Sounding the Body Electric. Experiments in Art and Music in Eastern Europe 1957-1984

Sounding the Body Electric. Experiments in Art and Music in Eastern Europe 1957-1984 is the first attempt at presenting complex relations between experimental music and visual arts in Eastern Europe since the 1950s. It will present experimental films, installations, music scores by the most important and most innovative artists of the day.

Many important creations reflecting the marriage of music and visual arts in Eastern Europe no longer exist. Reconstructing its history demands reconstructing the works, made with fidelity in cooperation with the artists and with attention to initial assumptions. Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź presents two legendary works to the visitors: Szablocs Esztényi and Krzysztof Wodiczko’s Bare Transmitters (1969) and Teresa Kelm, Zygmunt Krauze and Henryk Morel’s Spatial-Musical Composition (1968).

The departure point of the exhibition is Experimental Studio of Polish Radio founded in 1957 by Józef Patkowski. It was not only a symbol of attitude change among communist authorities towards electro-acoustic music, but also an incubator of cooperation between visual artists and composers in attempts of reaching modernity symbolised by a total work of art. A new model of science-technological revolution opened the door to resources aimed at artistic experiments in many countries of the eastern bloc. The Warsaw studio became a model for other centres, such as: New Music Studio (Új Zenei Stúdió) and radio Belgrade Electronic Studio (Elektronski Studio Radio Beograda). As, apart from their autonomous activities, they were to serve the purpose of preparing soundtracks for films they obviously became meeting points for artists representing various areas of art. Cooperation of engineers, architects, artists and musicians resulted in groundbreaking monumental projects and not executed acoustic constructions co-designed e.g. by: Oskar Hansen, Alex Mlynárčik and Aleksandar Srnec. Those visionary projects were also an expression of belief in alliance of various arts with the support of the authorities of different countries east of the Berlin Wall.

Graphic scores, created under influence of John Cage, Fluxus and concrete poetry, were yet another expression of aspirations for combining music with visual arts. Aware of the aesthetic role of coincidence, the composers entered the world of happening, performance and sound installations and their attitude could be interpreted as a movement of democratising approach, which placed the tools for shaping a musical piece in the hands of performers and audiences. This tendency is exemplified by the works of Zygmunt Krauze, Katalin Ladik, Bogusław Schaeffer, and Milan Grygar presented as a part of the exhibition.
The relationship between musical and visual experiment was not always a result of enthusiastic approach and belief in subjectivity in people’s republics. Just like for concrete music composers the easily-manipulated magnetic tape was a symbol of an individual’s freedom, for Krzysztof Wodiczko transistor radio and space of radio waves were symbols of oppression. Thus the exhibition also presents those visions in which the optimism of the first wave of experiments was replaced by the pessimism connected with sound medium and its role in the development of socialism.

Neo-constructivist, light, kinetic art, cybernetic design, concrete and electro-acoustic music were areas of increased creativity and experimentation in Eastern European art in the 1960s and 1970s. Avant-garde artists and composers started examining possibilities of electronic equipment and magnetic tape, taking advantage of the loosening of control over art after the fall of Stalinism and the encouragement of the authorities to research cybernetics, electronics and computer science.

Curators: David Crowley, Daniel Muzyczuk

Milan Adamčiak, Walerian Borowczyk, Attila Csernik, Dubravko Detoni, Andrzej Dłużniewski, Szablocs Esztényi, Bułat Galejew, Milan Grygar, Zofia & Oskar Hansen, Zoltán Jeney, Teresa Kelm, Andras Klausz, Milan Knížák, Kolektywne Działania, Komar & Melamid, Włodzimierz Kotoński, Grzegorz Kowalski, György Kovásznai, Andrzej Kostenko, Zygmunt Krauze, Katalin Ladik, Jan Lenica, Dóra Maurer, Henryk Morel, Andrzej Pawłowski, Imre Póth, Vladan Radovanović, Józef Robakowski, Jerzy Rosołowicz, Eugeniusz Rudnik, Bogusław Schaeffer, Aleksandar Srnec, Cezary Szubartowski, VAL (Ľudovít Kupkovič, Viera Mecková, Alex Mlynárčik), László Vidovszky, Krzysztof Wodiczko.

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