Now Hear This!
"Sacred and Profane" comes to DAM
International Sound Show and CD makes art for ears rather than eyes

 


An art gallery functions as a temple of sorts - a place where visitors can take in art in an almost sacred setting. Traditionally this has been reserved for visual art. People come to look. Sound, if there is any to be heard beyond the din of hobnobbing art patrons, comes in the form of installations equipped with accompanying noise, or perhaps from a DJ tucked away in a corner playing an ambient, but danceable soundtrack for the hipster set.

With the "Sacred and Profane" curators Liz Copeland and Clark Warner set to turn that dynamic on its ear. For the exhibition, sounds leap out from the background - the audio will replace the visual and stand solely on its own. The exhibition is about finding a "purity" of exploring sound as a medium, Copeland explains. "This exhibit will be very purist in its presentation - displaying no visuals on the walls -allowing the listeners to fully experience and interact with the piece."

The curators are no strangers to the realm of sonic art. Copeland is of course best known for being the award-winning overnight DJ since 1995 on WDET FM 101.9, while Warner is known as both a producer and a DJ. The two have collaborated in the past as co-hosts of Focus: Electronic on WDET, as well as their monthly musical adventure "Stylus."

Aaron Timlin, executive director of the Detroit Artists Market, approached the pair to guest-curate a show centered around sound. They accepted the challenge as a way to express their desire that sound be taken as seriously as visual art and satisfy their curiosity as to what sound is like in its own setting.

Copeland described the title as being a challenge to the listener, and that each listener will bring a different interpretation to the work. "Sacred and Profane" sums up the spectrum of potential responses to the idea of sound being treated in this manner. "To some people, the idea of putting sound in a gallery might be absurd, while for others this exhibition will be something that is long overdue."

Copeland and Warner wanted to bring an international feel to the exhibition. They sought out sound artists who were open to experimentation and exploring sound in a pure form, and who could imagine their sounds being heard in a gallery. This quest produced eight sound artists from around the globe who will all present unreleased work specifically created for this exhibition.

The roster includes Jack Dangers, Warn Defever, Richie Hawtin, Thurston Moore, Tadd Mullinix, DJ Olive, Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Mark Van Hoen. (Bios and images of all the artists appear at the bottom of this page.) These artists work with such diverse resources as sampled and treated classical compositions, free jazz, experimental electronics, peaceful landscapes, and noise experimentation. The assembled group includes emerging artists like the 22 year old Mullinix alongside long-established artists like Roedelius whose career spans four decades. Hawtin and Defever both hail from the Detroit area which despite their contrasting approach to making music, makes for some commonalities as well. Copeland and Warner see this diverse group of artists as all sharing a sense of adventure and individuality in their work.

A quick read of these musicians' bios reveals that they have gone beyond the label of musician and arrived at place more closely associated with the conceptual and the visual arts. They work with sound like a visual artist works with color and tone. Hawtin's work has often been integrated into contemporary art installations. DJ Olive has created something he calls Vinyl Scores for the turntable. These are essentially sound palettes he produces in the studio and then presses on 12" vinyl. This provides a common palette for turntablists to work in much the same way that painters work from similar color palettes. From this common ground all create their own unique mix. Van Hoen's approach to making sounds is described as being akin to the process of a painter or a sculptor. Roedelius developed his art as a pupil of the conceptual artist Josef Beuys.

With the list confirmed last fall, the curators didn't put a specific theme to the artists beyond the setting, the technical demands of that space, and the title of the exhibition. From that point on the artists were free to go in whatever direction they felt made their individual piece work. In the end, this resulted in each artist producing different sounds, yet according to Warner, all share an element of collage and have a "similar quality in terms of production and structure." Each sound artist's original piece will be presented at individual listening stations set up throughout DAM's gallery space. Listeners will be able to tune in privately through headsets and at one 5.1 surround sound station. The pieces vary in length from one minute to 49 minutes.

