The Fondazione Prada presents the exhibition “Art or Sound”, curated by Germano Celant, at its Venetian venue of Ca’ Corner della Regina, from June 7 to November 3, 2014.
Conceived as an investigation of the past and our present, the purpose of “Art or Sound” is to analyze the development of a productive and complex dialogue, the relationship between art and sound, iconic aspects of the musical instrument, the role of the artist-musician, and the areas in which the visual arts and music have come together and blurred.
The exhibition aims to emphasize the symmetrical and ambivalent link that exists between works of art and sound object: it offers a reinterpretation of the musical instrument and the way it can become a sculptural-visual entity and back again, in a continual reciprocal relationship of encroachment and inversion, a phenomenon seen since the 17th century. It analyzes the overlap between the production of art and sound, music and the visual arts, with the aim of highlighting the constant exchange between them, though eschewing unnecessary categorization.Organized on a historical basis, “Art or Sound” starts off with musical instruments made from unusual and precious materials by Michele Antonio Grandi and Giovanni Battista Casarini in the 17th century, along with musical automata—complex artworks that combine the production of sounds with aesthetic values—created, for instance, by the Swiss watchmaker Pierre Jaquet-Droz in the 18th century. It continues with 19th-century examples of automated musical instruments and mechanical devices capable of giving visual expression to music through light and color. Research in the field of the synesthesia is presented as well, with experiments carried out by the historical avant-gardes, such as the celebrated Intonarumori (1913) created by Futurist artist Luigi Russolo, and some of Giacomo Balla’s objects.
Also exhibited are instruments and works by composers like Alvin Lucier and John Cage, works by artists of the Sixties, such as the sound boxes of Robert Morris and Nam June Paik, kinetic sculptures made by artists like Takis and Stephan von Huene, and sound installations like Robert Rauschenberg’s Oracle (1962-’65) and Laurie Anderson’s Handphone Table (1978).
There are also examples of the iconic and formal appropriation of the musical instrument, such as the pianos created by Arman, Richard Artschwager and Joseph Beuys, and hybrid instruments like the guitars and the violins of Ken Butler and the banjos of William T. Wiley, which are genuine sculptures that can be played.
This exploration of the ambiguous overlap between art and sound goes on to cover the more recent research of artists like Christian Marclay, Janet Cardiff, Martin Creed and Doug Aitken, and the production of a newer generation, represented by Anri Sala, Athanasios Argianas, Haroon Mirza, Ruth Ewan and Maywa Denki, among others.