Organized in collaboration with the festival Klangspuren Schwaz, the exhibition Fidelity staged by the Schwaz City Gallery presents two artists who dedicate themselves to musical conceptual art in different ways: the Canadian Gordon Monahan (b. 1956) and the Australian Beatrix Curran (b. 1988). The show also includes documentary material on avant-garde music and sound performances, which have enjoyed a tradition in Schwaz since the 1960s.
Sound has been astoundingly present as a subject in the city for quite some time. “Studio 12,” a cutting-edge jazz and underground club, was established as early as in the late 1950s; according to a contemporary press release, the club stood for “modern insights and attitudes” – which leaves no doubt that its endeavors were only rarely concerned with mere acoustic and musical phenomena but also fueled by social activism. The interdisciplinary “Jazz Days” following in the 1960s were renamed “Schwazer September” Festival in the 1970s. The “Summit Concert on Gschöllkopf,” which even found its way into the Guinness Book of Records, and a giant chair (“Schwazer Kultursessel”) intended to serve as a stage for live acts in the city were definitely two of the most actionist sound events. It was obvious that music and its orientation in terms of contents were seen as a kind of counterculture and countermedium opposed to the dominating traditional culture. The fact that the giant chair was demolished in the very first night evidences the degree of aggression this culture was prone to.
As a soft form of social architecture, sound offers the possibility to transport contents and emotions and mold processes of subjectification. No wonder then that it was above all experimental music in which the endeavors to break up both musical and social boundaries have found their expression for a long time. The Free Jazz emerging in the United States in the 1950s, for example, also mirrored the Afro-American population’s fight for independence. Such sound statements have transformative effects and create particular sociopolitical contexts. The internationally renowned jazz club Eremitage is such a long-lasting institution: it became a formative experience and inspiration for an entire generation of visitors in the 1970s and 1980s.
The exhibition Fidelity pursues these lines of tradition – and shows fidelity to them. At the opening of the show, Beatrix Curran will perform a cover version of Alban Berg’s Songs on Postcard Texts of Peter Altenberg, which were premiered in the famous “Punch Concert” in the Vienna Musikverein in March 1913, which was ended prematurely due to the outrage it provoked among the majority of the public. In her interpretation titled “Five Songs,” Beatrix Curran presents the songs in a contemporary, “harmoniously revised” version in a setup by DJ Roland Gaberz, who has made an international name for himself as Roland X and will accompany the artist with a laptop, a compressor, and a public address system.
The exhibition presents Curran’s text-photo series 4VS, whose title is short for what the artist calls the Fourth Viennese School. In reference to the First Viennese School (Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven), the second Viennese School (Schönberg, Berg, Webern), and the Third Viennese School, which, in the artist’s understanding, includes such composers as Olga Neuwirth and Beat Furrer as well as Klangforum Wien, the series deals with today’s current musical scene of Vienna. Curran sees the scene emerging in clubs, galleries, salons, and at a wide variety of events characterized by openness, hybrid mixtures, and an international outlook. She has written down her theses in longhand, following a diary-like style, and reworked her statements with polyurethane and paint.
A sound constructivist, Gordon Monahan sets the Schwaz City Gallery vibrating within and without. Monahan has become known for his experimental works involving pianos, loudspeakers, video, theremins, kinetic sculptures, and computer-controlled sound environments, which he presents in the form of concerts, multimedia installations, and sound pieces. His two works shown in the exhibition, Kinetic Audio Transmissions and A Piano Listening to Itself, draw on similar physical-mechanical phenomena and can be realized both inside an exhibition space and outdoors. Amplified audio signals of recordings of collected concrete sounds or classical music are used to kinetically control small so-called solenoid engines; their movements act upon long strings whose vibrations are transferred to various objects and musical instruments like glasses, boxes, drums, or, outside, a (grand) piano, which, as resonating bodies, ensure the audibility of the input signals. These objects mysteriously turn into loudspeakers, though no conventional electro-magnetic speaker is involved at any point. Long strings stretched from the roof of the Baroque Enzenberg Palace accommodating the gallery incite the piano placed in the square in front of the city’s parish church. Romantic piano music rises from the instrument’s resonance board as if from afar, with music of the spheres blending into it at times, when incalculable winds sweep through the Inn Valley and, being refracted, make the long strings resonate in an Aeolian manner.
Curated by Cosima Rainer and Matthias Osterwold
Curating assistance: Bianca Moser
Photos © WEST. Fotostudio