Kitundu creates kinetic sculptures and sonic installations, develops public works, builds (and performs on) extraordinary musical instruments, while studying and documenting the natural world. He is the inventor of a family of Phonoharps, multi-stringed instruments made from record players that rely on the turntable’s sensitivity to vibration. Kitundu has created hand-built record players driven by the wind and rain, fire and earthquakes, birds, light, and the force of ocean waves. In 2008 he received a prestigious MacArthur Fellowship in recognition of his work and creative potential.

His eclectic art practice includes receiving a major public art commission, creating a complex site-specific installation in a small town museum, developing wildly imaginative instruments for a string quartet, composing for dance and theatrical production, teaching sculpture at the university level, engaging in fieldwork with wild birds of prey, and heading the design and fabrication of environments for learning at a prominent science institution.

Kitundu has performed and been in residence at art centers and science museums internationally. He has collaborated with the renowned Kronos Quartet, bassist Meshell Ndegeocello, the electronic music duo Matmos, and the legendary Marshall Allen of Sun Ra’s Arkestra - in venues from Carnegie Hall to a high school library in Egilstaadir, Iceland.
Panel: For The Birds

A conversation between Jenny Odell and Walter Kitundu about how nature informs their practice, moderated by Jer Thorp.

Process and Possibility

How conversations with materials and the natural world can shape artistic practice, invite mystery, and disarm impossibility.

Kitundu will share his journey from building hand-made turntable instruments to creating large scale public artwork in collaboration with community. He discusses how genuine partnership with communities generates richer outcomes at the expense of predictability, and how public art agencies should cultivate this mode of working. Kitundu will also address our relationship to tools and how they may constrain our imaginations while facilitating our creations, and the importance of interrogating value, surrendering control, and learning how to improvise from birds.