Sound-Absorbing Art Installation Offers Visitors Almost Total Silence

Michele Debczak
David Heald via the Guggenheim
David Heald via the Guggenheim / David Heald via the Guggenheim

At times the halls of the Guggenheim can seem as noisy and crowded as the Manhattan streets outside. That is until you step inside the semi-anechoic chamber on the museum’s seventh floor. The newly opened art installation uses spiky sound absorbers to create an atmosphere of almost total silence.

"PSAD Synthetic Desert III" is the work of Doug Wheeler, an artist known for his experimentation with light and sound. The environment of his latest project is meant to evoke the eerie peacefulness of the Arizona desert where he was raised. "I watched a great horned owl sitting on a saguaro cactus," he recalled to The New York Times. "And when it took off, it was just amazing. There was no sound, at least nothing I can describe as sound, but just a kind of almost imperceptible percussiveness in the air." His use of light, meanwhile, is meant to mimic the deep, otherworldly lighting of the landscape's dusk and dawn.

After opening on March 24, the installation will run at the Guggenheim through August 2. Sessions for up to five participants can be reserved for 10 or 20 minutes—just enough time before the absence of sound goes from relaxing to anxiety-inducing.

[h/t The New York Times]