Begun ten years ago as part social experiment, part sound exploration, and part guaranteed conceptual failure, Ed Osborn's Audio Recordings of Great Works of Art was initially intended to investigate the aural side of the museum experience with the expectation that recordings of the acoustic life of silent objects would reveal almost nothing about them. Except in the case of extremely popular art works where crowds gather noisily, this proved to be true. But if Attali's oft-quoted maxim "nothing essential happens in the absence of noise" is applied, is there then really nothing essential about works placed in barely-populated atriums? As Osborn shows here, there is much more to sound and noise than can be picked up through microphones, and the space left to the ear while the eye is engaged is indeed a rich one. By considering both the actual physical sonic environment of a work of art and the implications of how sound functions literally and metaphorically within it, new readings (auditions?) can be drawn out of even over-examined pieces. In regarding visual art with a leading ear Osborn proves himself adept here at sounding out this rarely navigated, nearly silent, and always invisible terrain.

The fifteen pieces presented here were selected from thousands of artworks that Osborn has recorded over the last decade from Scandinavia to New Zealand. They were chosen based on a variety of factors including their various physical locations, relationship to site, and relative fame.


ed osborn | audio recordings of great works of art