Tout Doux: Gong Bath

Tout Doux: Gong Bath features three sonic sculptures whose form evokes the figures of female bodies.
Made of blue-coated steel, each figure comprises two gongs that are hung at chest level. Like two
breasts, the bronze gongs can be touched, or rung in an implicit invitation geared at the viewers.
Drawing on her long-time interest in myths and magical attributes associated with the female body, the
artist produced a series of simple line drawings, which she translated into the three-dimensional figures
formed from single steel round bars.
Reflecting on Homo sapiens’ unique cognitive capacity for abstract thinking, which enables us to
understand ideas and forms, the artist streamlined the figures of Tout Doux: Gong Bath to a point
where they could only be fully realised through human interpretation. With a minimum amount of visual
clues, a human body appears. The economy of means and the modesty of expression reinforce the
figures’ allegorical presence, while their perfectly round, dangling breasts transform them into
incredibly fleshly creatures.
Exploring the role of the viewer as an active part of the installation, the works on display were
conceived to be activated by exhibition visitors or by the artist herself. Similar to Paleolithic cave
paintings that could only be brought to life with the help of a torch, the outlined figures of Tout Doux:
Gong Bath need to be drummed to unleash their liveliness. The sounds produced by the harmonic
gongs trigger an array of vibrations that reverberate through the air, moving from the metal structures
into the human and non-human bodies in the exhibition space. An ancient form of sound therapy, gong
baths were used as early as 4000 BC for their calming and healing effects. In fact, the physical
property of sound is what confers the gongs the ability to prompt what is known as hypnotic trance, by
means of ear, skin and bone conduction.
As is often the case, a seemingly mystical experience has a very rational explanation. Reflecting on this
phenomenon, Sarah Ancelle Schönfeld pays homage to the wise-women who were persecuted for
their alleged witchcraft, which was actually an astute understanding of nature. Ultimately, the
goddesses of Tout Doux: Gong Bath challenge the classical exhibition curriculum and invite us to
reconcile with everyday magic.

Elise Lammer

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