Jorinde Voigt, Ludwig van Beethoven/Sonate Nr. 6 (Opus 10 Nr. 2), 2012, ink and graphite on paper, 34 x 55 1/8".

Jorinde Voigt, Ludwig van Beethoven/Sonate Nr. 6 (Opus 10 Nr. 2), 2012, ink and graphite on paper, 34 x 55 1/8".

Jorinde Voigt

Institute for Contemporary Culture, Royal Ontario Museum

Jorinde Voigt, Ludwig van Beethoven/Sonate Nr. 6 (Opus 10 Nr. 2), 2012, ink and graphite on paper, 34 x 55 1/8".

In June, the Canadian pianist Stewart Goodyear undertook playing all of Beethoven’s sonatas, end to end, in one sitting. This quantitative protraction (in which torrents from the piano seemed to some like a sound accompaniment for Tarkovsky’s depiction of rain) provoked a series of conversations about duration and destruction, and curiosity about the motors that drive the will to capture form. While taking these proceedings as a seed for her drawings, Jorinde Voigt looked instead toward the sonatas’ innere Stimme, the “inner,” or “third,” score between the upper and lower clefs comprising a composers notations on how the works are to be performed. Collectively titled Ludwig van Beethoven, Sonata 1 bis 32, 2012, Voigt’s hand-rendered drawings—one devoted to each sonata—record a spree of marks on sheets of landscape-oriented paper, hung in regular pedestrian rhythms around a room of blacked-out walls.

Transcribing the master’s scripts for dynamics and emotion—visual supplements with no immediate correlation in musical sound—Voigt’s drawings seem to have been traced between the hands of the pianist, as visualizations of what the latter, as a performer, sought to grasp. It is well known that the composer himself struggled with his motifs, almost sculpting them as he labored against the inertia of their material. Remembering this while looking at these or Voigt’s complex graphic models is like imagining her works as wire frames for Beethoven’s “Immortal Beloved.” But a range of other elements intervene on this reflection, twisting the drawings’ lineaments into haptic, distorted folds. For example, there is a recurring linear bar on each page that adds torque to the inscriptions as they develop toward form. And everything is rendered as if this modulating diversity had been encountered by the artist as so many recordable facts. As such, and in accordance with the look of Voigt’s drawings (digital imagining affected style if not actual facture), each work appears as an assemblage of contingent scriptural records that weave a net required to extract the Other’s desire from senseless noise.

Much writing on Voigt refers to John Cage and Duchamp, or the time spreads that characterize Hanne Darboven’s notations. But the Sonatas are also similar to Edward Tufte’s statistical displays, or to the stochastic scores of “music for the eyes” of Iannis Xenakis. A comparison can also be made to Adrian Piper’s “Meta-Art,” a work that traces “thought processes, procedures, and presuppositions” as they occur while we are “making whatever kind of art we make.” As in Piper’s project, the artist in Voigt’s series is doubled as both the one who drafts the model and an organization of sensors recording blips of affective tone. But all of these comparisons involve a deflection from Voigt’s drawings, and from the deeper reflection on form the current series presupposed. If her drawings’ point of departure is the desire of the Other (which, from Descartes to Irigaray, implies wonder at the unknown), we might expect the result to be a record of inner tensions that struggled expressively to mark their difference from every received historical norm. In this project, however, the immortal desiring element—the Other’s struggle with the beloved—is subtracted from the sonatas and their ephemeral musical form, and remodeled in semilegible graphic tendrils of spatial code. Though immersive (we understand the hands’ attachment to a body), this subtraction allows a recording of what is becoming (a) plastic form. Voigt plots what at moments occurs as noninformation: neither flickers of sensation from an unmodeled (virtual) body nor objective, spatially stable—or proto-sculptural—graphic code.

Scott Lyall