Oliver Beer: Deconstructing Sound
8 November - 6 December, 2015
Curated by Koichiro Osaka (SCAI The Bathhouse, Tokyo) and Matthieu Lelièvre (Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris)
Asakusa is delighted to announce a solo exhibition by British artist Oliver Beer. Trained both as a composer and a visual artist, Beer explores the medium specificity of sound in relation to vision, and the perceptions of space that permeate our acoustic experience. Throughout his extensive output, from sculptural object to animation and performance, his work confronts the correlation of material, echoes, resonances, acoustic particularities and responses to human presence. The exhibition “Oliver Beer: Deconstructing Sound” presents the artist’s first presentation dedicated to a specific field of his work: the video, and illustrates how the artist prospects the deconstruction of sound in this composite art form.
Introducing breath and voice as an elementary source of sound, Mum’s Continuous Note (2012) is a modest presentation of the artist’s mother accompanied by a miniature ukulele. Singing a long, single note without interruption for breath, she celebrates the beauty of sound and harmony, and explains in subtitles the method of circular breathing used to play wind instruments. While observing the profundity of the human voice and the emotive power it can deliver - how a single melody arouses feelings in the ancient Greek eulogy or Gregorian chant for instance – it also reveals sound’s deceptive and illusionary qualities.
Composition for Two Pianos and an Empty Concert Hall (2012) portrays a musical composition specially written for the architecture of the Pamoja Hall, a recently built concert hall in Kent, UK. Scored for two young trebles who use their voices to provoke the sympathetic vibrations of the strings of two pianos, the video illustrates the basic effect of music as a physical event. When the sustain pedal is held down on a piano and a note is sung in proximity to the strings, only the string that corresponds with that same note will resound in sympathy with the voice. The singers are thus able to play the pianos with their voices, without ever touching the keys. The work witnesses how sound waves travels through the air, embodying the shock of particles and the vibrations on the raw materials of the open grand pianos. A female observer in the background of the auditorium watches the two boys, as their voices build a consonant harmonic progression, creating tonalities through acoustic laws. While the camera caresses the surfaces of the walls, textiles, musical instruments, and human skin, it obliges a complex confrontation with physical, visual reality and maintains a focused, enduring attention on acoustic phenomena.
The 12-minute video Out of Shot (2013) deconstructs the way sounds are recomposed in the post-production phase of filmmaking. Characterised by subtle performative set pieces and nods at cinematic clichés, the video scrutinizes the significance of sound in the narrative development of a story. In fact, no sound was recorded on the set of the film: the entire sound track is a composition created and assembled in the studio after the shoot. These imagined sounds reversely conjure imagery of the American Western and its fetishized cowboy life. As the film continues, it soon reveals the hero to be a Korean actor - a playful deception and critique of identity construction in film. The objective reality is represented using Hollywood aesthetic codes: the thread of the film’s events is suggested off-screen, by sounds originating from actions occurring out of shot. Questioning the meaning of audio-visual integration, the artist manipulates sound effects on and off the screen, in and out of shot – hovering across the border of reality and illusion, absence and presence. The artist says of the work: “Likening cinematic sound to the structures and intellectual complexity of classical composition, the film demonstrates the depth and intricacy that can be coded into a sound track. It also begins to deconstruct what theorist and composer Michel Chion refers to as "audiovision" – that sixth sense that we inescapably experience with the fusion of sound and image in cinéma.”
The three videos analyze the human sensitivity of sound through breathing, the physical dimensions of sound which vibrates within an instrument and architecture, and how fabricated sounds can construct a narrative in cinema. As audio-visual technologies continue to advance and alter the perception of space and vision, Beer’s interventions lead the viewer to search for what is specific to sound. Questions are raised in resonance: to what extent does auditory perception distort the perception of vision? At what moments do you intend to close your eyes, and how does that action relate to the surrounding space, vision, the perception of time and your emotions?
“Oliver Beer: Deconstructing Sound” is co-curated by Matthieu Lelièvre (Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris) and Koichiro Osaka (SCAI The Bathhouse, Tokyo). The exhibition could not have been realised without generous support by Hideki Aoyama (Aoyama | Meguro, Tokyo) and Shihoko Ogawa (The Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation, London). Asakusa would also like to thank Thaddeus Ropac and Masami Shiraishi.
The exhibition coincides with Oliver Beer’s solo exhibition “Life, Death and Tennis” at Aoyama | Meguro, Tokyo, the winner’s exhibition of the Daiwa Foundation Art Prize 2015.
Oliver Beer (b. 1985, Kent, UK) explores the properties of sound in relation to space and vision through shared emotions and perceptions. His diverse practice includes sculpture, installation and film projects, with a focus on the relationship between the human voice and architecture. His work has been exhibited at Palais de Tokyo, Paris; Centre Pompidou, Paris; MoMA PS1, New York; Lyon Biennale, Lyon; Modern Art Oxford, Oxford; WIELS, Brussels; Foundation Hermès, Paris, Tokyo, Seoul; and Foundation Louis Vuitton, Paris, amongst others. Beer holds a BA in Contemporary Music from the Academy of Contemporary Music, a BFA in Fine Art from the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, University of Oxford, and studied Theory of Cinema as a postgraduate at the Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris III. He lives and works in Paris and Kent, United Kingdom.
Matthieu Lelièvre (b. 1978, Paris, France) is an art historian, curator and head of collections for museums and galleries in Paris and Berlin. In Berlin, he co-founded and worked with several associations, private galleries and museums including Galerie KunstBüroBerlin, MARS, Hamish Morrison Galerie and Berlinische Gallery, amongst others. Since 2010, he has taken led the Drawing Cabinet of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs. Besides his independent curatorship focusing on emerging artists, of which his expertise led him to join several boards, he has held the position of associate curator at the Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac since 2012. Lelièvre graduated from the Ecole du Louvre and the French Institut National du Patrimoine. He lives and works in Paris, France.
Koichiro Osaka (b. 1979, Hokkaido, Japan) is a curator at SCAI The Bathhouse, and the director of Asakusa, a 40-square-meter venue for curatorial collaborations and artistic practices. Osaka is a lecturer at Okayama University and Kurashiki University of Science and the Arts, Okayama. After studying human science at Waseda University, he worked in Bankok for a private corporation and the educational sector. In 2004, he moved to London to develop his interest in economics and social policy which led him to consider contemporary art as a platform for social and cultural discussion. From 2011-13, he worked as an independent writer in London and Berlin. Osaka holds a BA in Curation, Criticism and Communications from Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, University of the Arts, London. He lives and works in Tokyo, Japan.