Infinite Ear : WITHIN

Initiated in 2012 and enhanced by the collaboration with Council, Tarek Atoui’s project WITHIN tackles the ways in which deafness can influence our understanding of sound performance, its space and its instrumentation.

Following a research initiated in Sharjah in 2013, the artist has developed nine new instruments which expanded notions of hearing, beyond orality and are activated on the occasion of concerts and exhibitions. The design of the instruments and their playability are the result of workshops and residencies where Tarek Atoui progressively made an instrumentarium in cooperation with acoustic instrument makers, speaker designers, software engineers, composers and Deaf and hearing people. The instruments were produced for the first time on the occasion of the Bergen Assembly in 2016, then shown at the artist's gallery in Paris in 2017 and presented in the latest Infinite Ear exhibition in Moscow in 2018.


Organ Within is a new hybrid sculptural object that engages numerous technologies in order to re-envision the spatialization, perception and performativity of the traditional organ. Organ Within is the result of his ongoing collaboration with instrument-makers Léo Maurel and Vincent Martial, and their research into historical church pipe organs, modular synthesizers, and the sonic experiences of deaf people. It was the object of a solo-exhibition by Tarek Atoui at Gallery Kurimanzutto in NY in spring 2019 and of a concert in the rotunda of Guggenheim Museum in NY.


The SubBass Prototone is a 2 x 2 x 2 m organ pipe that one can enter and play from inside. Designed by Johannes Goebel in the 1980s, it is a giant a Helmholtz resonator and the frequency range of this analog wind machine is at the bottom end of hearing, where one can only experience sound by feeling it with the hands or the body. Helmholtz resonance is the phenomenon of air resonance in a cavity, such as when one blows across the top of an empty bottle. The name comes from a device created in the 1850s by Hermann von Helmholtz, the Helmholtz resonator, which he used to identify the various frequencies or musical pitches present in music and other complex sounds.

THE 0.9 3

The 0.9 is a networked group of nine Meyer subwoofers speakers encased by 3 platforms on which performers stand. It has a gestural interface inspired by sign language and is similar to a Theremin. Through specific hands and finger movements, the player produces ultra-low-frequency sounds that are physically felt, perhaps even before they are heard. The instrument allows to play with resonance frequencies of the space where it’s being performed. The space and its architecture therefore become conductors of sound, and the audience can perceive the instrument through them.


Iterations on Drums is a set of four percussion tables that focus on conducting sound through solid materials such as metal and wood rather than air. This way, the sound they produce is felt in the hands of the player before reaching his/ her ears. Initially imagined by Thierry Madiot, the design of these tables was enhanced by Tarek Atoui and students at the Nordahl Grieg high school in Bergen (Norway) and nalized at Lutherie Urbaine in Montreuil (Paris).


The Sub-ink is a set of four units with a single subwoofer each on which the performer sits in contact with the sound. By touching an ink drawing the musician previously prepares, he / she plays a basic synthesizer in rhythmic or melodic ways. The Sub-Ink is a modular instrument that can be used to control other device such as computers and synthesizers, and to connect and synchronize musicians with different hearing abilities.


True Laptop Quartet is a set of tactile instruments that use found metallic objects, transducer speakers and old microphones to create acoustic feedback. These objects are placed onto the lap of the performer who feels the sound in his/her hands or body through the vibrations of the metal. A transducer speaker is a speaker which is mounted directly on surfaces like wood, glass or steel making them vibrate and conduct sound.

THE T1 7

T1 is a MIDI keyboard whose sounds can be heard in a tactile way. This controller easily connects to any type of musical software to play and process sounds the player choses. It can also be used as a speaker that allows to perceive up to ve sounds in the ngers and the palm of the hand.


Ouroboros is an instrument where sound is formed inside the mouth of the player. Conceived by Espen Sommer Eide, it was developed in discussion with people of di erent hearing abilities. The player places a speaker against his/ her throat and is therefore in direct contact with the sound of the instrument. He/she then stands in front of a set of microphones. By closing and opening the mouth, and without emitting sound, the player modulates and controls resonance and feedback frequencies between the speaker and the microphone.


