; the action causes the vibration of the air which will move molecules, shocking each other as if to transmit a message. No need to hear to consider that there is dynamic sound, that there is energy.
  • Sound is an informational, communicative energy: understanding and interpreting sounds, then the ability to emit a set of sounds produced by the human vocal system, have enabled articulated language, making it possible to express thoughts and communicate.
  • Sound is an emotional energy: the temporal combination of sounds and silences, with consideration for rhythm, pitch, nuances, and timbre, is at the origin of the Arts of sounds such as music, song, and finally rhetoric.
  • Sound is a media energy: sound is a material capable of being recorded, diffused, transmitted, reproduced, modulated, cut, recomposed by technical, acoustic, electronic, and digital processes. As a medium, subjective sound, used as such, or articulated in language, can become a considerable energy in its capacity to influence, even to fix a society’s way of thinking. It becomes a more technical medium in the form of radio, television, podcasts, etc.
Nûn | Installation | Yoann Ximenes©
Each of my works calls upon several of these energy parameters, and all of them ask the question: does the audio universe shape the world? And how does it influence our understanding of reality? In any case, I know that sound informs. It carries information. This is what I try to translate into my work by giving it shape.


What is CULTURAMA HOMEMADE? It's a YouTube mini-series born during the lockdown spring. Why? To share our passion for Art and Design. The means of production are limited and collaborators can't come close to each other, but the desire to prevail over restrictions on freedom is still here, fueling us. The conditions in which we operate are therefore quite  special. Everyone works at home and communicates only by email or phone. HOMEMADE episodes so far confirmed that the hunger for exchange of artistic knowledge remains, whatever the circumstances. This mini-series thus takes the challenge to present artists with diverse cultures and identities from all over the world, during and after lockdown, no matter how complicated the logistics might be. So, subscribe and participate in this unprecedented adventure!



Both web-magazine and video-broadcaster, CULTURAMA accompanies you in the exploration of the 21st century Art and Design, with its exclusive interviews, reports, and mini-series. For more CULTURAMA discoveries, subscribe!

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