Reflections upon the common core of sound and image, shape and rhythm and the harmony of nature and music stretch far back into the mists of time. In art this approach is to be seen in the combination of colour, shape, tone, rhythm, light and new technology, later expanded to include real movement, sound and live performance. The result was a wide range of new art forms that laid the foundations of the rich tradition of modern and postmodern art.
The exhibition Sounds, Codes, Images: Acoustic Experimentation in the Visual Arts is a cross-section of the history of the representation of sound and acoustic experimentation from the avant-garde to the present day. The works of almost 70 artists include many different forms, ranging from abstract image and unconventional scores, via resounding or resonating objects, to multimedia projections and interactive installations.
By means of historical and contemporary works, the exhibition sets out to show how sound acquires colour and shape, becomes an object, and a spatial composition of physical action. It examines the psychological and psychophysical, as well as the physical and mathematical factors that predetermine the visual appearance of sound.
Though the exhibition focuses on the Czech and Czechoslovak art scene, it also possesses an international character. It includes a number of works by foreign artists who have driven developments in artistic experimentation and had a significant influence on local figures. Someone who stands out in this respect is John Cage, whose work and ideas have laid the foundations of many generations of conceptual artists.
The exhibition also includes representatives of Fluxus such as Joe Jones, Nam June Paik and of course Milan Knížák. Other foreign artists include Manfred Mohr, Peter Cusack, Morgan O’Hara and Keith Rowe. The collection also features Czech artists who spent a long part of their career abroad, such as František Kupka, Woody Vasulka, Ladislav Kupkovič, Rudolf Komorous, and Petr Kotík.
The exhibition also draws links between avant-garde or conceptual works created from the 1960s to the 1980s and individual phenomena in the work of contemporary artists. It reminds us of the long tradition of instruments creating not only sound but also coloured images in the work of artist and architect Zdeněk Pešánek. The sheer tenacity of this discipline is visible in the activities of Woody and Steina Vasulka, Pavel Mrkus and Jiří Suchánek, and the performances of Tomáš Dvořák (Floex).
Another lively trend is the Futurist-inspired creation of unusual noise instruments, an activity pursued recently by Martin Janíček, Luboš Fidler, Robert Vlasák and many others.
The latest trend in sound art is acoustic ecology. This is a sphere that reflects upon the current situation of humanity as a whole through the prism of an individual’s acoustic experience in a shared sound space. It is shown to great effect at the exhibition in works by Peter Cusack and Michal Kindernay.
The accompanying programme Sonic Circuits to the exhibition Sounds, Codes, Images: Acoustic Experimentation in the Visual Arts comprises a series of performances and events that take place in the concert hall of the Stone Bell House, Colloredo-Mansfeld Palace and in public space.
The programme offers visitors a unique opportunity to get familiar with the multifaceted work of Czech and foreign artists, some of whom work with sound within the context of visual arts, while others examine sound as a theme within space-time, mathematical, performative, environmental or social contexts. Organized by Prague City Gallery and Agosto Foundation.