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Exploring Sonic Dimensions: The Art of Benoît Maubrey

Artist Benoît Maubrey reshapes public spaces with his Speaker Sculptures, blending recycled loudspeakers into dynamic installations that engage communities. Discover the transformative power of art in everyday life through his innovative creations.

Joana Alarcão
29/02/24

Art and public places have a long-standing history. We have known about commissioned sculptures and all forms of public art that have embellished city squares and parks for centuries. However, have we really taken the time to participate and wonder about the purpose behind such sculptures? In modern days, art in public spaces has gone from being a static monument to an interactive and sometimes intimidating figure that engages and challenges the bystanders. In this landscape of contemporary urban interventions, one artist who brings a unique and innovative approach to public art is Benoît Maubrey, an internationally acclaimed artist who specializes in creating sonic sculptures and installations that blend art, technology, and urban environments.


Maubrey's oeuvre is not based only on sight and the visual aspect of his sculptures but also on an exploration of sonic dimensions, a symphony of recycled speakers that transform public spaces into vibrant auditory landscapes. Through his Speaker Sculptures, the artist invites the viewer to reconsider the role of art in our everyday lives - a sculpture stops being a mere adornment to a city landscape and becomes a communal space for artists, bypassers, and residents alike to engage with and interact.



Sculpture by Benoît Maubrey
SPEAKERS ARENA, Kitchener and Quebec /Canada 2018/ 2022, Berlin 2019 by Benoît Maubrey. Image courtesy of Benoît Maubrey.

"My decision in the early 1980s to stop working with pigments and canvas came from a desire to interact directly with public spaces. This is why I decided to work with loudspeakers and media. Loudspeakers have long been integrated into modern life inside our homes, mass transportation, and public spaces. Speakers are cheap and commonplace: they can be found at flea markets, second-hand stores, or recycling centers. For people in general (we like to collect them also from locals) loudspeakers have a personal touch or patina."


Inspired by a desire to break free from the confines of traditional canvas and pigment, Maubrey's transition to working with loudspeakers and media marked a pivotal moment in his career. The artist's decision was fueled by a longing to directly interact with the pulse of urban life and to weave his art seamlessly into the fabric of communal spaces. The sculptures are not merely static installations but living, breathing entities that evolve in harmony with their surroundings, each one of them being site-specific, connecting not only the sculpture to the audience but also to space.



Sculpture by Benoît Maubrey.
Karaoke Torii, Kamiyama, Japan 2017 by Benoît Maubrey. Image courtesy of Benoît Maubrey.

Having diverse forms, from ships to temples and towers to auditory-like formats, these sculptures are constructed from e-waste and powered by the collective energy of recycled loudspeakers, blurring the lines between art and activism. Another aspect of Maubrey's process is its deep roots in collaborative work, involving local communities, recycling businesses, and youth organizations in the creation of each site-specific sculpture.


"The speakers are all connected and allow passersby to express themselves through them: the sculptures are equipped with an amplifier, a mixing board, Bluetooth receivers, 2 telephone answering systems (anyone can call up the sculpture and talk through it for 3 minutes), a Twitter (now X) text-to-speech messaging system, and —most recently— a live streaming video camera. Community organisations can use the sculpture for meetings and events."


At the heart of Maubrey's work lies a profound interrogation of the traditional role of sculpture in public spaces. In a world where monuments often stand as silent sentinels of history, Maubrey's Speaker Sculptures boldly proclaim the right of art to speak, to engage, and to mobilize. Rejecting the passivity of traditional statues, these sculptures become vibrant hubs of communication, collaboration, and cultural exchange.



Sculpture by Benoît Maubrey
TEMPLE (2012) ZKM / Center for Art and Media, Karlsruhe/Germany by Benoît Maubrey. Image courtesy of Benoît Maubrey.

Looking towards the future, Maubrey's ambitions are as grand as his sculptures themselves. From the Open Art Festival in Örebro to the iconic stages of Burning Man, Maubrey's artworks are poised to captivate audiences around the globe. With each new project, he pushes the boundaries of artistic expression, integrating cutting-edge technology and social media to create immersive experiences that resonate across generations.


In the realm of contemporary art, where boundaries blur and definitions dissolve, Benoît Maubrey stands as a pioneer of sonic sculpture, inviting us to listen—to the voices of our communities, to the rhythms of urban life, and to the transformative power of art itself. In a world inundated with visual stimuli, Maubrey's sculptures offer a respite—a sonic oasis where imagination takes flight and the boundaries between art and life blur into harmonious unity.


If you're interested in learning more about the artist's creations, visit his website.


Cover image:

STREAMERS: a Covid Sculpture with integrated live video streaming. 2022 by Benoît Maubrey. Image courtesy of Benoît Maubrey.

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Benoît Maubrey is the director and founder of DIE AUDIO GRUPPE a Berlin-based art group that build and perform with electronic  clothes. Basically  these are electro-acoustic clothes and dresses  (equipped with amplifiers and loudspeakers) that make sounds by interacting thematically and acoustically with their environment.

In his non-mobile sculptural work he frequently uses former public (disguarded) monuments and recycles them using modern technology and electronics.

Recycled and “found” electronics as his artistic medium. Since 1982 he has been conceiving and creating interactive sculptures in public spaces. In most cases the sculptures interact with their environment: quite often they function as “Speakers Corner” where the public can express themselves “live”.

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