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  • Author: EDITORS
  • Date: JUNE 22, 2023
  • Format: DIGITAL

Smithsonian American Art Museum Presents Musical Thinking: New Video Art and Sonic Strategies

This new exhibition at SAAM explores the powerful resonances between video art and popular music.

Cauleen Smith, “Sojourner” (2018), digital video, color, sound, 22:41 minutes, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase made possible by the SJ Weiler Fund, 2020.54.1 (© 2020, Cauleen Smith)

A new exhibition at the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM), Musical Thinking: New Video Art and Sonic Strategies, explores the powerful resonances between recent video art and popular music from some of today’s leading artists. Rather than treating soundtracks as secondary, the musical choices in the featured videos are key to their meaning and impact. The artists of Musical Thinking employ the strategies of musical creation — scores, improvisation, and interpretation  as well as its styles, structures, and lyrics — to speak to the personal and shared aspects of American life. Emotionally evocative and rich with cultural references, their artworks use music to call up memories, capture attention, provoke insight, and invite engagement.

Connecting innovative forms, past and present, they emphasize that the story of the United States has always been complex, multivocal, and set to music. The presentation at Smithsonian American Art Museum celebrates major new acquisitions to the museum’s media art collection and pairs recently added video works by ADÁL, Raven Chacon, Mariam Ghani, Martine Gutierrez, Arthur Jafa, Erin Ellen Kelly, Christine Sun Kim, Liz Magic Laser, Simone Leigh, and Cauleen Smith with immersive installations, related photographs, sculptures, and prints. A series of free public events, including lectures and performances by select artists, will accompany the exhibition.

Musical Thinking is designed with layered experiences particularly accessible for Deaf and hard-of-hearing audiences and available to all visitors. Features including benches in black box galleries that conduct enhanced vibrations and a light-up, haptic dance floor designed in conversation with artist Martine Gutierrez encourage audiences to feel, see, and participate in the experience. A full accessibility guide for the show will be available on the museum’s website.

Musical Thinking will be on view at SAAM through January 29, 2024. The museum, the exhibition, and all accompanying online and in-person programming are free.