Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Marcus Coates: 'Vocal Folds' Gertrude Contemporary, Melbourne, Australia

Image: Marcus Coates Dawn Chorus, 2007 14 Channel HD Video Installation, (MC0015) Courtesy of the artist and Workplace Gallery, UK
Vocal Folds



Gertrude Contemporary
21.06.13 – 20.07.13

Gertrude Contemporary is pleased to present Vocal Folds. This exhibition of video installations by three influential international artists explores the physical and spatial qualities of the voice, moving beyond language and melody into the material and embodied. The voice articulates language and the transmission of abstractions, emotion and ideas, but it is also a physical product of the lungs, vocal chords, tongue and lips. In Vocal Folds the voice is both embodied and disembodied, sculptural material and conceptual conduit.

A listening library accompanying the exhibition presents an eclectic mix of recordings from the fields of experimental music and improvisational performance. Situating the exhibition within a wider context of expanded vocal and sound poetry practice, these recordings by iconic figures such as Meredith Monk (USA) and Henri Chopin (France) will be presented alongside more recent practitioners such as Jaap Blonk (Netherlands), Fatima Miranda (Spain) and the Sydney-based sound poet Amanda Stewart.

Live events in the gallery by Melbourne performers will include appearances by Jenny Barnes, Carolyn Connors, Dirk de Bruyn, Alice Hui-Sheng Chang, Tarquin Manek, Christopher LG Hill and Alex Vivian. These performers push the voice beyond its role as a vehicle for speech and melody, breaking language down into its smallest components, or doing away with it altogether to take the voice into a realm of growls, hisses, clicks, gurgles and wheezes that situate the voice firmly within the body and assert its origins in the breath.

Breath and voice are often characterized as immaterial and lacking in substance, but in the work of Dutch artist Manon de Boer they are revealed as strongly bodily.  Her video work one, two, many, recently exhibited at DOCUMENTA 13, is made up of three performances which explore the existential space of the voice and its relationship to the body and the listener. In one segment the flautist Michael Schmid performs a solo composition of circular breathing that builds in intensity,  uninterrupted for nine minutes, and in which his strain embodies the physicality of breath.

The major, multi-screen video installation Dawn Chorus by British artist Marcus Coates sees 14 people interrupt their quiet moments with spontaneous birdsong. Coates, who explores contemporary shamanism and our connection to the natural world, filmed performers mimicking the slowed down field recordings of bird calls, translating the sounds of a language incomprehensible to us into abstract song. The footage was then sped up so that the human-bird sounds recall the original avian dawn chorus. The performers' quickened movements - impossibly fast breath, facial twitches - return the voice to the physical body.

Valie Export, the iconic and provocative Austrian artist, takes us right to the origin of the voice in her video I turn over the pictures of my voice in my head, with footage from a performance in which the artist inserted a laryngoscope into her larynx and filmed the contractions of her vocal cords as she reads a text. In this monologue she proposes that the voice is neither body or language, but a sign.

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