The sound work created by Max Neuhaus for the Castello di Rivoli in 1995 is located outdoors, in the space that separates the building of the Castello from the Manica Lunga. At the center of the newer building, an area that was meant to become a large entrance atrium, according to Filippo Juvarra’s 1719 design, there is now an open-air space, in which the unfinished nature of the Savoy complex is immediately evident. A double row of three arches is visible to the contemporary visitor, and Neuhaus chose to work in the two end arches of the southeast sequence, close to, respectively, the main body of the Castello and the end of the Manica Lunga. In keeping with his method of working, Neuhaus first familiarized himself with his selected site—its history, architectural characteristics, and social functions—in particular, analyzing its qualities in terms of sound. Using electronic instruments, he built a sound field in specific relationship to the site, distinguished by two different sounds, each audible in the space of a different arch. Comparing them, the artist describes the two sounds: “One is like a cold, sharp, dry white wine, and the other a rich red.”
Brought about by the artist’s desire for intervention, Neuhaus’s sounds take form in the space, forging a bond with it. Thus the sound installation is a “place work,” Neuhaus’s term to describe the new place generated by his pieces, in which the sound is an instrument capable of bringing about a new perception of the space. Like all of the sound works by the artist, the piece cannot be recorded or transported elsewhere, but can be experienced only by visitors who agree to have a dialogue with it. Emitted from loudspeakers custom-designed by the artist and positioned so that they are all but invisible, the sounds are, in fact, audible, but do not impose themselves on the listener.
The drawings related to this sound piece in the collection of the Castello were executed after the fact, for Neuhaus often allows a certain period of time to elapse before he re-listens to a work. Through this distance he creates drawings that he calls “drawings after.” “Executed in colored pencils,” as the artist explains, “these drawings, each with two panels, a visual image and a handwritten text, integrate two traditional forms of communication to circumscribe something both invisible and indescribable. The image is not the drawing nor is the text: the drawing is what they synthesize together. When read in parallel, they evoke a central idea of the sound work, a point of departure and a reference, for reflection.”
Neuhaus is the first artist to define the role of sound as a medium, devising a new language within the framework of contemporary art.