A multitude of sound masks

60 Sonic Mask Sculptures, Loudspeakers

Marino Marini Museum, Florence, 03.10.2019 – 31.12.2019



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Present in the Bible in the pre-flood era, Nephilìm are a population of humanoids born from the union between the "sons of God" and the daughters of Adam. Hybrid, heroic and unnatural beings whose birth is an unexpected consequence in the plan of creation, forcing God to intervene in order to limit their lives, thus preventing them from inheriting paternal immortality and becoming an uncontrollable and powerful factor in the divine equation. In the collective imaginary they are sometimes represented as giants, impure, artificial and magical creatures.

Analyzing the word etymologically, the root word of Nephilìm is Na-Fa-L נ-פ-ל [n-f-l] and means "to have fallen" or "to be descended", so more properly they are indicated as "the fallen [or descents] ”; they represent the transit and the conjunction between an abstract and a material sphere, between divine and terrestrial.


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Yuval Avital presents a very original interpretation of the biblical myth blending tradition and technology to form a contemporary version of the hybrid beings. The Nephilìm here ‘descend' on earth incarnating in 60 Sonic Masks with humanoid and archetypal features, made with very few essential traits whose mouth is a loudspeaker that emits an equally archetypal voice: a mantric chant, a whisper perpetuating in a non-language, a visceral breathing which, when united as a crowd of voices, creates an immersive and unexpected oneiric microcosm. Avital’s Sonic Masks are here presented in 12 variations or families divided in dichotomy into 5 “Chanting Masks” (positive) and 7 “Leviathan Masks” (negative).

The fulcrum of the artistic project is the continuation of the centuries-old collaboration between artists and the artisan ateliers in Tuscany: the masks in exhibition were produced by 24 artisans, expert masters of the traditional method of processing different materials – inlay, alabaster, leather, scagliola, silver thread, papier-mâché, feathers, wrought iron, bronze, brass, yarn, metal, glass, terracotta, ceramic, marble, resin, wood – which have accepted with enthusiasm the artist's invitation to grant their rare skills to a contemporary creation. To each artisan, Yuval had created a unique design and personalized version of the masks almost as an identity-kit of their mastery, materials, life stories, emotions and inner selves.

The maieutic process between the craft-masters and the artists does not stop at the visual level, but also extends to sound: the heterogeneous voices resonating throughout the crypt are in fact the voices of the same artisans who gave materia to Yuval’s sketches. Moreover, in 15 black terracotta masks resounds the voice of Yuval himself: as the essence of deity was perpetuated in these Nephilìm, the voice of the creator echoes in their matter.


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When united, the Sonic Masks form a complex and rich choir, ‘singing’ a combinatorial aleatoric score in a constant evolution. This element presents a duality in this show: from one side an exhibition of 60 unpublished artworks,  from another an immersive installation in which the spectator can create her or his own path and experience.

The artist’s main fields of investigation - Nature - Human - Artificial - Mystery  - here unites into a hybrid creation, an evolution which ties two of his most known signatures, the Icon-Sonic creations and the Sound Sculptures,  into a new line of creations here presented in Marino Marini Museum for the first time.


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