The Bartlett School of Architecture


Venus Smiles

Tabita Cargnel

Venus Smiles, at the Tate Britain. By Tabita Cargnel.
Venus Smiles is an acoustically situated sound sculpture for shared performance by multiple players. Resonating copper tubes, suspended in a tensegrity-type structure can be played as a musical instrument by using your hands, a bow or your voice.

The instrument is tuned to the resonant frequencies of the room, sharing its tone via intangible vibrations, specifically designed to amplify acoustic properties of the room in reciprocal acoustic relationship. The lengths of tube are designed to resonate with sympathetic harmonic frequencies such that musical chords and timbres can be built into the structure. 

The transparency of the system allows each performer to communicate musically through expressions and movements while performing. The integral aspect of the tensegrity system enhances the communal music-making: pressure applied through one person’s playing on any side of the system will modulate the tension of the whole. If one person is bowing a string, for instance, another person can change its pitch by pushing a tube or bowing another string.

Venus Smiles makes the world of acoustic resonance in architectural structures accessible to everyone; even people without a musical background can create immersive sounds which communicate in a language beyond words. The musical architecture is tangible and creates novel interactions with sound and space.

Image: Venus Smiles, at the Tate Britain. By Tabita Cargnel.