Robert Cahen: Chopinpiano Apparitions/Disparitions
   

8 November, 2010 – 19 January, 2011

Robert Cahen: Chopinpiano Apparitions/Disparitions
   

8 November, 2010 – 19 January, 2011

Info

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Premiere of a new installation in honor of the 180th anniversary of Chopin’s concert in Wrocław

The exhibition CHOPINPIANO Hommage à Chopin features works by Robert Cahen – a renowned French artist who studied with Pierre Schaeffer, began his career as a composer of musique concrète, and went on to create many classics of video art and media art. This exhibition takes an innovative approach to intertwined topics: Chopin’s music, perceptions of his work, and revolutionary uses of prepared pianos by avant-garde artists in the second half of the 20th century, whose experiments contributed significantly to the development of contemporary music and art.

The opening of the exhibition at the WRO Art Center marks the 180th anniversary of Chopin’s November 8th 1830 concert in Wrocław, which like this year fell on a Monday.

The centerpiece of the exhibition is an audiovisual instrument: a 19th-century grand piano, made by the Małecki Piano Factory in Warsaw, that has been prepared, turned over and suspended high in the air. The preparation consisted of integrating the piano with a computer and adding a video projector. The keys are activated by the video image showing the hands of young pianists playing various works by Chopin.

This new installation, which was commissioned by the WRO Art Center, is closely related to the video work Temps/ContreTemps, which Cahen made at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, using two works exhibited there: Joseph Beuys’s Homogeneous Infiltration for Piano [Infiltration Homogen für Konzertflügel, 1966] – a grand piano wrapped in felt – Man Ray’s [Indestructible Object (or Object to Be Destroyed), 1923/1964] – a metronome with an image of an eye on the pendulum.

The roots of contemporary media art are closely tied to 20th-century artists’ search for new forms for creating and presenting music. In works by avant-garde artists in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, the grand became a standard prop serving the needs of new-art proclamations. That noble instrument and symbol of high culture – Chopin’s instrument – has been prepared in various ways by artists like John Cage, Joseph Beuys and Nam June Paik to appear in concerts, performances and happenings to demonstrate a rebellious new approach to music and to artistic events, explorations and experiments.

Nowadays that rebellion has itself become a tradition, a classic, which Robert Cahen alludes to, interpreting Chopin’s eternally fresh compositions through 20th-century avant-garde traditions.

The exhibition also features Apparitions/Disparitions:  a collection of Robert Cahen’s video installations.

THE EXHIBITION

CHOPINPIANO
Hommage à Chopin

Installation, 2010

Video: Robert Cahen
Edited by Thierry Maury – Pixea Studio
Piano preparation: Jacek Kozłowski
Software: Paweł Janicki

In works by avant-garde artists in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, the grand piano became a standard prop serving the needs of new-art proclamations. That noble instrument and symbol of high culture – Chopin’s instrument – has been prepared in various ways by artists like John Cage, Joseph Beuys and Nam June Paik to appear in concerts, performances and happenings to demonstrate a rebellious new approach to music and to artistic events, explorations and experiments. Nowadays that rebellion has itself become a tradition, a classic, history – and this is the context for Robert Cahen’s newest work.

In this installation, which was commissioned specially for this exhibition, Cahen alludes both to Chopin’s eternally fresh and inspiring work and to 20th-century avant-garde traditions. This creates a dialog between Chopin’s times and our own – between Chopin’s innovativeness and the experimentation of current artists and composers. Cahen presents Chopin’s music as interpreted not in virtuoso performances, but through the energy of young musicians.

The pianists are students of Professor Waldemar Wachalowicz at the Conservatoire de Musique, Danse et Art Dramatique in Mulhouse, France, performing the following works:

Alexandre Cahen (age 16): Grande Valse Brillante in E-flat Major, opus 18
Joseph Muré (age 17) Polonaise in A-flat Major, opus 53
Florence Bansept (age 17) Ballade No. 3 in A-flat Major, opus 47
Sara Ghanbary (age 17) Nocturne in E-flat Major, opus 9

Special thanks:
Musique Paul Galland et Fils
Hugues Galland Mulhouse, France
www.piano-galland.com

Temps/ContreTemps
Video, 2006, 28 min, loop

Cahen made Temps/ContreTemps at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, juxtaposing two works from that collection: Joseph Beuys’s Homogeneous Infiltration for Piano [Infiltration Homogen für Konzertflügel, 1966] – a prepared grand piano wrapped in felt – and on top of it, Man Ray’s Indestructible Object (or Object to Be Destroyed, 1923/1964) – a metronome with an image of an eye affixed to the pendulum. The camera slowly moves closer, then retreats, showing the silhouette of the artist – nearly invisible in the blurred picture – who sits down at the piano, and then immediately vacates the seat. Chopin’s music serves as the soundtrack.

