Whitehot Magazine

Jónsi’s Tonal Palette in Sight, Smell, Taste and Touch To Be Experienced

Installation view.

By ERIC MINH SWENSON November 28, 2023

Jónsi’s opening of Vox is the third exhibition with Tanya Bonakdar Gallery and second in Los Angeles, on view from November 11, 2023 through February 3, 2024.

Born in Iceland in 1975, Jón Þór "Jónsi” Birgisson, lives and works in Los Angeles. Jonsi is known as the front man vocalist and multi-instrumentalist for the Icelandic band Sigur Rós, producing angelic harmonies exploring textures and timbres over conventional music. I had the great pleasure of hearing Sigur Ros live, last year, at the Shrine Auditorium, with Jonsi performing on cello bow on guitar accompanied with his signature falsetto countertenor voice, bringing some of my friends to tears through near-religious exaltation.  

Furthermore, I photographed a live sound bath with Jonsi, Alex Somers and Paul Corley at the Marciano Art Foundation’s 13,000-square-foot space in 2018 with a collaborative art installation with Olafur Eliasson. This was a seminal moment in my ongoing art coverage, experiencing a meditative sound bath of that magnitude. Eliasson’s projected visual element provided a hypnotic never forgotten moment that turned me on as a fan of both Olafur Elliason and Sigur Ros (Jonsi).  

Then, in late 2019, Tonya Bonakdar Gallery in Los Angeles had his solo exhibition where people walked around a white room with two large pedestals made to be sat on in an installation called Hvítblinda (Whiteout), 2019 described as, “…the visitor is confronted by a nearly empty neutral white space with overly bright light. This suggestion of a minimalist depiction of heaven evokes the sterile light of the mysterious room at the conclusion to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey while being punctuated by sounds emanating from ten hidden speakers and two sub-woofers.”

Needless to say, this was another moment where I experienced the power of sound in an art space where the beholder experienced juxtaposition of auditory noise to visual splendor.

You can see the film I did then on my YouTube Channel in 2019: 

So, we arrive to November 2023, where Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, in Hollywood, opens a new show by Jonsi, with a new immersive experience that is more visceral then my past experiences with the artist. In Vox you will experience a blanket of speakers suspended in air projecting ASMR-like sounds, “a standing speaker matrix consisting of

more than 100 speakers that uses direct currents to change the physical state of the M speakers.” Tanya Bonakdar Gallery states, “Upon entering the main gallery, visitors encounter a sound and light installation that visualizes the human voice, the universally unifying instrument that predates speech and has existed throughout history, in celebration and in mourning. Vox translates the sound of Jónsi’s voice to light frequency as it triggers four LED screens that surround the viewer. Sound and light move together in harmony, one reacting to the other. Every sound is comprised solely of the artist’s natural voice, which is mixed with computerized and AI-generated voices, further mangled and distorted.”

Here is another film I produced for my YouTube channel on the current exhibition on view November 11, 2023 through February 3, 2024. WM 

Eric Minh Swenson

Eric Minh Swenson is a Los Angeles-based filmmaker and photographer who documents the arts and culture of Southern California, including arts in many communities throughout the country. He has filmed numerous documentaries on artists, exhibitions, and cultural events. He documents art openings and exhibitions. He focuses on process, concept and craft in his films, while finding humor and essence in his subjects.

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