Art or Sound at Fondazione Prada, Venice

07.06.2014 - 03.11.2014/General, Gallery
Art or Sound at Fondazione Prada, Venice
Group exhibition
Fondazione Prada, Ca’ Corner della Regina Palazzo, Venice, Italy
7 June to 3 November 2014

With work by gallery artists Roman Opalka and Günther Uecker

Curated by: Germano Celant

“Art or Sound” explores the relationship between art and sound and the way it has developed from the 16th century to the present day, examining the iconic aspects of musical instruments, the role of the artist-musician, and the areas in which the visual arts and music have come together.
The exhibition comprises more than 180 artifacts—clocks and carillons, automata and musical machines, paintings and scores, sculptures and readymades, together with decorated, assembled, imaginary and silent musical instruments—and occupies the two main floors of the Venetian palazzo.

Organized on a historical basis, “Art or Sound” starts off with music-themed paintings by Bartolomeo Veneto and Nicola Giolfino realized between 1520 and 1530, to proceed with musical instruments made from unusual and precious materials by Michele Antonio Grandi and Giovanni Battista Cassarini in the 17th century. Musical automata—complex artworks that combine the production of sounds with aesthetic values—created, for instance, by the Swiss watchmaker Pierre Jaquet-Droz in the 18th century are also on display.

The exhibition continues with 19th-century examples of automated musical instruments and mechanical devices capable of giving visual expression to music through light and color. Research in the field of the synesthesia is also presented, with experiments carried out by the historical avant-gardes, such as the celebrated Intonarumori (1913) created by Futurist artist Luigi Russolo, and some of Giacomo Balla’s objects, as well as explorations in the experience of silence in art with works such as With Hidden Noise (À bruit secret) (1916) by Marcel Duchamp.

Particular prominence is given to the original scores from the late 1950s written by John Cage, avant-garde composer and figure of reference for the Fluxus movement—represented in the exhibition by George Maciunas and Joe Jones—and for all the artists who have explored the principle of indeterminacy and chance in music and contemporary art.

The works of the Nouveaux Réalistes, such as Arman and Jean Tinguely, which document phenomena of fortuitous destruction and assembly through musical instruments or devices, are also exhibited, whilst Oracle (1962- 65) by Robert Rauschenberg, in line with the same principles, is a sound environment constructed out of salvaged objects and commonly used materials.

Also on display in the exhibition are examples of appropriation of the image and form of the musical instrument, such as the pop assemblages by artists from Tom Wesselmann to Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen or the pianos of Günther Uecker, Richard Artschwager and Joseph Beuys, along with hybrid instruments, genuine sculptures that can be played, like the guitars and violins of Ken Butler and the banjo of William T. Wiley. Jannis Kounellis’s work Senza Titolo (da inventare sul posto), in which a violinist and a ballerina improvise in front of a painted score, is an example of a performance that broadens the meaning of painting, while Laurie Anderson’s Handphone Table (1978), Loris Gréaud’s Crossfading Suitcase (2004) and Doug Aitken’s Marble Sonic Table (2011) are works that require interaction with the public to produce their sounds.

This exploration of the ambiguous overlap between art and sound goes on to cover the more recent research of artists like Christian Marclay, Janet Cardiff, Martin Creed and Doug Aitken, and the production of a newer generation, represented by Anri Sala, Athanasios Argianas, Haroon Mirza, Ruth Ewan and Maywa Denki, among others.

The display system for “Art or Sound”, designed by global consultancy 2x4 led by Michael Rock, is informed by the structure of a musical score. The linear organization determines the arrangement of the bases and pedestals in the environment, while the objects and instruments in the exhibition act as individual elements of a musical notation.

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