“Songs of Love and Hate”

Galerie Wieland

Artistic practice is becoming ever more dispersed. Now there is the “rock artist,” one who actually produces music rather than just referring to it visually. Laptop electronic artist Carsten Nicolai belongs to this circle, just as Angela Bulloch does, with her experimental and improvisational band of bass guitars. But what the two-part exhibition “Songs of Love and Hate” set out to explore was, rather, works in which art and music revolve around each other. The first installment, “Side A,” exhibited eight artists or collectives who address the fetish character of pop music Thus Astrid Küver showed turntable slipmats, on which DJ logos were printed—but reworked so that a world of images replaces pure commodity. Michael Wilkinson from Glasgow uses the graphics of familiar record covers to reduce the identities of bands like Joy Division or Kraftwerk to minimal codes. Conversely, the Berlin-Munich performance group Discoteca Flaming Star plays with audience desires by layering karaoke evenings with visual stagings in the style of Kenneth Anger or Jack Smith.

“Side B” examined possibilities for translating acoustic material into images. The thirty-two drawings of Variaciones sobre arcuitos (Variations on circuits), 1998, by Madrid artist Diana Larrea, are each keyed to a different permutation of Bach’s aria in the Goldberg Variations, making Larrea’s work a kind of meta-composition. The colorful collaged patterns create relationships that could correspond to complex circuitry. The musical notation thus gives way to an abstract weave. Jan Rohlf, in his three-part sculpture That Great Definite Feel, 2001, aims at the three-dimensional depiction of sound. He has taken the frequency curves of songs by The Cure and Tuxedomoon and had them stamped onto rectangular blocks of wood. But the given references disappear as a result of their transformation, leaving behind only the reliefs as decorative souvenirs, memories of a personal taste in music.

In the face of taste and personal pop myths, Dave Allen aims for more rarefied conceptual strategies. For his installation Silent Recording Berliner Philharmonic 2000, 2000, a sort of antisound environment, he set up a hi-fi system that continuously played absolute silence. There is in fact not a sound on Allen’s CD: He recorded the deserted rooms of the Philharmonic and thus made the very site of musical performance his theme. Unlike John Cage’s 4’33”, Silent Recording does not emphasize background noise. Allen goes even farther in disconnecting production and reception: Sound remains but a possibility, one that the visitor can realize only in his or her head. At the same time, the physical space of the concert is transposed into the art space—though still absent. In this way, Allen creates a gap that, despite all the visual signals on hand—the stereo system, the speakers—remains undefined. Nothing happens, but permanently, as Jean-François Lyotard once wrote of Barnett Newman’s canvases.

For Allen, this installation is a “subsidiary,” an ironic sleight of hand in contrast to the grandiosity of the music industry—and the current “rock artist” trend. His second work here takes a similar stance: The walls of the gallery were covered with screenprinted “wallpaper” taken from the artist’s felt-tip-pen rendering of the pattern of holes in the sound-insulation panels used in recording studios. Here, the soundproofing material becomes a symbol of protection from that “wall of sound” that Allen himself works not to produce.

Harald Fricke

Translated from German by Sara Ogger.