The Singing Project

Kunsthalle Osnabrück
March 2019 – June 2020





Ayumi Paul

It all begins with the artist’s dream: What would happen if everyone re-membered to sing, together? 

Imagine a circle within which our breaths are all connected. Enter this circle.  Begin listening to yourself.

The invitation. The artist turns the museum into a singing ground by inviting people to practice their voices together. There are no prerequisites to take part, no compulsory continuous presence, no necessary or confirmed musical knowledge, and no expected results. The idea is to sound together, in a free, intuitive, and shared way, where sounding and listening, giving and receiving are concurrently equal. The project sets forth to reconnecting to a common source, to unlearning the conditioning to which we have been subjected concerning song – as well as oral expression – and to contrive in a collective, non-linear, and intuitive manner one’s own sound, when singing from within while contributing and playing within the liberated whole.


If the essence of creativity is to give birth to something new, be it a being, a work, an action; in this case for Ayumi Paul, it is about reconceiving the museum as the birthplace of a community which, cedes its entire space to the body, to intuition, to perception. Simultaneously, it strives to overcome the fear of singing in public and explores what “singing in tune” can mean.


Intuition as the point of departure means to start from what the body knows. The artist is a woman, she has a woman’s body, and she begins with regular workshops for women which lay the foundations of The Singing Project.


Collective learning. Ayumi Paul generates a pliable methodology, one that she guides without directing. Any encounter is preceded by research which – from a complementary, soft perspective – is inspired by distinct bodies of knowledge. This knowledge comes from astrophysics, mythology, and meditation, as well as exercises the artist has learned from singers, healers and actors from across the world. The method is developed simultaneously to the process itself. It is experience – what is said, shared, lived – which then generates its own knowledge. The artist provides the elements, which subsequently take shape by way of how the participants receive them. Women can join ongoing workshops at any time. There is no linearity, but rather a pool of lived and shared knowledge accessible at all times. This knowledge is partly kept in the artist’s notebook, but mainly in the memory of those who share it with her during the workshops.


The research embarks on a journey of intuitive learning – the social and symbolic grids of gender, culture, the goal of achieving a result, are shed –; the project is dedicated to being together, breathing, hearing each other, and singing – rather than striving to perform or to present something. The emerging polyphony does not follow any fixed score and concerns expressing both a singular and a collective voice.


There is also an underlying substructure to this artistic project: Ayumi Paul has envisioned it as planting a forest. She plants the seeds – that initially take root in the soil of women’s voices, then everyone else is invited to join in the song – and subsequently, when she departs, the project will continue to grow for everyone who has lived it. It can be transmitted between friends and between generations, it can survive time in any form of collective singing.


Joy. This collective practice is the work itself, an inclusive process that aspires to no particular result; it is the joy of taking part together. It is immaterial, lived. It can take all possible forms. This artistic project, whose essence is collective is a fundamentally open project as well as Dionysian, cathartic, happy: singing together brings joy. For Ayumi Paul, it may also be about inserting, or rather suggesting, an enormous liberation into our daily lives – originating specifically from the gift of life that we have all received when born: our body. And our imagination.


For the opening day of the exhibition “Sympathetic Resonance” at the Kunsthalle Osnabrück, a room is dedicated to this project. 35 women returned, they sang, exhibition visitors joined them. For eight weeks, people sang in the museum, more and more people joined. The project evolved. “I am only the initial gardener; the project can then continue to grow without me”.


In fine, it is a poetic project that is simultaneously discreetly provocative: providing a space for dreams, for the heart, for intuition, for the female, is to become aware and eventually transform or undo the codes, methods and hierarchies of societies and the relational structures we live in. In this way, The Singing Project also embodies a socio-political reference because the unfolding polyphony expresses the unspeakable, and what still commonly seems utopian: the plural and singular voice as one symphony rooted in shameless synchronization with being and feeling instantly, in the moment.


Sofia Eliza Bouratsis

PhD Arts et Sciences de l’art, Esthétique

Université Paris I – Panthéon-Sorbonne

independent art theorist and curator


Ayumi Paul, « Sympathetic Resonance », Kunsthalle Osnabrück, 1 March – 5 June 2020. Curated by Julia Draganovic and Christel Schulte.

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