APPARITIONS/DISPARITIONS

Françoise pour mémoire (Françoise For the Record)
Videoinstallation, 2007, double projection, 7 min, loop

Robert Cahen made this video after his meeting with neuroscientist Paul Pevet, Director of the Strasbourg Neuroscience Research Institute, whose research has included the nervous system, memory and degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. The artist proposes to let the imagination explore what losing one’s memory is like. He films his sister Françoise, superimposing her image with a stream of words flowing across the screen. The words are his, but they could be anybody’s. And what about forgetting? That remains to be seen.

Traverses (Crossings)
video, silent, 2002, 30 min, loop

Special effects: Patrick Zanoli
Funded by CICV, ZKM Karlsruhe, Le Fresnoy, Drac/Alsace

The Strasbourg Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MAMCS)
The Harris Museum, Preston, UK

Starting in the 1970s, Robert Cahen has focused on the concept of transition: the transformation of a single image into a series of moving ones; movement from one place – and a related time – to another. Cahen has defined himself by sustaining a never-ending dialog between the visible and the invisible, between narrative and poetry, between distance and presence in relation to another world.
In this video installation, figures appear at the back of the screen one after another, sometimes in groups, veiled by a thick fog. The color white dominates; the fog is overpowering as it hides and then reveals glimpses of these people. Children, men and women appear in succession, walking slowly and hesitantly. None of them manage to escape the fog that shrouds them – all of them are eventually swallowed up by the white matter that fills screen. Slow moving apparitions of Beings crossing space, where time is put to the test.

Tombe (Fall)
videoinstallation, 1997, 23 min, loop

The FRAC/Alsace Collection

Assorted objects – everyday items, but detached from their original functions –appear in the upper part of the screen. The selection of items and the unusual perspective are surprising. The objects glide inexorably past, slipping out of sight into unknown depths. You feel like touching the things one last time before their final, silent disappearance and perhaps saving them from being dashed to pieces. Tombe, like all Robert Cahen’s works, is pervaded by his effort to address transitional stages – the areas between life and death, the flow of time, absence and recollection – and is expressed in his characteristic pictorial language.

Paysages d’hiver (Winter Landscapes)
Videoinstallation, 2005, 21 min, loop

Edited by Thierry Maury
Produced by Boulevard des Productions Strasbourg

The Collection of the Canton of Basel, Switzerland
The Harris Museum, Preston, UK

Cahen revisits his 1993 work Voyage d’hiver [Winter Voyage], in which the Antarctic continent is observed, contemplated and analyzed. It is a private reading of a landscape suspended in a distant time. His wide-angle shots emphasize the natural light and balance the colors, creating a dreamlike, memory-like ambience.

“[T]he two-screen projection Paysages d’Hiver plays on the estrangement of the land in the white-on-white of the Antarctic. The distinction between ground and sky is confused by the transposition of one into the other the sky flows with Cahen’s signature undulations or sighs of nature and the ground glows with an unearthly sheen interrupted by the sudden appearance of two figures walking uncertainly across the snow.”
– Professor Catherine Elwes, University of the Arts, London

Le cercle (The Circle)
Videoinstallation, 2005, 13 min, loop

Edited by Thierry Maury
Produced by Boulevard des Productions Strasbourg

During a stay on the Arctic archipelago Svalbard, Cahen filmed the frozen landscape using wide-angle shots, highlighting the sense of timelessness that is characteristic of that region. The silhouette of a man walking along the ocean shore even further emphasizes the loneliness that the setting relentlessly suggests.

Attention ca tourne! (Watch – It Turns!)
Videoinstallation, 2008
by Robert Cahen and Guido Nussbaum

“[This work] is a rotating screen on which all the colors of a Chinese street scene have melted into one another. Cahen’s continuing delight in the poetry of the moving image is everywhere in evidence and his irrepressible enthusiasm for the transformative power of digital effects remains as infectious as ever. I can make the color run as though there were a breeze rippling the landscape he confides to Sandra Lischi. I provide the image with a sort of inner life.” – Professor Catherine Elwes, University of the Arts, London

The end of the voyage is perhaps not death, but the beginning of the life of the imagination.

Robert Cahen (born 1945) is one of world’s foremost video artists. He studied musique concrete with Pierre Schaeffer, graduated from the Conservatoire National Superieur de Musique de Paris, and was a member of the Groupe de Recherche Musicales de l’ORTF from 1971 to ’74. From 1973 to ’76, he was director of Experimental Video for ORTF/INA.

