Miles Greenberg and Vivian Caccuri’s “The Shadow of Spring” Explores the Politics and Power of Sound

Sculpture, embroidery and the sounds of internal organs converge within the New Museum

Within the New Museum‘s Lobby Gallery, the sounds of guts, hearts and lungs merge alongside sculptural fountains of a 3D-scanned body and embroidery framed by car speakers. These surprising and unconventional elements comprise The Shadow of Spring, a new experimental exhibition from Vivian Caccuri and Miles Greenberg, on view now until 5 February. Combining Greenberg’s visual and performance art with Caccuri’s sonic background, the installation crafts an enveloping, sensorial atmosphere inspired by communal gatherings—like nightclubs, raves and temples—that are held together by vibrations. Together, the duo explores the politics inherent in sound while locating the possibilities for collective power within.

The exhibit marks the first time the pair have worked together, although the naturalness of their combining yet distinct works suggests otherwise. Throughout the space, the artists’ pieces are seen in dialogue but were worked on separately, with Greenberg’s sculptures, modeled after his body during his 2022 performance Fountain I, scattered among the exhibit and Caccuri’s embroidered stereos.

“Vivian and I only met about a week before the opening,” Greenberg tells COOL HUNTING. “I think I speak for both of us when I say that we didn’t really operate as collaborators in the conventional sense, so much as we were cross-pollinators. I feel like we ‘hacked’ each other’s universes a little bit, and created a mutual planet. We spoke a lot about what these works would be in relation to one another. I always thought of my figures as the inhabitants of our planet, and her tapestries were like mythological illustrations of these people; like hieroglyphs recounting some prophecy. We were in constant WhatsApp communication, sharing references and process images, but we never actually physically touched each other’s work.”

It’s the audio that seems to tether all of the art together, though this was recorded days before the show opened. “I made it together with Miles. I recorded lungs, hearts and guts using a digital stethoscope,” Caccuri tells us. “I recorded myself and Miles, so we used this audio to compose a techno track. I used the lungs to create bass lines, the heart to create kick. All the elements that are in traditional electronic music—bass lines, kicks, snares and hi-hats—they were all made with sounds of our internal organs.”

The soundscape functions in tandem with the dripping sounds of Greenberg’s sculptural fountains. The music, which comes in and out of the space, accentuates the constant noise of the water and further creates a shifting, re-orientating atmosphere.

“It was a consensus for us that vibrations are something that gather people together, select people,” continues Caccuri. “Because I have been going out to club scenes, [I have observed] different crowds like the dub scene, drum and bass, and techno scene. It’s another kind of vibration and the pace of the music, the amount of melody or no melody at all—that defines how the environment is felt and how people release themselves in the space or not. What makes this possible and what gets people together to move or not move is certain vibrations. We were inspired by The Politics of Vibration by Marcus Boon. He’s a British musicologist that wrote about vibrations under a political perspective. It’s very interesting because, for me, it’s where our most instinctive impulses and the collective body meet.”

I think we’re heading to a niche path where different crowds rarely meet nowadays because public spaces don’t exist anymore. Music makes people gather in one space; it’s a platform for co-existing with alterity, with difference

As an artist who grew up in the blossoming 2000s techno scene of São Paulo, Brazil, Caccuri is no stranger to the ways the sonic brings people together and the beauty within that. “Right now,” she says, “I think we’re heading to a niche path where different crowds rarely meet nowadays because public spaces don’t exist anymore. Music makes people gather in one space; it’s a platform for co-existing with alterity, with difference.”

“That’s why so many musical genres are controlled in many countries,” she continues. “For example, in Brazil, the music that comes from favelas has been—many times—fought against, so the police go there and shut down the parties. They want to control whatever these people are feeling as a collective body. Some music is dangerous for authorities. Authorities had to control some music, like hip-hop.”

The will and regulation of the socio-political lingers within sound as it does the installation, but Greenberg and Caccuri are even more attuned to moments of liberation. Everywhere movement and dance are highlighted, from Caccuri’s embroidery depicting bodies at various forms of play (based on the photos Caccuri took of people at her monthly parties in Rio) to Greenberg’s still statues, captured from performance.

“These works are only the fourth and fifth sculptures I’ve ever made,” Greenberg says. “I made them using a method I developed of modifying a handheld 3D scanner and scanning the body in motion. All of the errors and glitches get registered in the process and become part of each piece. The digital model is then CNC milled to scale from high-density urethane and fitted with steel armature. The scans for these works came from a seven-hour performance I made called ‘Fountain I’ in 2022. It’s the first time I’ve made the scan on-site within a performance itself, so they’re very direct remnants of the original live work—I wanted them to be as close to the performance as possible.”

He continues, “One key thing about this method of scanning is that the scanner no longer disposes of any extra data as it usually would. Typically, with a 3D scan, you’d get a moderately-sized file that you can preview and look at and decide whether or not you like it on the spot. My technique amasses so much extra data that the file becomes immense, and it takes about a day or two to render. In other words, there’s no way to preview what I’m making until well after the moment has passed, so I sort of have to live with whatever comes out. I’ve basically relinquished control over the final form of these works, which in a way, makes it all feel even closer to performance. Serendipity is always the cornerstone.” For Greenberg, the two sculptures were about catharsis and “steadily pouring oneself out forever and ever, over and over, and realizing that there’s never a point where there’s nothing left.”

Complementing this, Caccuri’s embroidery features a double screen that creates a moiré effect—a visual perception that occurs when a sinuous pattern superimposed on another seems to shimmer and vibrate. “The thread of the embroideries and the silhouettes are projected as a shadow on the back wall,” says Caccuri. “I wanted to find a dimensional object to have the most layers as possible: you have the layer of the sound, you have the layer of front screen, the back screen, the vibration of both screens and the back shadow. I think, for me, it’s how I see music.”

The speakers that perimeter the embroidery were taken from cars and chosen with intention for the installation’s soundscape. Caccuri composed the audio specifically for these speakers, because, she explains, “This sound system has a very particular sound and shape, and the room also brings character to the sound. It doesn’t make sense to just use it as playback. I use the sound system as an instrument.”

Blending interiority and exteriority, stillness and movement, the exhibit reflects the multifaceted nature of sounds and the ways in which they give rise to equally numerous ways of being. To view the exhibit is to feel: the pulses of the artists, the disorientation of various vibrations, the tranquility of the water and the trill of parties passed.

“Always in my works, I want to surprise through sound and understand how broad our listening can be. More and more we’re being compressed into a very tiny way of listening to the world and music. Every song sounds the same. Every trap song reminds me of another. Listening and creating music that is non-standard is always political,” Caccuri says. “It’s becoming more and more of a luxury to listen to non-conventional music and sound. So when people go to [the exhibit] and feel what we’ve done and see what we’ve done, I want them to feel that there are more possibilities of how to listen and mingle with people in one place.”

Images of Vivian Caccuri and Miles Greenberg: The Shadow of Spring (2022). Exhibition view: New Museum, New York. Photos: Dario Lasagni, courtesy of New Museum