Sebastien De Pertat

Losonnante - from French "L'os", the bone, and "sonnante", sounding - is a listening device that uses the capacity of a bone to conduct sound. To listen, you have to cover your ears, resting your elbows on the vibrating surface. It is an invitation to listen differently, in resonance between the body, the object and the sounds. In a sense, Losonnante is a moment of silence, a pause: plug your ears, close your eyes and let the sound find a way through your arms, your hands. No Hi-Fi sound here, but vibrations and distorsions; a new ear tending to the living sounds that surround us.

Following artists such as Laurie Anderson, Marcus Kison or Pascale Criton, among others, the idea of this installation was to challenge our perception of sound by listening through the solids, using our elbows, arms and hands as headphones. This device is also meant to investigate about and to question our relations to public spaces and living environments through sound and listening.

All the compositions played on Losonnante are by Knud Viktor (1924-2013), a Danish artist who lived for almost 50 years in the Luberon, in the south of France. As a painter, he moved to this region to find the light of Van Gogh's works; he was drawn to the sounds and vibrations of his environment and became what has been called a ‘painter of sound’. Always working with very rudimentary equipment, often of his own making, Knud Viktor deployed a very meticulous and attentive form of listening to the living world around him. His compositions are a testimony to this sensuous relation between the artist and his milieu.

Losonnante was created by Thomas Bonnenfant and Sébastien De Pertat and developed in AAU-Cresson and Pacte laboratories in Grenoble in 2019 and 2020. It was supported by the Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences (InSHS) in the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS). .

Losonnante in different contexts and exhibitions

With the support of the B-Air project, Losonnante has been taken to ARoS Museum in Aarhus, Denmark, in April 2021, to the Castle of Cerisy in France, in May 2023 and to the Architecture Biennale of Venice in August 2023. To each of these installations, the work of Knud Viktor was displayed. Even though the same sounds were played, it would each time be listened differently, depending on the milieu where the object was taking place: a post-covid spring in a public museum, a sunny week in a castle park, a crowded pavilion in an international exhibition.

The other reason why we chose Knud Viktor’s work to listen through Losonnante is because it is one of the greatest listening experience we made with this device. Through Losonnante, we had a new ear given to those pieces, while totally shifting the listening experience: a way to go closer and deeper into the movements of the sound created by Knud Viktor (the small drop of the water, the rumble of the falling rocks, the humming of a bee...).

We were therefore invited by associations AUT and Allô la Terre for an exhibition around Knud Viktor's work in ARoS Museum, one of the major art museums in Northern Europe. The exhibition took place in April 2021; however, due to sanitary restrictions at that moment, a second exhibition period was proposed by the museum, in July 2021.

Losonnante was a part of the exhibition with two other installations: a human-sized owl nest, playing a Knud Viktor’s piece about a small owl called "Le petit Duc", and The Bamboos, a sound installation created by Knud Viktor himself, that he displayed at "the planetary garden" exhibition (le jardin planétaire) by Gilles Clément, in La Villette, Paris (1999).

A specific time was designated for groups of children at the exhibition, enabling them to discover the "sounds of nature" as heard by Knud Viktor, and to experience different types of listening (with Losonnante, the Nest and The Bamboos).

Losonnante at the “Lydmaler Knud Viktor” exhibition in ARoS Museum - Aarhus, Denmark, April 2021. © Sébastien De Pertat

In Cerisy and Venice, we continued to share this encounter between Knud Viktor’s work and Losonnante device and explore how each offers a new listening to the other. Each installation was the occasion to experiment with different conditions, in terms of spatiality, scenography, sonic environment and specific audiences (occasional experiences with children or deaf people, for example).

losonnante cerisy
Losonnante in front of the Castle of Cerisy - May 2023. © Sébastien De Pertat

Losonnante and Radio Vega - Venice Biennale
Losonnante and Radio Vega - Venice Biennale - August 2023 © Manon Genet

Losonnante - Venice Biennale
Losonnante - Venice Biennale - August 2023 © Nicolas Tixier

See also: Cerisy Days