Ron Arad

Ron Arad believes in breaking expectations with his art. Inspired by a ‘one string-cello’ found in a flea market 40 years ago, he created a string quartet that plays itself. In his Quartet, four instruments are arranged on empty chairs. Arad discussed the piece in a recent conversation with Shifting Vision.

On each instrument Arad and his team have installed a resonator, one of the components usually found in a speaker. It converts the signals played on a laptop into frequencies that vibrate through the wood of the string instruments. Celebrated violin maker Stefan-Peter Greiner collaborated with Arad on the project. In response to the ban on mass gatherings due to COVID-19, many orchestras performed in vacant halls and streamed their concerts over the Internet; in Quartet the opposite happens: the ghostly quality of Arad’s empty chairs reminds us that the musicians are absent.

Ron Arad, Quartet, 2021. Sound test at Roundhouse, London. Courtesy of the artist.

When Arad grew up in Tel Aviv, his parents, both artists, told him he could play any musical instrument, except the violin. ‘My brother Atar, who is six years older than I am, was a gifted violinist. He is now a great musician and composer.’ Atar Arad composed Whims, a piece for the installation, which was performed by the Pacifica Quartet.

The making of Quartet. Stefan-Peter Greiner Workshop, London. Courtesy of Ron Arad.

‘When my brother came to visit me in London we went to Greiner’s workshop. It was an incredible place. The piece started from a visit to an amazing instrument maker and from my own interest in sound. The beauty comes from the memory of violins, the memory of recent art history, craftsmanship — and the sound,’ Arad said.

‘When you listen to the music in the room it induces a different form of attention. It sounds great, yet also mysterious. For me it was a real pleasure to see Greiner, who has worked with violins all his life, trying to understand: what am I missing, what is this sound?’ he explained.

The making of Quartet and the Solo works. Stefan-Peter Greiner Workshop, London. Courtesy of Ron Arad.