CAFKA.18

Recognize Everyone

Benoît Maubrey: ARENA

Kitchener City Hall, 200 King Street West. Produced by CAFKA. Sponsored by Celebrate Ontario, the Schwartz Family, and the City of Kitchener. Performing artists made possible with the support of Vidyard. Fabrication assembly and operation by Benoît Maubrey, Jago Whitehead, Rex Lingwood, Mark Resmer, Johnny Camara, with help from Carolyn Ernest, John Schanck, Don Leibold, Thomas Vicario, Russ Campbell, Frank Seglenieks, and Vinay Yuvashankar with co-ordination and support from Mars Orlowska. Special thanks to Ron and Patrick Doyle at Lot 42 and Kristen Gillette at Communitech. ARENA programming by Aaron Francis with the support of Bronwyn Bataillard. Thank you to everyone who donated their used speakers to the ARENA project. Photo: Shaquille de Peazer.
 
ARENA is a mobile interactive sound sculpture by Berlin-based artist Benoît Maubrey. ARENA is conceived in the shape of a small amphitheater, constructed with 320 recycled loudspeakers. The sculpture can function both as a mobile “Speakers Corner“ — a “hotspot“ for local participation and self-expression but also as a stage for small events and concerts. 
 
The public, local artists, musicians, choral groups and organizations can participate by relaying songs and messages via Bluetooth and individual Smartphones, or by connecting their devices and instruments via a direct "line in." Additionally ARENA can be used as PA system for events, DJs, and small concerts. The volume is controllable via a mixing board, individual amplifiers and receivers situated in a small storage space nearby.
 
ARENA won first prize at the Hacking Urban Furniture contest in 2017 (Institute for Art and Urbanistics, Berlin, Germany) as a public interactive sculpture and was nominated for the Media Architecture Award for Interactive Public Structures 2018 in Bejing.
 
ARENA was constructed at Lot 42 in Kitchener and was previewed at the True North Waterloo conference in May, 2018. It was installed in Carl Zehr Square at the Kitchener City Hall during the CAFKA.18 biennial.
 
Public Interaction
The public can interact with ARENA in three ways:
  1. by calling either one of the following  telephone numbers (limited for 3 minutes): (226) 929-4733 or (226) 929-4724
  2. by logging on to the following Bluetooth addresses and playing music and messages: Belkin E 14; Belkin Song Stream BT F82... N.B. (Please regulate sound volume on your smartphone so as to not distort sound)
  3. or simply by using the available microphone.

 

Live Performance Program

Seagram Synth Ensemble, Sat June 2, 7 PM

Polly Beats, Wed June 6, 13 & 20, 12 - 1 PM

Spoken Word with Janice Jo Lee, Fri June 8, 7 - 10 PM

Open Mic, Fri June 15, 7 - 10 PM & Sat June 16, 2 - 4 PM 

Ramsay Almighty, Fri June 23, 7 - 9 PM

Full Moon Boogie, Thu June 28, 6 - 11 PM

The live performance program has been made possible with the support of Vidyard.

 
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Make Noise and Be Heard

ARENA was an incitement to be make noise and be heard. 

It was the centrepiece of the CAFKA.18 biennial exhibition of contemporary art in the public spaces of the Waterloo Region. It was CAFKA’s largest ever fabrication project involving collaborations with the artist and architects, carpenters, electro-acousticians, programmers, students and volunteers. The 320 speakers that made up the work were sourced by donation from both friends and supporters of CAFKA and from complete strangers who had heard about the project and wanted to help, or who just wanted to clear out their basements. We bought speakers too, from thrift shops and junk stores from across Southwestern Ontario. 

ARENA was built at Lot 42, a former steel factory in Kitchener, Ontario. The vast building complex had been rented by Communitech to be the site of the 2018 True North Waterloo technology conference. Communitech generously allowed CAFKA to use a portion of the convention floor as an assembly space. Rex Lingwood oversaw the construction of the four-module support structure and was helped in the construction by Mark Resmer. Benoît Maubrey project-managed the speaker assembly with help from Jago Whitehead, Johnny Camara and volunteers. Work on site began on Monday, May 13 and was complete by May 23. 

We had intended to make ARENA available for viewing during the three days of the True North conference, however it soon became apparent that acquiring a suitable installation space during the giant conference would be difficult. It was decided to place ARENA atop a disabled rail car opposite a hospitality tent outside of the main building. It was a curiosity for sure – an inaccessible and somewhat quirky looking PA system. 

ARENA came alive following the True North Conference when it was moved to Carl Zehr Square in front of the Kitchener City Hall. It remained there for the duration of the CAFKA biennial. ARENA was live and interactively accessible to the public from 11 AM to 8 PM daily. It became a stage, a seating area and a public address system to groups and individuals who brought their smart phones, microphones and musical instruments to perform for themselves and passersby. CAFKA also programmed a series of performance events intended to highlight the interactive potential of the artwork. ARENA was the site for dance parties, wedding pictures, selfies and photo-ops by politicians, for guerilla theatre, for poetry and for all kinds of music. Through it people of all ages connected. It was pure fun. 

As a work of art ARENA literally visualized the sounds it helped amplify. The 320 speakers weren’t louder than any commercial PA. Not even all of them worked. The visual effect of the different shapes and sizes and speaker styles were like a metaphor for the infinite variety of voices of people invited to participate in the ARENA event. And they felt it. People were fascinated by ARENA’s details, the hundreds of speakers, old and new, big and small, and the fact that they all, or almost all of them, seemed to be working. They were drawn to its functionality but they were inspired by its theatricality. They brought their phones, their guitars, their microphones and they were drawn to the way ARENA worked as an amphitheatre and defined the city hall square a performance space. 

ARENA incited people to dance and sing, to play music, recite poetry and profess their love to each other. They made noise: Really happy, soulful noise. And they were heard.

Gordon Hatt, 2018

 

About the artist

Benoit portrait cropped.jpgBenoît Maubrey is a sound artist known internationally for his interactive sound sculptures and wearables. He is the director and founder of DIE AUDIO GRUPPE a Berlin-based art group that builds and performs with electronic clothes. He is also well known for his Audio Ballerinas – dancers who wear speaker tutus and make music based on their movements. 

Benoît Maubrey studied visual art at Georgetown University in Washington D.C. and moved to Berlin in 1979. Recent and ongoing projects by the artist are taking place at the Contemporary Art Center, Cairo (ongoing); Karaoke Torii, Kamiyama, Japan (2016); Kobe Biennale, Kobe Japan (2015); MaerzMusik, Berliner Festspiele (2014); Audio Igloo, Skulpturenmuseum Glaskasten, Marl, Germany (2013); and The Cube, Hard Rock Hotel, Palm Springs, California (2013). He currently lives in the village of Baitz in Brandenburg, Germany. 

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ARENA has been made possible with the support of Celebrate Ontario, the Schwartz Family and the City of Kitchener.