Azadeh Nilchiani

Gustave Eiffel University, France; azadehf.nilchiani@gmail.comCommission Independent Expert


An urban sound installation with a concern to integrate the daily life has many common points with other forms of urban artistic expression. The background is the perpetually changing environment of the city. Furthermore, the way they are perceived and heard depends also on the acoustical and architectural configuration of their place. One of the specificities of these installations, audible but often invisible, is their territory, which is not only limited to their location. It is difficult to define the territory of these artworks, as the sound crosses the obstacles, unfolds in space and is mixed with the existing sounds of the place. The unexpected encounter between the urban sound installation and passers-by, could cause a shift in the way we listen to our environment, even though it’s a familiar one. From 1966, the American artist Max Neuhaus moved away from his career as a percussionist to move towards sound art. The point of departure and arrival for each artwork by Max Neuhaus is listening. What interests Neuhaus is to shape the space with the sound, as a sculptor does with space. It is also a desire for him to communicate with new audiences in a new listening space, different from those of concert halls or museums. Based on the existing sound resources in urban settings, Neuhaus developed his very pioneering approach by revealing inaudible or barely audible sounds of various spaces. From his first performance such as Listen (1966-1976) or Public Supply I (1966), the public, the actor of his works, is invited to practice listening to the urban space and their environment to rediscover the sound dimension of their daily life. In this context, he invites his public to the field, the birthplace of these everyday sounds.
Our recommendation in this paper is to study how the listening that Neuhaus has developed through his performances and his urban installations is representative of its approach to social and urban practice, both individual and collective. For Neuhaus, the discovery of the complex sound dimension of the urban space and its perpetual changes is a training of the ear, but also, it is what provides the key to create and discover urban sound installations.

Keywords: Listening; Urban Sound Art; Social practice.


Azadeh Nilchiani is an artist, researcher and university lecturer, born in Tehran and based in Paris. Her practice is interdisciplinary, combining sound, visual and spatial media, installation, video art and electroacoustic composition. She holds a PhD in Arts, on “Sound installations in urban spaces” from the LISAA research laboratory, University Gustave Eiffel, 2021. Graduated in 2003 from the Faculty of Fine Arts of Tehran University in Iran, then in France at ENSAD (École nationale supérieure des arts décoratifs) in Art-Espace and at the École nationale de musique de Pantin in 2009 in electroacoustic composition. She was an associate researcher at the Bibliothèque nationale de France on the collection of the Institut international de musique électroacoustique de Bourges (IMEB) from 2016 to 2019. She worked as a visiting lecturer in new media and sound at Gustave Eiffel University (2014-2019), also as a temporary teaching and research associate (ATER) at the University of Lille in musicology and new technology (2019-2021).