Sewing Music into Visual Art: The Sound of Silence

sewing music into visual art

A Performance with Piano, Violin and Sewing Machine by Elena Berriolo in collaboration with Edith Hirshtal and Rosi Herthlein

Fiterman Art Center, BMCC, New York City. 1/22/2015



Please click here for the first four minutes of the performance video.

Please click here for the last three minutes of the performance video.

Please click here for the full performance video (30 min.)

Steve Delachinsky Outtakes on the Brooklyn Rail writes about “Sewing Music Into Visual Art: The Sound of Silence” May 2015


“Because of my work with the sewing machine, very often I am asked if I also sew for a living. For instance the other day a person here at BMCC asked me: “are you a seamstress?” “I am not a seamstress,” I said “although I do use the sewing machine to make my artwork”. But today I am a seamstress. I am one of the many seamstresses that sewed the clothes we are wearing today and now, by sewing with the sewing machine, I am going to make a true three dimensional line with a top and a bottom that in a book as well as with the seams of your clothes, can be moved through space. I am a seamstress. Right now, while the well known artist Georg Baselitz says women can’t paint, I have no name and I am a seamstress and tonight we are going to hear the sound of the sewing machine, the sound of silence. Some time ago, while Gershwin was writing his songs and Matisse and Picasso were looking for a true three-dimensional line by drawing with scissors or painting on glass, I was making the very line they were looking for, I was right next to them and I had no name. They did not pay attention to me because I was a seamstress and I had no name and they did not want to hear the sound of the sewing machine, the sound of silence.  Before that, while Bernini was building the St. Peter Piazza and later when Bach was composing his sonatas, I still had no name , I was a seamstress using my needle and I was silent, listening to the sound of the needle, the sound of silence. Even before that, while the great pyramids were rising designed by the famous architects of the time, I was a seamstress making my line with my needle, I had no name and I was silent, listening to the sound of the needle, the sound of silence.       And long long ago, at the time when people started to call themselves men, I was already a seamstress sewing animal skins with my bone needle, listening to the sound of the needle, the sound of silence. So long has been my silence! The silence of half the humanity through the thousand of years of our known history, I think it is about time to make the sound of the sewing, the sound of silence, heard, because the sewing machine, while making its line, also produces a beat, and the beat can be the link connecting visual art to music”.

From the press release:

When a line is drawn with a sewing machine, a beat is produced. It is this beat that provides the link between music and visual art. In this performance, while pianist Edith Hirshtal and violinist/singer Rosemarie Hertlein will dialog with Elena Berriolo’s sewing machine, Berriolo will produce a unique book by sewing on paper.

Elena Berriolo is a visual artist. In 2009 she made a    commitment to working only in the book format and performance. A selection of her books, made responding to music, is currently on view in “Paper Reveries” curated by Kathleen Kucka. For more on her work and this performance:

Rosi Hertlein is a German born, New York based violinist, singer and composer. Her musical background is divided equally between the worlds of improvisation and contemporary classical music. She has collaborated with numerous musicians and ensembles as an internationally recognized member of the New York music scene. In 2012-2014 she collaborated with Warren Neidich for “NSA/USA- Sound As Prophesy”.

Edith Hirshtal is a New York-based musician who has performed extensively throughout the United States as a piano soloist and chamber musician. Michael Kimmelman, of the New York Times, after her Carnegie hall debut described her as  “a pianist with something to say and that alone makes her preferable to the majority of pianists today.” For more:

Three books were produced during the performance: one 20 page book made during the performance and two four page books made at the rehearsals. All of them are now part of private collections.

Two sided Concerto is a performance with sewing Machine and piano by Elena Berriolo in collaboration with  pianist Edith Hirshtal. It was performed at BravinLee Programs Gallery in New York on May 5th 2012:

please click here for a three minute video from “Two Sided Concerto.

Reverse sheet Music by Erika Knerr review on Art in America.

Five books were produced for the performance, four of them resulting from the rehearsals and one from the performance on May 5th 2012.