Construction sites serve as inspiration for artist Philippe Battikha

Artist Philippe Battikha, stands next to a smaller section of his exhibit piece at the Fonderie Darling in Montreal, Quebec on November 12 2021. KAITLYNN RODNEY/ THE CONCORDIAN

Until Dec. 19, Fonderie Darling will be showcasing the sound artist’s first major solo exhibition

Trumpet player and sound artist Philippe Battikha presented his first major solo exhibition on Oct. 28 at Fonderie Darling. Someone’s Always Listening, a kinetic installation, creates a new perception of construction materials for its viewers. Battikha has his studio on the second-floor of the art gallery. In this space filled with collected objects and on-going projects, the Concordia graduate discussed his relationship to the materials used in the work with The Concordian.

The piece is composed of blasting mats that are made up of old tires that have been woven together. They were produced by the company Dynamat, and are used on construction sites to absorb explosions that occur during building projects. Battikha first saw these mats during his time at his old studio in the Rosemont area. “I was on the second floor, so I had a vantage point on the construction site where normally you wouldn’t see that kind of explosion,” recalled the artist. “It would become all quiet because all the construction around stopped and then you would feel it […] the whole Earth would shake, and I was in the building adjacent to this particular site and you would feel it in the building. Then slowly, the construction noise would come back.”

The mats were fascinating to Battikha. “Right away I got infatuated by the aesthetics of the mats themselves. They were beautiful, beyond human size […] and to see them kind of bubble up like that from the dynamite explosion, that image stuck in my head,” he said.

Battikha placed the blasting mats in a large mass standing in the centre of the small hall of  Fonderie Darling. Sounds from construction sites permeate this dark scene, and hydraulic pumps placed under the structure move part of it up and down, as if a creature were breathing beneath it.

The movement of the pump recreates the moment of explosion under the mats. With this installation, the artist reflects on the constant shifts in the architecture found in cities and the sounds related to it. Reflections on the place and effects of sounds in everyday life are central to Battikha’s artistic practice. He is particularly interested in the idea of sounds as contaminants. “As a sound artist, I’ve been thinking a lot about the difference between in and out. And sound has this ability to traverse those boundaries of what is presented in the inside of things and what is on the outside,” he said.

Artist Philippe Battikha’s exhibit Someone’s Always Listening at the Fonderie Darling in Montreal, Quebec on November 12 2021. KAITLYNN RODNEY/ THE CONCORDIAN

Objects are also central to Battikha’s artistic practice. He described being particularly attracted to specific ones. In recent years, he converted an old bingo machine, a hairdresser’s chair, and an old player piano, amongst others. “I had been collecting objects my whole life, and living with them and lugging them around, and so the other avenue of my work is to recontextualize these objects to give them a new life.”

Someone’s Always Listening is the continuity of the artist’s ongoing reflections. He sees the material aspect of his installation as an anchoring point for the audience to situate themselves in an enveloping and destabilizing sonic environment. The dark lighting in the room adds to this otherworldly feeling that he aims to generate.

The exhibition acts as an invitation to reflect on the relationship we share with the urban sounds and materials that surround us every day. Instead of critiquing, the artist creates an opportunity for each visitor to derive their own meaning from the installation. “I think we need to redefine our relationship with the things and environments around us in order to move forward […] in a way that is less destructive and more sustainable for the future and that is central to a lot of the work that I am doing specifically with objects and sounds,” he said.

Someone’s Always Listening is being presented at Fonderie Darling until Dec. 19. For more information, visit the gallery’s website.


Photos courtesy of Kaitlynn Rodney

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