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Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Drawn to the Beat @ Fabrica

Drawn to the Beat, Fabrica Gallery, Brighton, May 14th 2011 8-10pm

Following on from my work Drawn to the Beat @ Band on the Wall, Manchester, January 2011 this new event was commissioned by Fabrica Gallery, Brighton - to be developed in response to the gallery’s then current exhibition The Forty Part Motet by Janet Cardiff, an artist I have always been interested in and researched her practice as part of my M.A. The relationship between sound and body, narrative, a play on fact and fiction and a multi sensory environment are all important parts of her work, and my own. To be able to create work for a gallery I have great respect for and am so at home in (I have worked with Fabrica in various roles since 2002), as well as responding to Cardiff's work was really exciting.

About The Forty Part Motet – ‘The Forty Part Motet is a sound installation by Canadian artist, Janet Cardiff based on the renaissance choral music Spem in Alium (1573) by Thomas Tallis. Forty separate voices are played back through forty speakers; each placed torso-like in clusters of five and aligned in an oval.’ Fabrica exhibition archive - The Forty Part Motet

My main focus in developing this work was ‘curating music’, I had learnt a lot about creating the right environment for listening and response (the physical space, and my role within the event) during the first Drawn to the Beat. Here I wanted to take the focus a step beyond a mechanism for listening/drawing, and play more with the content of what would be heard. Taking Cardiff’s piece as a starting point I selected music that focused on, the human voice, something I have been exploring recently through my own drawings, with Najia Bagi and the Manchester Halle Choir. Follow this link to find out more about my collaboration with musicians

The voice is a broad remit of course, and the resulting collection of music traveled across continents, time and genres. The majority featured the collective human voice, alternative choirs if you like, from hip-hop to Bolly-wood. some of it commented on the religious content of the Tallis piece and the more obvious associations evoked by having this piece in a gallery space that is a former church. The common thread however, beyond the voice, was that all of the songs I chose, and the order in which I presented them, sought to expand on the feelings Cardiff’s work evoked of contemplation, euphoria, and sadness. I made a point of avoiding traditional choral music, this was in part due to a desire to create my own story, begun by Cardiff’s, but independent of it. But also because Drawn to the Beat is about creating a balance, it is a way of listening that I hope means each song can have equal resonance for people due to the focus a response through drawing allows. But within this the music has to do work too, variety (in terms of genre but most of all the feel of the music) is essential to creating a journey of response that keeps a hold on the atmosphere in the room.

 Much of my decision making about the order of songs came down to knowing the power of contrast - taking people in one emotional direction letting them become lost in it and then pulling back, giving something unexpected. I knew people would be hearing 'Spem in Alium', and hearing it in the most spectacular way, through 40 speakers, I had to move away from that through the music, and through the environment, whilst still acknowledging it as part of the journey. The right thing was to contrast, not to attempt to match.

One of my favourite parts of the event was, after allowing a breathing space of silence after Cardiff’s work, playing ‘Blue Monday’ by New Order. This track does actually include a subtle male choir, the baton passed from Cardiff’s piece. The main link however, being melancholy and euphoria, two things Cardiff’s piece has and which I think 'Blue Monday' takes and progresses from – with the melancholy rising in ‘Blue Monday’ to something more like anger, and the euphoria becoming more physical, making you need to move with the feeling it gives, not just be moved. ‘Blue Monday’ did what I needed it to do, to thrust the room into a different space. Knowing the participants will have been enveloped by sound played through 40 speakers, and would then be hearing through just two and a P.A was also an important consideration. Again this song seemed to fit, vibrating through the speakers as it has in so many dark clubs previously, it pumped shouted and kick started a new part of the journey.

Drawing 'Bohemian Rhapsody' with my family

Researching and drawing a long list of music, was intensive. However it was this arranging of music, into a series of small narratives that became obsessive. Beyond musically and narratively attempting to lead in and out of 'The Forty Part Motet', there were the questions like how to bring the space back from 10 minutes of throat singing? At what point should the potentially comedic bohemian rhapsody be released ? I had gathered many, many examples of music that showcased the sound of the collective human voice but predicting what they will ‘say’ to others and getting them to tell a cohesive story (or series of smaller stories) while maintaining the right atmosphere was a challenge. Beyond the participants positive response to the event, the research I did into music for it was the highlight of doing this work, the part that feels like a progression from the original Drawn to the Beat, and the start of something new…


‘So much better than the Party I should have been at…’

‘This has to be the best Saturday night ever! Thank you so much for a trance-like, head-banging drawing adventure I’ll never forget. I had come here intending to ‘go for it’ no matter what. Your intro of ‘eyes closed’ miming movements, was an excellent way in – after that, the rest of the room ceased to exist.’

‘Thank you – connections to sound, body, space and people. I came exhausted from a days work I leave energised!’

For more Drawn to the Beat @ Fabrica photos
Photography by Andrew Brooks

1 comment:

  1. Wasn't sure quite what to expect, but the evening was amazing. Seeing one huge blank canvas of a floor completely transformed throughout the evening was an experience I'll always remember. The music was brilliantly linked, if you ever get the chance to experience 'Drawn to the Beat' take it.