33 Soft Cells is a touch sampler made of 33 touch sensitive textile panels. Each panel has a distinctive texture or pattern. The instrument can be connected to di erent computer softwares and types of sound, and playing it relies on the sense of touch rather then auditive or visual stimuli. With the support of Bergen Center for Electronic Arts (BEK), composer Kari Telstad Sundet created a speci c software for the instrument and collected sounds during recording sessions played by local people of di erent ages and hearing abilities.


This kit is a synthesis of Madiot’s 16 years of work with sound massage techniques and practices to expand our experience of sound, through the ears or through the body. This kit is more then an instrument. It can be used therapeutically, recreationally, artistically and/or pedagogically, and functions as a device where several persons play for one listener laying on a special table.


In September 2016, the instruments were brought together for the first time in Sentralbadet, an abandoned swimming pool located in the center of Bergen in Norway where composers and musicians, both amateur and professional, Deaf and hearing people, were welcome to take possession of the exhibition space and test these instruments, playing them separately or as an ensemble.

(2013 – ongoing)


  • Tarek Atoui


  • Julia Alsarraf
  • Daniel Araya
  • Tarek Atoui
  • Johannes Goebel
  • Kvadrat
  • Jeff Lubow
  • Thierry Madiot
  • Perrin Meyer
  • Greg Niemeyer
  • Quartet Mats Lindström
  • Espen Sommer Eide


  • Julia Alsarraf
  • Daniel Araya
  • Hein B. Bjerck
  • André Bratten
  • Johannes Goebel
  • Mats Lindström
  • Trond Lossius
  • Jeffrey M. Lubow
  • Thierry Madiot
  • Perrin Meyer
  • Greg Niemeyer
  • Alwynne Pritchard
  • Espen Sommer Eide
  • Gerhard Stäbler
  • Pauline Oliveros
  • Kari Telstad Sundet


  • 2019

  • CentroCentro
  • KunstFestSpiele Herrenhausen
  • Kurimanzutto Gallery NY
  • Guggenheim Museum NY


  • Garage Museum of Contemporary Art
  • Printemps de Septembre Toulouse
  • La nouvelle adresse (Cnap)
  • Favoriten Festival Dortmund


  • Galerie Chantal Crousel Paris
  • Kunstenfestivaldesarts


  • Bergen Assembly
  • ZKM


  • Experimental Music and Performing Art Center
  • Berkeley Art Museum
  • Sharjah Biennial

This collection was initiated in the frame of the exhibition WITHIN / Infinite Ear, Bergen Assembly 2016

Co-produced by

  • BEK
  • Bergen Center for Electronic Arts
  • Chantal Crousel Gallery
  • Kvadrat

Top image: Tarek Atoui and Mats Lindstrom, WITHIN opening concert, Bergen Assembly 2016. Photo: Thor Brødreskift © Bergen Assembly

Drawings instruments: Stefano Faoro

1. Organ Within, created by Léo Maurel and Vincent Martial, installation view at Kurimanzutto, NY, 2019
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2. The SubBass Protone, Photo: Thor Brødreskift, Courtesy Bergen Assembly
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3. The 0.9 by Tarek Atoui, Greg Niemeyer, Perrin Meyer, Jeff Lubow, Courtesy Bergen Assembly, Photo: Thor Brødreskift.
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4. Iterations on Drums by Thierry Madiot photo: Thor Brødreskift, Courtesy Bergen Assembly
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5. The Sub Ink by Julia Alsarraf, photo: Thor Brødreskift, Courtesy Bergen Assembly
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6. True Laptop Quartet by Quartet Mats Lindström, photo: Thor Brødreskift, Courtesy Bergen Assembly
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7. The T1 by Daniel Araya, photo: Thor Brødreskift, Courtesy Bergen Assembly
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8. The Ouroboros by Espen Sommer Eide, photo: Thor Brødreskift, Courtesy Bergen Assembly
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9. Soft Cells by Kvadrat and Tarek Atoui, video courtesy Chantal Crousel Gallery
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10. The Sound Massage Kit by Thierry Madiot, photo: Thor Brødreskift, Courtesy Bergen Assembly
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