Hugo Ball performing Karawane at the Cabaret Voltaire, Zurich, 1916
Sound art and sound in conjunction with art have always delighted me. However, the prospect of writing about the voice is a bit nerve wracking for a painter for whom silence is the norm. None of my paintings has talked back to me yet, although I am sure that day will come.
My first experience of thinking about sound and visual art was when I provided a painting depicting Dadaist Hugo Ball’s journey to and from Switzerland and Italy for Chris Kraus’s production of Readings from the Diaries of Hugo Ball at the St. Mark’s Poetry Project in NYC in the mid-80’s. The performance took place in front of this large painting, now unfortunately lost. The production included a performance by Michael Kirby of Ball’s famous sound poem, “Karawane," which consists of nonsensical Germanic words.
The idea of the visual dimension of sound is compelling. Sound always implies space: things can sound is if they are in front of or in back of one another and is if they are moving. Artists Janet Cardiff and George Burres Miller use the spatial range of the stereo field in ways that are quite comparable to painting by making you hear from different spatial positions. Ten years ago, when I first took Cardiff’s walk around Münster as part of the Sculpture Project, I kept removing my headphones to see what was recorded and what was live. I still do that with their works; they get me every time.
I have always loved the way Pipilotti Rist uses sound and music in her videos. Her recorded voice singing Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game,” was a fabulous component of her video work I’m a Victim of This Song, from 1995. I particularly liked the name change, from "Wicked Game" to "I'm a Victim of This Song."
An even earlier art sound experience was watching Peter Frank perform a Dada poem by Schwitters at the Johnson Museum (Ithaca, NY]) around 1980. Peter and I became fast friends after that performance and I am delighted to present his writing in this issue. I have also asked David Schuster to publish his poems accompanied by his voice as he reads them. The experience of hearing his poetry spoken in his own voice is different from reading it; the combination of spoken and printed word is perhaps the most interesting way of experiencing it. A frequent contributor to The Art Section is Torinese composer Giuseppe Gavazza and I am pleased to present his work here. We have collaborated on several projects; click here to hear a composition he developed from a message I left on his answering machine.
The Art Section
Deanna Sirlin is an artist. Her recent book is She's Got What It Takes: American Women Artists In Dialogue was Published by Charta Art Books 2013.