Sonic Boom: The Art of Sound

Hayward Gallery

Hayward Gallery, 27 April – 18 June 2000

A Landmark Exhibition of Sound Art
Curated by writer and musician David Toop, Sonic Boom: The Art of Sound was the UK’s largest exhibition of sound art. Featuring more than 30 international artists including Brian Eno, Pan Sonic, Christian Marclay, and Lee Ranaldo of the band Sonic Youth, the exhibition filled the entire Hayward Gallery with a series of sound installations in which the visitor encountered ‘the mechanical and the organic, the electronic and the acoustic, the sculptural and the intangible.’ Sonic Boom was attended by 36,724 visitors and remains a landmark exhibition in the development and display of sonic art. 

Perceiving the Hayward Gallery as a ‘giant instrument’, Toop attempted to ‘tune’ the exhibition in such a way that moving through it would be like moving through the interior of a ‘giant body’.

Toop’s vision for Sonic Boom was a show of ‘extraordinary sound environments, objects and events, intellectually provocative, sensually rich and hugely entertaining.’ It was also intended as a challenge: ‘We think we know how to look’, stated the introductory text, ‘but do we know how to listen?’ .

For Toop, the large, open and ‘reverberant’ spaces of the Hayward Gallery provided a logistical and curatorial challenge. In an early proposal, Toop spoke of the need to ‘protect certain fugitive works from their more boisterous cousins.’

For Jonathan Romney, writing about the exhibition in the Guardian, this variety wasn't a problem: ‘some works will always be ‘louder’ and drown out the opposition because they are brighter, or bigger, or more heavily publicised. But you also realise how some quiet works make their presence felt simply by asking you to sift them out from the hubbub.’

Private view card for the exhibition, featuring an installation by artist Christian Marclay.

Press release for exhibition

List of works in Sonic Boom.

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