Across the twentieth century’s different avant-garde movements, and as the processes through which music freed itself from its own norms moved forward, sound burst forth in different directions in the field of visual arts, coming into its own in hitherto unexplored artistic spaces. Audible phenomena and events became plastic materials that could be processed vocally and technically —on one side, sound arts were mixed with visual arts, coinciding with the technological development of new mediums of sound recording and synthesis; and, on the other, the interest in the soundscapes of industrial and urban modernity, and the sounds of the phonatory body (mouth noises, tongue clicking, different ways of drawing breath, and so on).
Therefore, this exhibition displays a selection of forms, genres, approaches and unique examples as it spans different initiatives that moved beyond pre-defined categories in modern and contemporary art until 1980. The show places the accent on different pivotal moments: the Futurist experience of building instruments to modulate noises; visual artists’ fascination with the tape recorder around the midway point of the 20th century; and spatial, musical and multimedia experiments, for instance the Philips Pavilion designed by Le Corbusier and Iannis Xenakis, with music by Edgar Vàrese, for the Brussels World’s Fair in 1958.
The repeated questioning of classical music forms is also the subject of a critical revision in the exhibition: from the Dadaists’ deployment of non-discursive phenomena — such as Ursonate by Kurt Schwitters (1932)— the incursion of the visual into the heart of poetry and musical notation, Man Ray’s unplayable instrument Emak Bakia (1926), and the musique barbare essays of Karel Appel (1963), to the thunderous wail of punk, on the threshold of the 1980s, announcing a “non-future”.
Reina Sofia Museum's Publications
2 June – 27 September 2021
22 April – 29 August 2021
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Take Me to Another World
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7 October, 2020 - November, 2021
Niño de Elche
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