Most recent Sound (and video) project:


Photo: Roxanne Varzi, Salton Sea, California

ohrenhoch presents on the Sundays 5 and 12 February 2017, 2pm - 9pm:

Salton Sublime

(2017, Premiere)
Sound/video piece

by Roxanne Varzi

Roxanne Varzi about 'Salton Sublime':

Poets and painters of the 18th century sought a religious experience in the sublime continence of nature.  They enjoyed meditating on the beauty of nature’s danger and the inherent tension and possibility it always offered of sudden and assured death ­ as a result for example, of a fall from a high cliff, a storm at sea, a volcano’s eruption or chasm opening in the earth to swallow one whole. They also meditated on the vastness, infinity, magnificence and the resulting exultation, the possibility of being raised up, temporarily overwhelmed in a spiritual sense and being made to feel small in the face of overwhelming emotion and the awe which nature can inspire. This transcendental desire has humans seeking a god or something greater in nature. Salton Sublime meditates on the meaning of sublime today in the midst of massive environmental degradation.  The Salton Sea in southern California brings a whole new meaning to the sublime as it contains both the awe-inspiring possibilities of a spiritual experience as well as terror and abject fear ­especially of death.  This project is a remnant of that same heritage of sublime art that seeks to engage the beauty and the terrifying danger of nature while examining both our reliance on and abuse of nature… it asks, what is ultimately left of the sublime? Can we inspire awe from terror?

Roxanne Varzi is a writer, artist, filmmaker and anthropologist. She was the recipient of the first Fulbright to Iran since the Revolution and has been published in Public Culture, Aeon, Eastern Art Report, Savage Minds and The London Review of Books; quoted in the LA Times, New York Times, Chronicle of Higher and others. Her latest book Last Scene Underground: An Ethnographic Novel of Iran won the 2016 Independent Publishers Gold Medal Award. Her film Plastic Flowers Never Die is distributed by Documentary Educational Resources and has been shown in Festivals all over the world. Her first sound installation “Whole World Blind” premiered at Soundwalk in Long Beach, and was installed in Berlin, Paris, Philadelphia, San Francisco and is featured permanently at This is her first installation at Ohrenhoch.


...and my first sound project:        



2011, MP3, 9 minutes




This work is a self-contained sound performance that involves the audience member blindfolding him or herself, then putting on headphones connected to an mp3 player and listening to the narrative loop of a “museum curator” in a gallery who offers to describe for our blinded audience a show she has done on war photography. Throughout is a guided meditation that interrupts the slideshow to relieve the observer of the visual burden.

We hear the curator describe the images as she advances through them on a slide projector. The images she has chosen are from prestigious shows of Western war photographers since 2001 when the United States went to war in the Middle East


Artist Statement
Departing from the idea that seeing is believing and moving toward the theories that Virginia Woolf and Susan Sontag espoused that visuals often mislead if not outright lead to complacency and even engender disaster, this project aims to “see” visuals from recent and ongoing wars without looking. The aim here is not to call out particular places or photographers, but to do the opposite, to somehow neutralize the terror inherent in a war photograph becoming a market commodity, and a work of art. Like Woolf and Sontag in their books, I believe it necessary to describe but not to show war photographs in order to understand and respect the power they hold. Most photographs taken of people in the public sphere are of suffering and most of that suffering is manmade. Leaving a notebook for the audience to comment on allows us to determine how iconic these particular photographs have become in the past few years, if at all.

Do the observers recognize them, even in their most muted form –metaphor? What can we sense about mortality and morality — about war when we allow ourselves to be blinded? When we are forced to listen and imagine? When we stop privileging visuality and heighten our sense of sound? Can it tame the violence of the art? Can blindness lead us to a new kind of vision that would open a space for peace, love and beauty? This sound work will loop through a history of the present moment to bring us back to our originary question: is seeing believing? Perhaps the greatest pinnacle of vision resides in blindness. Just as the loudest message is born in silence.