2004. Warren Neidich + Elena Bajo. SILENT (theoretical data)



We are proposing a plexiglass noise barrier/sculpture called "Silent" that would run down Paseo de Recoletos from the Plaza de Cibeles to the Plaza de Colon. This kind of noise barrier has usually been placed along highways as a means of limiting noise pollution for those living near the highway. But urban environments and city dwellers also suffer the effects of insidious noise pollution The purpose of this artwork is to create areas of stillness, silence and quiet within the complex, bustling, congested urban space and to create a
sculpture which communicates to the other beautiful sculptures already in place.

Instead of being a visual monument linked to the past as the other sculptures in the area are, "Silent" ís about space and process. It is a socially interactive work which creates a place where people can once again enjoy peace and quiet; where they can cogitate, read or engage in intimate conversations at cafés which border the route. This is a normal condition in the countryside where there are many places in the forest or the field in which aman or woman can enjoy such peace but in the city and in places where the urban environment has been reduced and compressed. Spaces such as the one we would like to create are limited, fragile and precious. We want to make this piece as a gift / artwork to the people of Madrid as an act of generosity to improve the quality of their lives , an ephemeral gesture.

Noise Barriers, as the name implies are barriers constructed to deflect dissonant sound waves coming from the interaction of the automobiles with the highway. As highly industrialized nations like those of the European Union out grow their available land mass, marginal spaces along motorways and railroad tracks have begun to be developed for living. Domestic suburban communities have sprung up in these spaces and created new strategies and solutions to counter certain characteristic distasteful qualities like air and sound pollution. Noise barriers are one such recent invention. But the city is also a place where this kind of noise pollution exists. Our project is fundamentally a redesign, reimplementation and relocation of an already available industrial artifact from its primary site along the highway to one embedded in the urban infrastructure and contiguous too a busy thoroughfare, the Paseo de Recoletos. It is a recontextualized readymade configured to align itself with an urban plan to redefine it as a less sibilant place while at the same time creating an artwork as a weaving gesture of pure translucency.

But there are other levels of discourse that act subliminaly yet are just as important in defining the social, politícal, historical and psychological relations of our project which must be addressed. As mentioned before this work of public art will be deeply connected to people who see and interact with it. Its reiteration of the urbanscape will create metaphoric and analogic meanings as a social sculpture which must be crossed and dealt with. This reiteration is visual, acoustic and physical. First its transparency will frame certain scenes anew giving certain structures greater atlention whilst simultaneously decreasing the presence of others. Secondly, urban planners andarchitects who for so long have been part of a culture of spectacle and phaticity are now designing structures to decrease stimulation.

We are all being over stimulated by the random sounds of our technologic culture and need some peace from it. This work of art decreases sound and its random brother noise. Finally, it abruptly starts and stops at pedestrian crossways and these sites are a kind of stage for the reenactment of a crossing that refers to the works proximity to the Christopher Columbus Monument. We are also interested in the way these sound barriers operate in spaces of indeterminacy separating the nomadic culture of the highway from the pristine domesticity of sedentary life; as if the barrier was impenetrable to sound but permeable to other forms of information allowing these very diverse and different cultures to interpenetrate forming morphologies of hybridity. I think that in our changing, fast paced, global world this type of analogous hybridity forms an important analogy for how other very diverse cultures based on very different discourses might intermingle and mutate.

Especially in their most recent manifestation as transparent plexi-glass sheets these sound barriers begin to operate as metaphors of openness as they make it more and more possible for these two extreme but necessary forms of living to coexist in close proximity creating new possibilities a kind of third space, to emerge. We must atso considers this works ties to past sculptural experiments and we can not help but remark on the uncanny morphologic similarities these structures have to the sculptures of Richard Serra with which they also share strong perceptual, phenomenological underpinnings although its emphasis on beauty and its socially positive message are very different concerns then those that interested him.

Together these deeper levels of meaning noat up to interact with the materialist underpinnings of this physical sculpture set in the real, physical world. But by reading the structure in these many ways the work becomes metaphysical and immaterial.