Rather than the typical exhibition catalog, DAM will produce a limited edition CD of the work presented in "Sacred and Profane: A Collection of Sonic Art." The CD will feature original works by all eight of the artists involved, the included liner notes feature musician biographies and a statement from the curators. CDs will be on sale during the run of the show. All proceeds from the $12 CD will benefit the Detroit Artists Market.

While listeners can take this work home with them in CD form, Copeland notes that listening to the work in a gallery setting is a far different experience than in the confines of one's car or the hecticness of one's home. Taking in the work in the gallery offers a chance at experiencing the sounds in a state of purity.

Copeland and Warner hope that "The observer will be left with a renewed realization of the power of the medium as art and as language."

Give your eyes a rest, and prepare your ears for a very different aesthetic experience. - Nick Sousanis

(The show runs from May 7 through May 31. A Member's Exclusive Reception happens May 7 from 5:30 to 7:30pm followed by a public reception from 7:30 to 11pm.)

The Detroit Artists Market
4719 Woodward Avenue
Detroit MI 48201
313.832.8540
info@detroitartistsmarket.org
www.detroitartistsmarket.org


Meet the Artists

 

DJ Olive: AKA Gregor Asch has been active in Brooklyn's burgeoning creative scene for over a decade, and a primary contributor to the illbient scene. (More info @ www.theagriculture.com)

Thurston Moore: The founder of Sonic Youth, Moore has been a continuous innovator, collaborating with such diverse influences as Merce Cunningham's Dance Company. He has been influential in many areas, including working as a soundtrack composer, an editor, a publisher, and a poet. (More info @ www.sonicyouth.com)

Jack Dangers: Originally hailing from Swindon, England, this San Francisco veteran composer and sound sculptor founded Meat Beat Manifesto in the late '80s and has been doing groundbreaking work in the realm of electronic music ever since. (More info @ www.brainwashed.com/mbm)

Hans-Joachim Roedelius: The 70 year old Roedelius grew up in war-torn Berlin. In the late '60s he co-founded Zodiak, the Berlin Centre for Underground Culture. He currently resides in Austria where he continues to make new and challenging sounds. (More info @ www.roedelius.com)

Liz Copeland and Clark Warner
Copeland is the overnight DJ since 1995 on WDET FM 101.9. heard Monday through Friday mornings from midnight to 5 am. She has also been resident DJ at clubs and events, has written for various Detroit-area arts publications. Warner is a long-time musical enthusiast, functioning equally as DJ, producer, label manager, and promoter. He is also the co-host of Focus: Electronic with Copeland on WDET.
Tadd Mullinix: At 22, Mullinix is the youngest in the exhibition. He made his debut in 2001 under the name "Winking Makes a Face." This rising star fuses abstract beats with classically inspired melodies and is equal parts performer, DJ, musician, producer and composer. (More info @ www.ghostly.com/1.0/tadd)
Mark Van Hoen: London native has been recording since the early '90s as Locust - creating modern updates to classic pop records of the last three decades. (More info @ www.locustsound.com)
Richie Hawtin: Born in England, Hawtin was raised in Windsor where he was influenced by the sounds of electronic music coming out of Detroit across the river. Although he is regarded as the "DJ's DJ," he is more popularly known for his recorded work as Plastikman, FUSE, among other aliases. (More info @ www.m-nus.com)
Warn Defever: This Livonia musician performs as His Name Is Alive (HNIA) combining an eclectic mix of sounds and styles and has written "down-and-out folk songs alongside noise collaborations." (More info @ www.timestereo.com)
Photo Credits:
Jack Dangers: Jay Blakesberg
Warn Defever: Hitoko Sakai
Richie Hawtin: Joseph Cultice
Thurston Moore: (uncredited)
Tadd Mullinix: Doug Coombe
DJ Olive: (uncredited)
Roedelius: (uncredited)
Mark Van Hoen: Nicky Sims
Liz Copeland and Clark Warner: Riva Sayegh
© 2002 thedetroiter.com