Audible Matter / Wave #6 SOUND January 2022

gods cannot be seen but can be heard

Ulrik López & Alina Maldonado

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gods cannot be seen but can be heard

The immersive sound installation gods cannot be seen but can be heard (los dioses no se ven, pero se oyen) by Ulrik López and Alina Maldonado was originally presented live at Delfina Foundation, London in December 2021. It is presented here as a sound piece in its final form.

The piece is a harmonious merger of the two artists’ respective practices, a blending of forensic, almost archaeological, approaches to the imaginings of found objects as fossils, electroacoustic composition and field recording. Mayan flute replicas were transported to three sites in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula where they were played and recorded alongside the naturally occurring sounds of these distinct locations. What emerged from the weaving of these soundscapes hinted at presences which only take shape through the perception of sound.


spending hours on a stone path
between mangroves, forest and jungle
the leaves fade with the light
a composition for three voices

– can you feel the jaguar close by? I heard it
in my head, like a dream, and felt it was

unfortunately, we did not make it to the island, but we did feel its proximity

looking for a sound at the edge of the coast
there was traces that other people passed by, but we never saw anyone
on the way south, there was a great humid silence

do you think he will listen to us if he no
longer has ears?

– maybe if we get down his throat

Itzamná exhales a faint buzzing sound from his throat

the two who are in the tower facing east say that they listen on his behalf

we climb to the tower room and see a couple of names written on a burned wall

– are they the ones who made these drawings?

– yes, but they say it happened when they were older

we build a fire, under the honeycomb in one of the vaults that is half corroded or half built

– let’s try the flute of the ciricote, right now it’s not in season

maybe the vault doesn’t distinguish between seasons

in the Mayapán observatory is where we
notice this braided almanac, a space-time
singularity made of limestone
walking inside it, we always returned to the
same place
we couldn’t see each other but we
knew we were there, they were still traces of our footsteps

it was like traveling down the river,
you could remember what you had seen
upstream but not see it because of the
curvature of the channel
and not see what laid ahead for that same
still in both cases you knew the river was
we had been in that river always

in many of the places we visited,
the delimitation between inside and outside
was very ambiguous

– do we cross it?

– they will hear us approaching

the custodians were like two brother guardians

they take care of the space, for it to
remain alive

we decided to go to visit these ruins in the
Mayan peninsula
we wanted to play sounds that might be
familiar to them

Courtesy of the artists

– the animals are the musicians who have
always been here

– they are the constant season

from daybreak to nightfall,
birds and bats dance and sing together
among the ruins, day and night come together

for several days we played the flute to the
piled stones, calling to them as to awake them
from their sleep
several day later we went back to just listen to
there are noises in their porous skins,
between the mortar that binds them
it’s in the sonic nuances, that they reveal their

in the structure where they gather for the
festivities, a group of them told us how they
still resist

– those who arrived, and destroyed much of
the knowledge that we shared, that we kept
had already done so in their own lands long

– at first we thought they were trees like us,
they had branches, bark and some had
leaves, but then we realized that what they
had destroyed within themselves would not
allow them to bloom

– flowerless and fruitless trees

– we are still here precisely because we still

as we both heard this we looked at the flowers
and saw our own reflections

we approached the well in the skirt of some
trees that surround the place

– hey, if you get really close, can you see the

– no, but I can hear it

Courtesy of the artists


gods cannot be seen but can be heard is presented in collaboration with Delfina Foundation.

Delfina Foundation is London’s largest international residency programme and a home where the next generation of contemporary artists, curators and thinkers are supported and nurtured. Based in two renovated Edwardian houses near Buckingham Palace, Delfina Foundation is an independent, non-profit organisation dedicated to fostering artistic talent and facilitating exchange through residencies and public programmes, ranging from workshops to exhibitions, both in the UK and with international partners.

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