Chanting in the gallery: ritual sound and its phenomenology in contemporary art

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Artists Bill Viola, Meredith Monk, Janet Cardiff, Marcus Coates and I have employed ritualistic singing and chants as tools of critical expression in our practices. What types of experiences do sounds associated with religion and belief systems elicit within the viewers and listeners of the work? These artists (except Marcus Coates) refer to the creating of transcendental experiences in the gallery through their work. This calls into question the relationship between the gallery visitor with the ritualistic chant in the secular gallery setting. Are the causal factors of these transcendental experiences implicit in the music or present in the individual listeners? This article studies examples of artworks and draws upon musical phenomenology, neuro-phenomenology, musical time, and Heidegger’s Dasein to formulate an understanding of the role of ritual singing in art, and the ways in which art audiences access transcendental experiences.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)181-193
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Visual art Practice
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2013

Bibliographical note

This is an Author's Original Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis Group in Journal of Visual Art Practice on 1/8/13, available online:


  • chanting in contemporary art
  • gallery experience
  • musical time
  • phenomenology
  • ritual singing


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