Monday, 15 March 2010

Janet Cardiff at the new Art Gallery of Alberta

The new Art Gallery of Alberta has the North American premiere of Janet Cardiff and George Bures Millers installation: The Murder of Crows, their largest sound installation to date. The work has been shown in Sydney, Berlin and Brazil, but comes to Canadian audiences for the first time as part of the AGA's opening exhibitions.

The work will occupy the entire third floor of the new Art Gallery of Alberta. Consisting of 98 speakers, The Murder of Crows is a complex interweaving of voice, music and sound that have generated a profound physical impact on the listener. The work has been conceived in acts, but one whose images and narratives structures are created by sound alone. The three-part work, composed in collaboration with Freida Abtan, Tilman Ritter and Titus Maderlechner, is 30 minutes in duration.

Janet Cardiff’s work depends on the active participation of the viewer /participant for its full realization. Cardiff born in 1957 in Brussels, Ontario confounds our sensory perception and consequently our ability to perceive reality. The experiential nature of her work allows a more direct connection with the artwork than is typical in a museum.

The exhibition notes say “In the installation, one hears a voice, coming from a megaphone that lies on a table at the center of the room. Like Goya's sleeping man, the speaker is a captive of their own nightmares, experiencing dreadful scenes fraught with fear and terror. Sounds and noises roam the space of the exhibition like the owls and bats that flit around the sleeper in Goya's etching. In the transition from one sound world to the next, the work's structure follows the illogical yet interrelated progressions of dreams.”

I was fortunate enough to see Cardiff’s piece “To Touch” at the Milwaukee Art Museum in November 2008 (see final two pictures above). With this piece the action of passing your hands over the surface of an old carpenter’s table elicits an aural response from audio speakers around a small room. Voices disclose mysterious dream-like events reminiscent of a cinematic suspense thriller. These voices mingle among the familiar sounds of a car screeching, telephone ringing, a knife being sharpened, a gun shot, movie music, a woman softly reciting the alphabet. The viewers’ hands orchestrate this collage, composing layered and provisional tales.

You can watch a five minute excerpt of "The Murder of Crows" here -

1 comment:

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