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Cage Inspires Art

Su-Mei Tse, Das Wohltemperierte Klavier (2001, Collection Frac Lorraine)
The Fonds régional d'art contemporain (FRAC Lorraine), a contemporary art museum in the French city of Metz, has teamed up with the Ecole supérieure d'art de Metz Métropole to present an exhibit that combines music and art in intriguing ways. In Listen to Your Eyes artists have created works in response to the work of American composer John Cage. Véronique Mortaigne has a report (Le son, les images et le silence, March 20) in Le Monde (my translation):
Dutch artist Manon de Boer (b. 1965) conceived Two Times 4'33" in 2008, a video reinterpretation of one of Cage's most controversial works. A pianist performs, without playing, the sole line of the score that the composer marked with three signs. For Cage, environmental sounds and the laws of chance created the music, and Manon de Boer superimpose that plan and the piano's silence onto an intense sonic activity (wind, cars, etc.). The work is intelligent, like that of Artur Zmijewski, The Singing Lesson I (2001): fourteen minutes of choral music sung by deaf children, who go off key, emit growls and screeches, with a happiness that contrasts with the discomfort that the listener-viewer may experience. Aesthetic ideals of beauty can also be used to exclude, says the Polish artist.

The Danish artist Eva Koch, in Approach (2005), has reconfigured lines from Dante's Commedia, read by an actor on an audio track on one side, and in images on the other, with silent actors declaiming Dante in sign language. Music is a cycle, and the Lithuanian Zilvinas Kempinas represents that with three fans pasting to the wall three magnetic tapes glued in a circle and left to unroll at liberty. At the Ecole supérieure d'art, by the same logic, Mozart's Turkish march, played on a piano without strings and filmed by the Lebanese artist Ziad Antar, is accompanied by engravings by Aurélie Nemours, the vertical and horizontal abstraction in black and white depicting the rhythm.
This exhibit is part of a series called Diagonales, an exploration of the relationships between sound and the plastic arts lasting through next January throughout France, with exhibits in Bourges (La Box, March 26 to April 18), Nevers (Médiathèque Jean-Jaurès, at the same time), Paris (Le Centquatre, May 7 to 9), and Arles (the Musée Réatu, July 3 to October 31), among others. Cage was also recently the subject of an exhibit at the Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona.

Su-Mei Tse, the Japanese artist whose video is shown in the still reproduced here (bandaged hands playing one of Bach's preludes), has had music figure in many of her works (La Marionnette, L'Echo): see several images in this profile.

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