A collaboration between Bernie Krause and United Visual Artists, the exhibition runs June 10 through October 15, 2023
Krause contemplates the natural world as a poet. He listens to animal vocalizations with a musician’s ear and studies his field recordings from the perspective of a scientist. He has become a master in the art of revealing the beauty, diversity, and complexity of the collective voices of wild animals increasingly silenced by the din and intrusion of human activity. Beginning in the 1970s, Krause recorded soundscapes across North America, Latin America, and sub-Saharan Africa, as well as a collage of soundscapes from the depths of the world’s oceans. In recent years, he has returned to many of these sites only to find that more than 50% of the recorded biodiversity has been lost. This unique installation thus makes a plea – through the voices of compelling organisms – for preserving the wondrous diversity of the animal world. Krause implores us to listen to these narratives from the living, non-human world before they are forever silenced. Visitors are invited to further investigate the phenomena of sound in related exhibits throughout the Exploratorium.
“This exhibition has been in the making for more than 50 years, when Bernie first met Exploratorium founder Frank Oppenheimer while recording soundscapes in San Francisco,” said Lindsay Bierman, Executive Director of the Exploratorium. “Bernie recognized that these recordings were capturing a unique, non-human perspective that could not be experienced in any other way, and they were accessible to anyone willing to take the time to listen. We are immensely grateful to Bernie, UVA, and the Fondation Cartier for bringing The Great Animal Orchestra full circle and home to the Exploratorium, where it furthers our vision of stimulating awareness and understanding of the world through art and science.”
“Imagine that the Exploratorium has been given Earth’s ear for the next few months,” Krause added. “It’s a receptor that detects only the life-affirming sounds of the natural world, even in urban San Francisco. This ear only responds to the divine sounds of the natural world and knows that they alone can repair our aching souls if we just let them in. What will we allow this wondrous ear to detect in the next several months? Will we sanction wisdom, conciliation, kindness, love, wonder, balance, beneficence, and restoration to be heard? People often ask: ‘If I want to hear these beautiful animal orchestras, what can I do?’ It’s not what we must do to hear them. It’s what we choose not to do. To paraphrase a line by David Bowie: The future belongs to those who can hear it coming. Question: What do you hear?”
About Bernie Krause
Since 1968, Bernie Krause has traveled the world recording and archiving the sounds of creatures and environments large and small. Working at the research sites of Jane Goodall (Gombe, Tanzania), Biruté Galdikas (Camp Leakey, Borneo), and Dian Fossey (Karisoke, Rwanda), he identified the concept of biophony based on the relationships of individual creatures to the total biological soundscape as each establishes frequency and/or temporal bandwidth within a given habitat. His contributions helped establish the foundation of a new bioacoustic discipline, soundscape ecology. Krause has produced over 50 natural soundscape albums in addition to the design of interactive, non-redundant environmental sound sculptures for museums and other public spaces throughout the world. His installations can be experienced at the National Museum of Natural History (Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC), the California Academy of Sciences (San Francisco), the Houston Museum of Natural Science, the Chicago Science Museum, the American Museum of Natural History (New York City), five special commissions at the World Financial Center (New York City), and more than 30 other venues across North America and Europe.
About United Visual Artists
United Visual Artists (UVA) is a London-based collective founded in 2003 by British artist Matt Clark. Its diverse body of work integrates new technologies with traditional media such as sculpture, performance, and site-specific installation. Drawing from sources ranging from ancient philosophy to theoretical science, the practice explores the cultural frameworks and natural phenomena that shape our cognition, creating instruments that manipulate our perception and expose the relativity of our experiences. Rather than material objects, UVA’s works are better understood as events in time in which the performance of light, sound and movement unfolds. UVA has been commissioned internationally by institutions including the Barbican Curve Gallery (London), Manchester International Festival (Manchester, England), Royal Academy of Arts (London), Serpentine Gallery (London), The Wellcome Trust (London), Towner Gallery (East Sussex, England), Victoria & Albert Museum (London), Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, (Paris), YCAM (Tokyo), and others. Previous group exhibitions include Blain|Southern (London), Riflemaker (London), Bryce Wolkowitz (New York), Seoul Museum of Art and Power Station of Art (Shanghai).
About the Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain
The Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain is a private cultural institution whose mission is to promote all fields of contemporary artistic creation to the international public through a program of temporary exhibitions, live performances, and conversations. Created in 1984 by the Maison Cartier, the institution is based in Paris in a building designed by the architect Jean Nouvel.
The Fondation Cartier’s singular artistic program explores a wide array of creative fields from visual and performing arts to architecture, design, fashion, philosophy, and the sciences. For nearly four decades, the Fondation Cartier has been instrumental in revealing the talent of some of the greatest contemporary artists and has established its museum spaces as a platform where artists and scientists can meet and create projects to address major issues of today’s world. Its collection is made up of nearly 2,000 works from a rich and multidisciplinary program. It is a testament to the relationships forged with more than 500 artists from all over the globe.
As part of its ongoing observation of the relationship between human beings and nature, the Fondation Cartier has produced collective projects (exhibitions, individual works of art, publications, performances, and public talks) approaching contemporary environmental issues, such as climate change, biodiversity, and deforestation. The Fondation Cartier has also built long-term relationships with contemporary artists from Indigenous communities living in Brazil, Paraguay, Venezuela, and Australia, and bears witness to the multiplicity of Indigenous languages and cultures.
The Fondation Cartier travels the world, partnering with major art institutions, engaging new audiences to discover the works of contemporary artists, and be challenged by their perspectives.