artists & participants


press release

This exhibition thematizes the performativity and the media of voice and language. In performances, video-montages and films created by the artists Peter Rose (b. 1948, lives and works in New York and Philadelphia), Erik Bünger (b. 1976, lives and works in Stockholm and Berlin) and Katarina Zdjelar (b. 1979, lives and works in Amsterdam) the emotional, social and political potential of the human voice becomes directly experienceable. What is the connection between the voice, the body and the identity of a human being? What happens when what is spoken beomes detached from the speaker, the text detached from the sense or the sound from the image? The three artists investigate and re-enact speech acts from the past and present, exploring the emotional and spiritual effect of voice and language and playing with shifts in sense and identity.

In his 1983 video work “The Pressures of the Text”, which will be shown at the Autocenter, Peter Rose parodies the cryptic and at times ostensibly self-referential language of intellectual discourse in the humanities – and especially in art criticism. The audience witness the artist himself in a lecture situation as familiar from highbrow television: cord jacket, beard, spectacles and well-pitched language all suggest a high academic level. Rose, however, deconstructs the jargon of a pompous, academic language run wild as a linguistic exercise devoid of real content. Towards the close, what begins – at least in terms of sound – as rational- and logical-seeming speech drifts off into a phantasmagoric language of its own.

The idea of a phantasy language is taken up in Erik Bünger’s performance “The Empire Never Ended” (2013). The starting point is a recording made in 1948 of a man speaking in tongues. The speaker appears to be in a trance-like state. What he articulates has never been ascribed to any known language. We know nothing of the speaker’s mother tongue or religion. During the live performance, musicians follow the voice as closely as possible. The work is sited at the interface of total control and complete loss of control. The performer needs to call on all his powers of precision and concentration. But at one and the same time precisely these abilities have to to be relinquished to a force beyond any human control.

Likewise part of the envisaged exhibition is Katarina Zdjelar’s video installation “The Perfect Sound” (2009), which shows a middle-aged man again and again uttering individual syllables and a young man repeating these syllables. The resultant sing-song recalls language-learning in young children and has a profoundly human quality. The scene comes from a course in pronunciation improvement for immigrants to Birmingham – a city that is paradoxically known for its own highly marked English accent. In Great Britain, accent not only points to a person’s ethnic origin but is also one of the last remaining features of the British class system. “The Perfect Sound” is Katarina Zdjelar’s take on attempts to achieve a form of equality and cultural integration via language training.