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City Notes — Works by Yves Etienne Sonolet

August 30 - September 18


“City Notes, or sound of the city, does not involve what we hear everyday in the street. It is not the sound of pedestrians walking on the pavement, nor the sound of cars and the market. It is not the sound coming from the birds or planes in the sky neither, nor it is the sound of the wind and the rain. But it is sound emitted by rolls and rolls of buildings along the streets.

The creative process of Yves is similar to that of lightning and thundering. First we see, and then we hear. In the same way, his sound has also been seen first.

What he sees is the same as what we also see in the city of Macau. Due to the priority given to economic development, the city, with its many old buildings, temples and many elegant colonial style houses from the past, experiences at the same time all those new luxurious casinos being built rapidly, co-existing side by side. The old buildings are rapidly being replaced by new ones. Also, newly built “old style” buildings reappear, plunging the city into a feeling of nostalgia. Yves has observed these phenomena during his seven years of residency in Macao and has photographed the transformations that have been taking place here. Four years ago his work was shown in the exhibition of “Nostalgia Refreshed – Old Macao + New media” at the Macao Museum of Art. It was his sense of history that was at work there.

And then he also perceives the cityscape as if it were pieces of paintings and drawings. These street scenes filled with the flat owners’ personal tastes are everywhere to be seen in the different districts of Macau. For example on the walls of old Macau buildings air-conditioning machines are often hanging outside. Their crooked positions, together with the cages added outside the windows, are full of different colours and shapes. Rooftop advertisement panels, neon signs for shops are galore in some of these quarters, brimming with all kinds of shapes, colours and postures. There is something about Yves’ work that is very much due to the artist as pedestrian, it is something about recycling and reusing the city, about the practice of walking or strolling in the city.

Having moved from the historical Paris to a city rapidly changing  due to economic development, Yves was shocked on multiple respects as one can imagine.

Paris appears almost intact in comparison, with hardly any change at all. But what has been brought to him by these visual impacts?

In his eyes those layers of buildings are like the structure of music stave.

Because of his love of low-tech and DIY methods, he decided to make things by himself. He printed the panoramic image onto the musical paper strip, and made holes according to the elements found on the buildings in the image. These small holes are positioned like the musical notes on the stave. When the image strip passes the small machine, sound will be created according to their position on the stave and a song is thus produced by these particular buildings.

This way the panorama is transformed into a song, diffused by the machine. And the song is on, looped as if it was a note book put inside a pocket, one can take it out for review anytime.

So the City Notes are on one side musical notes of the city, on the other side they are also notes written for a city.

‘I am just the lucky observer, here by some strange juxtaposition of circumstances, the city’s identity is changing as it has never changed before,’ said Yves.

‘In the current situation there is a serious identity question about the specificity of this Macau, what will be left. Standardised new buildings are taking over the town, if all the buildings were the same in Macau, there would be no music.’

“The panoramic picture is a portrait of this moment, an in-between moment where we still get a glimpse of the old city. That is why there is a date on each of the partitions. That is why the installation, or longest piece, is one of the longest streets of the city in the inner harbour where the old buildings are being pulled out like old teeth and replaced by “gold” filling.

“Thus, if we made the same partition in a couple of years, the music would change. 

As for the positions of Yves’ choices of objects such as air-conditioning machines, they are not based on personal decisions. As they were decided by the original image of the cityscape, it is totally a game of chance. 

And then one could reverse the process mentioned above. For example matching Swan Lake with a contemporary residential complex; familiar melodies wrestling with the extravagances of the casinos. Listening to the love song of Moon light representing my heart or the Christmas carol of Silent Night while looking at these images, one cannot help smiling.”

Gukzik Lau


Source: AFA — Art for All Society



August 30 - September 18


Macau Art Garden
Av. do Dr. Rodrigo Rodrigues n. 265 Macau
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