In Cahen’s uniquely nuanced world, fiction and document alike are presented as metaphoric voyages of the imagination – exquisite reveries that describe passages of time, place, memory and perception. Genres like narrative and performance are expanded and transformed as he explores visual, aural and temporal transformations of represented reality. From its formal elegance to the intricate musical and visual transitions, Cahen’s work is characterized by his sophisticated application of electronic techniques that manipulate sound and image, space and temporality, resulting in subtle transmutations of the illusory and the real. Building on his extensive research in acoustics, music and filmmaking, he plays with the textures of sound and image to restructure representational modes, from the optical to the sonic, from the “picturesque” photograph to the conventions of narrative cinema. Resonating with wit and charm and executed with technical precision, his works allude to both formal and thematic motifs of travel, movement and transition. Cahen’s dreamlike journeys depict fleeting glimpses of a transitory reality, transformed in time within the pictorial frame.

His videotapes and installations have been shown internationally, at institutions and festivals including the Paris Biennale, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the American Film Institute National Video Festival in Los Angeles, the World Wide Video Festival at the Hague, WRO Media Art Biennale in Wrocław, the International Center of Photography in New York, Documenta 8 in Kassel, FestRio in Brazil, the Tokyo Festival and the Festival of Locarno, Italy.

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About exhibition

(Polski) Centralny element wystawy stanowi audiowizualny instrument powstały z przekształcenia XIX-wiecznego fortepianu produkcji warszawskiej Wytwórni Fortepianów i Pianin Małecki. Fortepian ten, spreparowany, odwrócony i wysoko podwieszony, zintegrowany został z komputerem oraz uzupełniony o projektor wideo. Klawisze instrumentu poruszane są zdalnie wyświetlanym pod nim obrazem wideo, ukazującym dłonie młodych pianistów grających utwory Chopina.

Nowej instalacji, powstałej na zamówienie Centrum Sztuki WRO, towarzyszy praca wideo Temps/ContreTemps, zrealizowana przez Cahena w Centre Georges Pompidou, w której twórca wykorzystał dwa eksponowane tam dzieła odnoszące się do fascynacji artystów wizualnych obiektami/symbolami świata muzyki: owinięty w filc fortepian Josepha Beuysa (Infiltration Homogen für Konzertflügel, 1966) i metronom Man Raya z poruszającym się okiem (Indestructible Object (or Object to Be Destroyed), 1923/64).

Źródła współczesnej sztuki mediów związane są ściśle z poszukiwaniami nowych środków ekspresji w dziedzinie kreacji i prezentacji muzyki. Fortepian – ten niezwykle szlachetny instrument i symbol kultury wysokiej, instrument Chopina – w twórczości artystów awangardy lat 50., 60. i 70. stał się sztandarowym obiektem służącym manifestacji nowej sztuki.

Jego rozliczne pojawienia się, preparacje i destrukcje przeprowadzane przez Johna Cage’a, Josepha Beuysa czy Nam June Paika, by wymienić artystów najbardziej znanych, stanowiły podczas koncertów, performansów i happeningów manifest nowatorskiego podejścia do kategorii muzyki i wydarzenia artystycznego, poszukiwań i eksperymentów.

Dziś to już tradycja, historia i klasyka sztuki. Robert Cahen, poprzez tradycję awangard XX wieku, odnosi się do interpretowania wiecznie nieuchwytnego dzieła Chopina.

Works

(Polski) CHOPINPIANO
Hommage à Chopin

Instalacja, 2010

Wideo: Robert Cahen
Kadr, montaż: Thierry Maury – Pixea Studio
Dźwięk, mastering: Nicolas Risser
Preparacja fortepianu: Jacek Kozłowski
Software: Paweł Janicki

W zamówionej na potrzeby wystawy instalacji Robert Cahen odnosi się zarówno do nieustannie inspirującego i „żywego”, wiecznie nieuchwytnego dzieła Chopina, jak i do tradycji awangard XX wieku. Powoduje dzięki temu dialog między współczesnością polskiego kompozytora a naszą współczesnością, nowatorstwem Chopina a rozwiązaniami czy propozycjami artystów i kompozytorów współczesnych. Muzyka Chopina jest tu interpretowana nie w wirtuozowskich wykonaniach, a poprzez energię młodych muzyków.

Pianiści – uczniowie Konserwatorium Muzyki, Tańca i Sztuki Dramatycznej, Miluza, Francja, z klasy profesora Waldemara Wachalowicza.

