Los Angeles

Carmina Escobar's Massagem Sonora

In Partnership with Machine Project
As part of the Getty initiative Pacific Standard Time Presents: Modern Architecture in L.A., Machine Project asked artists to take on the whole environment of Los Angeles and create performances shot on video and edited into short experimental films in response to notable architectural sites throughout the city.

By Fernando Vigueras

When speaking about human voice, there is always a direct or indirect allusion to the human body, as the instrument where it originates and through which it gets delivered. Referring to the body suggests thinking about a space: either the place where a body is situated or the body itself as a container that defines its own borders and dimensions.

It is possible to define a space once we have recognized the elements that conform it and consequently delimitate it. Therefore it is possible to conceive that everything with a limited extension perceptible by the senses can be recognized as a body; that is, our own space in a daily basis, that happens and yet it is somehow strange at large, or at least in respect to the way this space / body is recognized and influenced from the outside.

Following this complex perceptual scheme, Carmina Escobar's Massagem Sonora becomes a sort of exercise that analyses and reflects upon the body, understanding it as a space that reveals, measures and recognizes itself throughout its resonance.

Massagem Sonora

This artwork is developed as site-specific intervention in a venue that accommodates a resonant body (The Korean Friendship Bell is one of the scenarios where this architectonical project was developed), a place where people may get a body massage through which the performer's voice (massage therapist / singer) activates different resonance spots generating vibrations that stimulate cavities and specific places in the body.

Beyond the evident therapeutic references that come to mind in the execution of this artwork, the effectiveness and the immediateness with which the diverse relations and interpretations are made upon the idea of intervention and space is outstanding. Through its voice, a body affects the perception of another body; the voice being the element that explores (confronts) and reveals the various dimensions of an intimate space, exposed within the boundaries of the public space where this activity takes place.

A constant element in Carmina Escobar's artwork is an emphasis on the corporeal as an inherent element for the development of the voice; a material sound that connects, communicates and resonates in the physical memory of the occupied space. The voice works also as a sensitive and recognizable affective bond to the space it explores.

Massagem Sonora

Massagem Sonora may be perceived as an incursion into the personal geography of a body, an organism that can be perceived as an exposed and revealed space that is explored and translated throughout the voice.

Each exploration of a new body/space follows a methodical process that Escobar defines as:

"(...) part of the protocol of the artwork is first to establish contact with the pedestrians, I give them a general introduction and I make them aware that I will be playing and singing on their bodies. If they agree, we start with the massage. With a previous agreement, I place myself upon their back and start working in the centre. I build a resonant bowl with my hands around my lips, alluding to a resonant box and I keep enough distance between their bodies and my mouth so that the sound is the only element that binds us. (...) I think that a fundamental element of my artwork is transgressing the other. Besides being a resounding experiment, it also about the intimacy created by the direct and active physical contact and affectation."

The allusion to the different sensations, forms and remembrances in which memories are manifested at the end of each intervention, elucidate a new dimension, revealed in the interstice filled by the resounding echo of a body that dialogues in silence with itself.

Read this article in Spanish:


Hablar de la voz humana implica de manera directa o indirecta aludir al cuerpo, instrumento y lugar desde el cual se gesta y se proyecta. Referirse al cuerpo sugiere pensar en un espacio, ya sea el lugar en el cual se sitúa un cuerpo o el mismo cuerpo como un espacio que confronta sus propios límites y extensiones.

Es posible definir un espacio toda vez que reconocemos los elementos que lo conforman y que consecuentemente lo delimitan. Podemos pensar entonces que todo aquello que tiene una extensión limitada perceptible por los sentidos, puede reconocerse como un cuerpo, es decir, un espacio propio que nos acontece a diario y sin embargo, nos resulta ajeno en buena parte o al menos, en lo que respecta a la forma en la que ese espacio / cuerpo se reconoce e incide desde el exterior.

A partir de esta compleja urdimbre perceptual, pienso Massagem Sonora como una suerte de ejercicio que explora y reflexiona sobre el cuerpo, entendiéndolo como un espacio que se revela, dimensiona y reconoce a través de sus resonancias.

Massagem Sonora

La pieza se desarrolla como una intervención site specific en un sitio que alberga propiamente un cuerpo resonante (La campana Koreana de la Amistad es uno de los escenarios donde se ha desarrollado este proyecto que atiende espacios arquitectónicos), donde la gente que así lo desee recibe un masaje corporal en el cual, la voz del performer (cantante / masajista) activa distintas zonas resonantes, generando vibraciones que estimulan cavidades y sitios específicos del cuerpo.

Más allá de las evidentes referencias terapéuticas que se advierten en la realización de esta pieza, llama la atención la efectividad y la inmediatez con la cual se generan relaciones y lecturas diversas a partir de la idea de intervención y espacio. Un cuerpo incide en la percepción de otro cuerpo a través de la voz, elemento que explora (confronta) y revela distintas dimensiones de un espacio íntimo, expuesto en el marco del espacio público donde se lleva a cabo la acción.

Un aspecto constante en el trabajo de Carmina Escobar es el énfasis en lo corpóreo como elemento intrínseco al devenir de la voz, material sonoro que vincula, comunica y resuena en la memoria del espacio que ocupa. La voz funciona además como lazo afectivo reconocible y sensible al lugar que explora.

Massagem Sonora

Massagem Sonora puede entenderse como una incursión en la geografía personal de un cuerpo, organismo susceptible de pensarse como un espacio expuesto y revelado a través de la voz que lo indaga y lo traduce.

Cada exploración de un nuevo cuerpo / espacio obedece a un proceso metódico que Escobar describe de la siguiente forma:

"(...) parte del protocolo de la pieza es que el transeúnte establezca contacto en primer lugar conmigo, les doy una explicación general al respecto, pero enfatizo que voy a tocar y cantar en sus cuerpos. Si ellos aceptan comenzamos el masaje. Después de acordar esto con ellos, me coloco en su espalda y comienzo la exploración justo en el centro de esta. Hago con mis manos un cuenco alrededor de mis labios, creando así una pequeña caja de resonancia y manteniendo distancia suficiente entre mi boca y el cuerpo del otro para que sea el sonido el elemento que entra realmente en contacto (...). Creo que parte fundamental de la pieza es esta transgresión del otro. Es un experimento no solo sonoro sino sobre la intimidad que genera este contacto y su afectación física, la cual es directa y activa".

Al finalizar cada intervención, la alusión a distintas sensaciones, recuerdos y formas diversas en las que se manifiesta la memoria esclarecen una nueva dimensión que se reconoce en el eco que resuena a través de los intersticios de ese cuerpo que dialoga en silencio consigo mismo.


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About the Author

Guitarist, improviser and musician specialized in experimental sound practices.
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