Noise and Silence: The Contemporary Sound Sculptures of Adam Basanta

Shauna Jean Doherty

Noise and silence have been critically employed by artists throughout sound art’s rich history. The aleatory compositions performed by Italian Futurists Luigi Russolo and Filippo Marinetti in the early 1900s were an early contribution. Later experimentation by John Cage extended the Futurists’ investigations, further contributing to what has now been concretized as the field of sound art. Also a painter and poet, Cage notably claimed that “Wherever we are, what we hear is mostly noise. When we ignore it, it disturbs us. When we listen to it, we find it fascinating” (Cage 1961: 3). Today, the influences of these founding figures can be observed in the works of several contemporary artists who combine sound and visual art to reflect on the effects and wider connotations of noise and silence.


Canadian artist Adam Basanta specifically invokes the axis of noise and silence through a manipulation of basic sound technologies. Through his sound sculptures, which he situates most often in the conventional white cube gallery space, he attunes his audience to the mechanics of sonic power. Combining speaker cones and microphones, as well as amplification and feedback, his installations elicit a range of responses, including uncertainty, stillness, and dread. These principles and reactions are similarly evoked by Basanta’s contemporaries, including Italian sound artist and composer Roberto Pugliese, German sculptor Michael Sailstorfer, Polish visual artist and musician Konrad Smoleński, and American visual artist Nikita Gale.