Alexandre Cahen (16 lat): Grande Valse Brillante in E-flat Major, opus 18
Joseph Muré (17) Polonaise in A-flat Major, opus 53
Florence Bansept (17) Ballade No. 3 in A-flat Major, opus 47
Sara Ghanbary (17) Nocturne in E-flat Major, opus 9 no.2

CHOPINPIANO jest zamówieniem Centrum Sztuki WRO. Praca została zrealizowana z udziałem środków Ministra Kultury i Dziedzictwa Narodowego w ramach obchodów Roku Chopinowskiego 2010

Temps/ContreTemps
Wideo, 2006, 28 min, loop

Temps/ContreTemps jest pracą zrealizowaną przez Cahena w Centre Georges Pompidou. Wideo przedstawia dwa zestawione ze sobą dzieła wybitnych artystów – preparowany, owinięty w filc fortepian autorstwa Josepha Beuysa [Infiltration Homogen für Konzertflügel, 1966], i umieszczony na nim obiekt Man Raya [Indestructible object (or Object to Be Destroyed), 1923/1964] – metronom z okiem przymocowanym na końcu wahadła i poruszającym się wraz z nim.
Prowadzona powoli kamera to zbliża się, to oddala od obiektów, ukazując, niemal niewidoczną w rozmytym obrazie sylwetkę autora, który zasiada do fortepianu, by za moment opuścić miejsce pianisty.

APPARITIONS/DISPARITIONS

Françoise en mémoire
Wideoinstalacja, 2007
podwójna projekcja, 7 min, loop

Traverses
Wideo, 2002, 30 min, loop
Efekty specjalne: Patrick Zanoli
Produkcja: CICV, ZKM Karlsruhe, Le Fresnoy, Drac/Alsace

Kolekcja Strasbourg Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MAMCS) oraz The Harris Museum, Preston, UK

Tombe
Wideoinstalacja, 1997, 23 min, loop
Kolekcja FRAC/Alsace

Paysages d’hiver
Wideoinstalacja, 2005, 21 min, loop
Montaż: Thierry Maury

Produkcja Boulevard des Productions Strasbourg
Kolekcja Canton of Basel, Szwajcaria oraz The Harris Museum, Preston, UK

Le cercle
Wideoinstalacja, 2005, 13 min, loop
Montaż: Thierry Maury
Produkcja: Boulevard des Productions Strasbourg

Attention ça tourne!
Robert Cahen i Guido Nussbaum
Wideoinstalacja, 2008

About the artist

(Polski) Robert Cahen (ur. 1945) jest jednym z czołowych światowych artystów audiowizualnych. Studiował muzykę konkretną u Pierra Schaeffera. Ukończył Conservatoire National Superieur de Musique de Paris oraz był członkiem Groupe de Recherches Musicales de l’ORTF. Od 1973-76 był dyrektorem Wideo Eksperymentalnego dla ORTF/INA.

W niezwykle dopracowanym świecie Cahena fikcja i dokument przedstawiane są jako metaforyczne podróże wyobraźni, które opisują fragmenty czasu, miejsca, pamięci i percepcji. Gatunki, takie jak opowiadanie i performans, są w twórczości Cahena przekształcane w badania wizualne i dźwiękowe, a przedstawiana w nich rzeczywistość ulega czasowym modyfikacjom. Od formalnej elegancji po skomplikowane muzyczne i wizualne przemiany, prace Cahena charakteryzują się zastosowaniem zaawansowanej elektronicznej techniki manipulacji obrazem i dźwiękiem, przestrzenią i czasem, subtelnymi transmutacjami iluzji i rzeczywistości. Opierając się na rozległych badaniach w dziedzinie akustyki, muzyki i kinematografii, Cahen bawi się teksturą dźwięku i obrazu w celu restrukturyzacji reprezentowanych trybów, z optycznego na dźwiękowy, z fotografii piktorialnej do konwencji kina narracyjnego. Pobrzmiewające humorem i urokiem, wykonane z techniczną precyzją, jego prace nawiązują zarówno do formalnych jak i tematycznych motywów podróży, ruchu i przemiany. Podobne do snu podróże Cahena odmalowują przelotne migawki przemijającej rzeczywistości, przemienionej w czasie w obrębie ramy obrazu.

Jego prace i instalacje były prezentowane przez najważniejsze instytucje i festiwale na całym świecie, m.in. Museum of Modern Art, Nowy Jork; American Film Institute, National Video Festival, Los Angeles; World Wide Video Festival, Haga; Biennale Sztuki Mediów WRO, Wrocław; International Center of Photography, Nowy Jork; Documenta 8, Kassel; FestRio, Brazylia; Tokyo Festival; Biennale w Paryżu.