Friday, August 09, 2013

Sounding the Body Electric: Experiments in Art and Music in Eastern Europe 1957-1984

A pretty specific title, that. And yet.... I have been meaning to get to this exhibit in sunny Shoreditch for ages and finally made it down this week. Most enjoyable it was, too. It's often difficult to appreciate sound art in the confines of gallery spaces so associated with visual art. Calvert 22 made some effort to display the works in accessible and aesthetic ways, with displays of notations, music stands showing scores and quite a lot of associated visual material.

In fact, the newsreel footage of Poland's Experimental Sound Studio was among the most strking--gorgeous black and white shots of gleaming equipment. One darkened room was showing Kalah, a film with Richter-esque visuals accompanied by bleeps and blips that reminded me of video games.

What was missing for me was context. Who were these artists? What conditions informed their work? The time span encompasses the post-Stalin era to the Solidarity movement, but there is very little in the captions to explain what was going on. I wasn't even clear on what countries some of them came from, although quite a lot of the artists seem to be Polish. And, where were the women? I counted only three female names (Katalin Ladik, Dora Maurer and Zofia Hansen) from more than 25.

The accompanying sheet does drop tantalising bits of info about "happenings" and the downstairs exhibit mentions post-Prague Spring movements, but the captions don't really relay this. Perhaps one needs to read the accompanying book mentioned in the notes, but not having seen it, I cannot say.

Definitely worth a visit, but you probably need to do a lot of research pre- or post-visit to get the most out of it.

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