Spelling for Protection Against Oneself
three-channel video, sound sculpture (8.1 channels), chalk
Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, Japan. 2019

The Bell Makers of Makabe 5 (3frame still).jpg

Through a research practice influenced by the history of improvisational music, Curtis Tamm (b. 1987 in California) locates cracks within Western systems of knowledge to expose playful propositions for what it means to be human. His recent work explores human and non-human responses to natural catastrophe.

During 2017 and 2018 Tamm traveled throughout Japan gathering hundreds of sound recordings. He met with seismologists to learn about the nature of waves, listened to the chants of blind shamans known as Itako, and spent time with a research lab investigating the ability of other animal species to predict earthquakes. One such animal is the catfish, also the subject matter of Edo period Namazu-e — satirical woodblock prints which hold the catfish responsible for the occurrence of earthquakes. In the spirit of Tamm’s work, the impact of an earthquake is both traumatic and rejuvenating.   

The artist’s library of sounds follows the radiation of seismic waves outwards as they vibrate through the whiskers of the Namazu, resonate with the syncopated buzz of cicadas, and chime against the ritual process of casting and striking multi-tonne bells known as Bonsho. Tamm explored ways in which waves interact with his own body by standing inside these temple bells. He surveyed the unique character of a dozen different bells throughout Kyoto and Ibaraki, recording rarely-heard frequencies which resonate and decay within the large open cavity — an empty space known as the bell’s “womb”.

The centerpiece of this latest MAM Project is a sound sculpture which invites visitors into the womb of the Bonsho. Tamm summons a state of deep listening within the body, a catfish-like condition in which our senses are recast by bandwidths usually obscured by noise.

Center for Cellular Alignment
Speculative educational center / 4.1 channel sound
Arcus Project, Ibaraki, Japan, 2017


Ec(h)osophical Listening Lab
speculative educational center, sonic services of disorientation
School of Visual Arts and Design, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC


Performance and sculpture series / bronze, 4.1 channel sound
Bemis Center for Contemporary Art, Omaha, Nebraska, 2016


The Mineral Cabinet of Pietarri Skytta, or, Balancing the Stone
Mineral library and sound sauna / 4.1-channel sound
Titanik Gallery, Turku, Finland, 2016


Tympanic Tether
Proposition for new aural-warning siren specific to Santorini, 10-channel sound
Santozeum, Thira, Greece, 2015


The Viscous Shape
geo-sensitive exploration, 8mm & 16mm film
Collaboration with Hermione Spriggs
Skaftfell Center for Visual Art, George Walker Geology Center, East Iceland, 2016


Fly caught in the eye of a filmmaker making a documentary about an insect trap
Minuscule sculpture; Icelandic midge, ionized 24k gold
New Wight Gallery, UCLA, Los Angeles, 2014


A room in which the only wall is in the middle
Cinematic trap / 16mm, HD video, 10-channel sound
Experimental Digital Arts, UCLA, Los Angeles, 2014


Languages to Reform the Body
Sculpture and film series
Collaboration with Maneesh Raj Madahar
Liminal Space, Oakland, 2012