Hear that honk? It’s the music of the city

A new exhibit at BRIC House aims to make New Yorkers reimagine the city’s cacophonous sonic backdrop as music

“The music of the city is free"

“The music of the city is free" Photograph: Inigo Garayo

It’s not much of a secret that a city plagued by constant traffic, old squeaky subway tracks, street vendors, and millions of people milling about can be a bit loud. However, a new exhibit by artist Audra Wolowiec asks New Yorkers to hear the noise a little differently.

Wolowiec’s work features the words "The music of the city is free" scrawled on hundreds of white posters. "This project is about experiencing the sound of the city in new ways," says the artist, who is also an instructor at Parsons. "Instead of thinking about traffic or the subway or people talking loudly as noise, why not think of it as music? It's a concept the experimental musician John Cage talked a lot about, and something I think about often."

The 18" x 24" prints are on display at BRIC House, BRIC’s newly opened 40,000-square-foot space in Fort Greene, and in many outdoor locations throughout Brooklyn. Wolowiec and Jennifer Gerow, a curatorial assistant at BRIC, worked with Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership and Fulton Area Business Alliance to gain permission to hang the posters at local establishments. Those with a keen eye may spot one on a construction site, the window of a café or the side of a shop. For those interested in hanging one in their own business or home, a thousand are available for free at the BRIC gallery.

While the message is always the same, the words are not always in English. Wolowiec originally wrote the sentence in English and Spanish, and then worked with others to translate it into 18 other languages. "The word free can be translated in many different ways—free as in 'free of charge,' free as in 'without boundary,' free as in 'liberated,' free as in a bird," she explains. "I allowed people to interpret this as they understood the phrase within the poetics of their own language." The translators included friends of Wolowiec's as well as people found over the free barter site OurGoods.

The work is part of BRIC’s exhibition "Art into Music," which features sculptures, paintings, video and other mediums by more than a dozen artists inspired by music. The free art show is open until April 27.

Installation view of “Art Into Music”

Installation view of “Art Into Music” Photograph: Jason Wyche

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Editor: Marley Lynch (@marleyasinbob)


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