Press releases | Culture 01.09.2009

Coral Visual

8 October – 5 November 2009, Casa de la Cultura, Buenos Aires, Argentina
8 Oktober 5:30 p.m.: Discussion with the artists Gabriela Golder and Richard Grayson

The exhibition Coral Visual, a cooperation between Casa de la Cultura, the Ministerio de Cultura de la Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires, Siemens Fundación Argentina and the Siemens Stiftung, focuses on the subject of choirs – an unusual choice for the visual arts – and raises questions from the social angle that are far removed from purely musical issues. In the videos by Johanna Billing, Gabriela Golder, Richard Grayson, Sven Johne, Paul Pfeiffer,

Markus Schinwald and Artur Žmijewski, the choir is placed at the centre of study, thus practically inverting the normal relationship between sound and image.

The presence of music in films, clips and other time based media is something we take for granted. In the movie industry soundtracks are used as backdrops to large format universes of images that enthral us with their illusions. But here the panorama of sounds and music is always secondary, acting as it does as a booster to the visuals. Friedrich Nietzsche was the first to consider music in terms both of its emotional power and its function as a historical touchstone. According to Nietzsche, the chorus

in Greek tragedy did not merely act as a musical framework and decorative addition. If music is an interaction in which a number of actors are involved, the chorus or choir is clearly this in its most vivid form. Choirs are reliant on people coming together, on uniformity and unity. When we see this interplay in visual form, we shift our attention from the points in common to find an entity similar to the chorus of antiquity, with is commentator role. We arrive at a reflexive position in which singing can be simultaneously taken in and studied, experienced from within and judged from without. With this the visible choir (Coral Visual) becomes an index of the social, against which the multifariousness of the action, the acoustic and the visual, the scene and the obscene, what is heard and what is unheard are set off.

Johanna Billing for instance presents in her endless loops a Croatian children’s choir singing the song Magical World by the U.S. American band Rotary Connection. Written in the 1960s, the band’s lyrics expressed their wish for social change in their country. Sung now forty years later in slightly broken English by children at culture centre in Croatia, a country struggling with the aftermath of war and the problems off integrating itself into the European union, Magical World receives a new depth and significance, and also a strange magic when one looks at the pensive faces of the children.

For her project Arrorró, named after a much-loved lullaby known throughout the Spanish speaking world, the Argentinean artist Gabriela Golder has filmed a whole host of different people singing a lullaby. The artist travelled for months on end in order to collect over 500 songs from every region of Argentina. Aided by worldwide networking through the Internet and by the possibility of downloading new videos at any time, the collection of songs on her homepage has already grown to over 300

clips. With this portrait Golder gives an intimate insight into the identity of the people in all their cultural diversity.

In Richard Grayson’s 45-minute work, a homogeneously built choir sings a libretto that has been pieced together from songs on the homepage of the fundamentalist Christian cult “The Family International”, as well as from elements of the Book of Revelation. The passages he has taken refer to war, mass unemployment und other tidings of woe in a society in which a gigantic robot rules the world until the second coming of Jesus. A kingdom of the saved is created until finally the elect are transported to worlds intergalactic by an enormous golden spaceship, “The Golden Space City

of God” – as the work is also entitled. This horror scenario is presented solely by the  choir, which is seen filmed from various angles, without further comment by the artist. Text and image, fiction and reality are linked together in Sven Johne’s video, in which the story surrounding the death of the tourist guide Klaus Barthels is tied up with the theme of guilt and a GDR border guard – who ultimately is the artist’s own father. ‘Am Brunnen vor dem Tore’ from Schubert’s Winterreise, sung at the scene of the tragedy by the foot of the famous white cliffs on the isle of Rügen by a mourning colleague,

brings us to the question of fate and of supernatural judgement.

In Live from Neverland, artist Paul Pfeiffer uses a seemingly ageless choir to give a synchronous recital of an event that exploded into the media in 1993, Michael Jackson’s statement on the charges of child abuse that were levelled. The interpretation by a group of singers not only leads to a new evaluation and questioning of the television broadcast back then, but also gives the scene a truly uncanny aura.

References to historical myths and a focus on the signifi cance of the body and its

staging in the media are clearly to be seen in Children’s Crusade, a fi lm by Austrian artist Markus Schinwald. In his work he combines the children’s crusades of the High Middle Ages with the legend of the Pied Piper of Hamlin when he shows a child choir being led through the city streets by a Janus-headed marionette named Otto.

Likewise the viewer of Deaf Bach (Singing Lesson 2) gets a feeling of discomfort and of being caught in the act – as if they were watching something illicit. Artur Žmijewski shows pupils with severe hearing impairments singing a number of Bach cantatas to the accompaniment of professional musicians at St Thomas’s in Leipzig. Although they are unable to hear or control their own singing, and the outcome is more a cacophony than song, the youngsters truly enjoy the rehearsals. This haunting video sets out to heighten awareness and acceptance in the audience of illnesses and physical disorders that hinder normal participation in social life.