This week in Berlins Haus der Kulturen der Welt, the Festival “Über Lebenskunst” takes place with a performance night called “Walden” tomorrow evening, 19th August. I was invited to put a collection of sound art and field recording pieces together for the lounge area of the Festival in the Theater Saal. BJ Nilsen will play a live set, the film “Sound Aspects of Material Elements” by John Grzenich will be shown along with photographic and filmic works by Andrea Gjestvang, Iveta Vaivode and Arne Maavik. Our programme is called “Landscapes and Soundscapes from Gardens of Mindspace” and starts around 21:30 with my piece “Frost Pattern” played in 5.1 surround. From the programme notes:
As if to set against the drop in biodiversity, there is a new tendency of revivalism in contemporary art aiming to maintain and update the variety of traditional genres once flourishing around the academic landscape painting. Whether pastoral or georgic, heroic or picturesque, in the context of the current environmental issues the classical landscape genres are regaining their political notion. Reshaped from purely aesthetic categories into practical tools of social activism and politically motivated contemplation, these genres provide their rich art-historical legacy to remind that landscapes are cultural concepts before they are nature. Contemporary art explores landscape as a construct of imagination projected onto wood, water and rock. It is an introspective sightseeing in the social mindspace, where attention is paid not only to the picturesque, but also to conceptual landslides and ideological floods, since the real world ecological crises are firstly due to destructive habits of thought – they are a by‑product of culture.
“Landscapes and Soundscapes from Gardens of Mindspace” is a programme put together of art-works exploring landscape aesthetics in relevance to wider environmental awareness. Built up as an all night long nature trail through pastoral sceneries and ambient soundscapes, the programme for the lounge area of “Walden Night” festival consists of video‑art screenings and slide-shows, a live performance by sound and recording artist BJ Nilsen, and Andreas Bick’s retrospective overview on sound‑art experiments based on field‑recording materials by artists like Jacob Kirkegaard, Francisco Lopez, Eric La Casa, Yannick Dauby, Chris Watson and others.
Half hour documentary from Raquel Castro about sound and listening featuring interviews with Christoh Cox, Janek Schaefer, Peter Cusack, Rafael Toral, Sabine Breitsameter and many others. I liked the story about a young mother who used sound to communicate with her downstair neighbour, an old lady she didn’t liked because the lady controlled her comings and goings. When she made love to her husband, she had a bed with a broken mattress and she wouldn’t fix it because, whenever she makes love to her husband the neighbour downstairs will listen. Also two nice quotes from Allen S. Weiss in the documentary: “Sound: everything we hear and many things we don’t” and “Sound Art: what we do with what we hear.”
Swiss sound artists Zimoun and Pe Lang will present their installation “Untitled Sound Objects” today at club transmediale in Berlin’s Haus der Kulturen der Welt. The untitled sound objects are a series of installations that generate sound by vibrating physical material with computer controlled machines and robots. Both artists claim that they focus on the creation of acoustic architecture with an organic feel, investigating the properties of sound, materials, resonance and generative systems. There is a beautiful PDF document and a video that shows how this could look like…
Beethoven’s Ode to Joy is probably the most misused musical tune ever. It was Hitler’s birthday song as well as the official hymn of the European Union. The artists duo Allora & Calzadilla let the tune be played by a pianist standing in a hole cut in the middle of a grand piano. The last movement of Beethoven’s 9th symphony also incorporated a – at that time – fashionable turkish melody of militaristic background, that is played by the musician moving with the piano around his or her hip in the gallery’s room. In another work, “clamor“, classical musicians play fragments of war tunes of recent eras that the two artists collected from various archives. Musicians playing their instruments like rifles through the slits in bunkers leaves a strong impression one hardly forgets. You can watch a video of the performances here.
Update: the New York Times writes about a recent exhibition of Allora & Calzadilla at Gladstone in NY Chelsea here.
Tonight (19th July 2008 ) the Wet Sounds Festival closes its tour through various swimming pool locations in England with a final performance in London headlined by Nurse With Wound and Andrew Liles. “A listening gallery of sound art by artists around the world was played back through underwater speakers to a floating and diving audience…” Here is the piece that I contributed, which is entirely made from falling droplets on different sound bodies:
On a symposium about experimental radio art last weekend, I found the conceptual work of german artist Christoph Korn quite interesting in the context of this blog. Since three years he deals with automated audio erasing processes. He presented one piece that will be broadcasted later this year on german radiostation HR3 and is actually a reverse version of Alvin Lucier’s “I’m sitting in a room”. Instead of replaying the audio into the room again, Korn wrote a patch for MAX/MSP which automatically erases fragments of audio with every repetition from a spoken text quite similar to Lucier’s classic piece. After about 15 min. there is no audio anymore, the piece ends in silence. A similar concept, only over a much longer time period, was persued in his piece “waldstueck” that is based on a 24-hour field recording of a forest section close to Dachau, a former nazi concentration camp. The audio recording has been transferred to a web server and will be successively deleted, randomly and automatically, over a period of three years. The deletion process began on February 5, 2008 and within three years there will be nothing to be heard. A protocol of disappearance, one might say, over the impossibility either to say, or not to say anything about or around Dachau.
In Berlin’s “Großer Wasserspeicher“, a huge, old water reservoir turned into a place for sound installations due to it’s long reverb and distinctive echos, Arnaud Jacobs placed several rotating and low frequency speakers to wash the labyrinthine walls with a subtle atmosphere of dripping-like sounds and interfering textures of electronic tones. However, the key feature of this sound installation is that the audience is equipped with a device Jacobs calls the echolocator emiting a set of tonal, hissing and clicking sounds, that are reflected within the numerous concentric rings of the water reservoir. The visitor is enabled to navigate through the dark passages with the help of acoustic localization and “play the room” with this little device. Most fascinating are the short clicks that are synchronized with the dominant echo time of the place, the echos overlay each other and dissociate from the sound source, the sound colour of the environment is perceived in its own properties. I liked the installation very much, and its worth combining the trip with another installation of Ulrich Eller in the neighboring small reservoir (Kleiner Wasserspeicher, talking drums). Wednesday to Sunday 14:00 to 20:00, untill 13. 7. Read more about Jacobs echolocation here.
David Byrne‘s “Playing the Building is deceptive in its simplicity. Sitting in the middle of a vast 1909 municipal ferry terminal in Lower Manhattan is the most basic church organ—a little wooden one that looks well worn. Visitors are invited to take center stage and tinker with the organ’s black and white keys, which in turn ping, tap, and blow air through the building’s columns, pipes, walls, and windows through a series of low-tech cables and wires. The project is in no way grandiose; on the contrary, it has a humble presence within a formerly grandiose building.” New York Times reports as well.