Imagine an architectural music in which the surfaces, materials, and forms of a space speak directly. In Corpus, resonant frequencies make that happen. The architecture sings.

French duo Art of Failure, Nicolas Maigret & Nicolas Montgermont, regularly explore media at the point of failure in their audiovisual work. They use the metaphor of glass, visible only as it accumulates flaws (dust and scratches). For Corpus, they make architectural spaces sonic by finding resonant frequencies. The results are eerie, as forms emit long, plaintive drones. They’ve also done a beautiful job of documenting the results, with videos that are essays on the sensation of these spaces as much as the accompanying sounds.

Here’s how the artists describe the work:

CORPUS_ is a sound and multimedia project in which objects, furniture and the architecture of a place are set in resonance by low frequencies. For this project, Art of Failure analyzes the sound frequencies at which the different elements of a place enter in vibration. The tones of these vibrating elements are used to build a generative composition. The technical configuration of the installation is composed of vibrators precisely placed inside the site and/or by loudspeakers playing sub-bass. All the elements of the site become active, or “alive” and reveal their own tones. This project offers a unique physical experience of the space, a relation all at once sensitive and ghostly with what surrounds us. The offered experience is entirely thought according to the specificities of each space. Each event is documented, these audiovisual archives are available on this website.

Here are two of my favorites from the video series: from top, Maison Latapie, and, as it makes its way ploddingly up a mountain, Funiculaire de Pau:

CORPUS – Maison Latapie – 2009 from art of failure on Vimeo.

CORPUS – Funiculaire de Pau – 2009 from art of failure on Vimeo.

More documentation and additional videos on the project site (also in French):

Via the artful and excellent Triangulation Blog.

The connections between aural and architectural, musical and spatial, seem surprisingly unexplored given the volume (and volumes) of these fields. One particularly appropriate title relevant to this story is the 2006 book by Barry Blesser and Linda-Ruth Salter, Spaces Speak, Are You Listening?. [MIT Press] But I’d love to see more discussion of the topic.