Hannah Rickards, at the Auditorium - Parco della Musica in Rome

Through processes aimed at transposing natural phenomena, Hannah Rickards' works often illustrate a kind of tension between art and nature. This is the case with Thunder (2005), in which the sound of thunder is codified and transcribed in the form of a score for a classical orchestra; or of Birdsong (2002) – the work presented here as part of the Sound Corner cycle – in which the artist's voice reproduces a series of birdsongs.

Were it not for the typescript that comes with the work and illustrates the process behind it, one would be deceived by Birdsong, for it is impossible to tell that these are not the songs of real birds by simply listening to the sounds in the space, but an almost perfect imitation of nature obtained by a sophisticated process of morphing. Rickards realizes a twofold transposition: first of all she has tuned down the songs to a pitch at which she could learn them; she then sang them in her own voice, recorded the melodies herself and brought them back to their original pitch, making her own human voice essentially indistinguishable from birdsong.

A transit area such as the one housing the Sound Corner struck me as the right place to bring out the double level on which the work operates: that of a casual, unconscious listening, and that of a more attentive fruition, capable of revealing the compositional process behind the work. The blurring of nature and culture engendered by Birdsong is thus enhanced by its setting: a transitional space at the threshold between inside and outside, between areas devoted to listening and 'ordinary' ones.

Hannah Rickards lives and works in London, where in 2008 she won the Max Mara Prize for Women. She has displayed her works in several locations, including the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Witte de With in Rotterdam, and Whitechapel Gallery in London. The work Birdsong was recently presented at dOCUMENTA 13 in Kassel, as part of the Worldy House archive assembled by Tue Greenfort.

Daniele Balit - curator and art historian living in Paris and Rome.