March 21, 2019

Passages: Luke Fowler, Florian Hecker, Susan Philipsz

Adam Art Gallery at Victoria University of Wellington

View of Passages: Luke Fowler, Florian Hecker, Susan Philipsz, 2019.*

Curated by Stephen Cleland

Adam Art Gallery Te Pātaka Toi is pleased to present Passages, which features three substantial presentations by Susan Philipsz (Scotland), Luke Fowler (Scotland) and Florian Hecker (Germany). All three artists are internationally renowned for their work with sound.

Passages explores the potential of sound to dynamically articulate space and convey meaning through the body. The exhibition is conceived as an integrated triad of sonic installations, with each artist’s work occupying a single level of the building. Deploying a time-based structure with an hourly cycle, the artists’ works are sequentially activated one by one, creating an episodic chain of sonic events across the Adam Art Gallery’s building.

"Passages" refers to musical progression—a succession of notes or sounds that may be experienced in isolation or as part of a larger whole. It also recalls the narrow configurations of spaces that make up Adam Art Gallery’s physical architecture. A total of 24 channels of sound have been projected into its timber, concrete, plasterboard and rubber-clad surfaces, and sound-absorbent materials added, exploiting the dynamic potential for sound to move, reverberate, reflect and be absorbed. Each of these artists is concerned with not only progressing their own work but with indexing a composer of the past. "Passage" therefore evokes an elegiac association referring to the transition from life to death. These artists locate their work in the material residues and score-based fragments that a composer leaves behind.

The artists have been brought together because each, in distinct ways, foregrounds and reflects upon the history of electronic and experimental music as it has evolved through the 20th and 21st centuries. They cite and rework scores by key historical composers who have reshaped how we think about the materiality of sound and its relation to vision, space and time. Each artist in Passages builds upon the ambitions of other progressive composers and in doing so, the exhibition traverses radical turns in musical composition, touchstone moments in the twentieth century, including the development of serial or atonal music, innovations brought about by electroacoustic composers, advances in mathematically produced compositions, and the exploration of multi-channel sound environments.

In distinct ways each artist's work unpacks the underlying structure of these distinct experimental forms. In White Flood, 2019, Susan Philipsz' 12-channel sound and film installation presented for the first time in the exhibition, Philipsz explores and re-makes Hanns Eisler’s 12-tone score for an early ecological film. Luke Fowler narrates through two film works, Electro-Pythagoras and For Christian, his responses to the daring compositional structures of post-Cagean music and electroacoustic composition. Florian Hecker situates viewers within a complex web of intense computer-generated sound in his carefully tuned nine-channel installation consisting of Formulation As Texture [hcross], Formulation Chim 111 and Formulation DBM Self. By placing listeners at the centre of each piece, each artist orchestrates the experience of sound in such a way that we are required to complete the loop.

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The Adam Art Gallery is the art gallery of Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand. It is a forum for critical thinking about art and its histories as well as the professional structure within which the Victoria University Art Collection is managed. The gallery’s programmes aim to test and expand art form and disciplinary boundaries and create new opportunities to bring artists together and generate fresh conversations. The gallery is a remarkable architectural statement designed by the late Sir Ian Athfield, one of New Zealand’s foremost architects.

*Image above: View of Passages: Luke Fowler, Florian Hecker, Susan Philipsz, 2019. Top: Florian Hecker, Formulation DBM Self, 2015–2017. 24:07 minutes. Formulation as Texture [hcross], 2017. 24:20 minutes, pluriphonic computer-generated sound, loudspeaker system, acoustic panel system. Courtesy of the artist, Sadie Coles HQ and Galerie Neu. Bottom: Susan Philipsz, White Flood, 2019. 12-channel sound installation and HD film, 15 minutes. Courtesy of the artist, Tanya Bonakdar Gallery and Galerie Isabella Bortolozzi. Photo: Shaun Waugh.

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