The Archivio Conz, in collaboration with the KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin, are hosting “Pause: Broken Sounds/Remote Music. Prepared pianos from the Archivio Conz collection” – a five-day event and exhibition showcasing avant-garde artists’ “prepared pianos” selected from Italian collector and patron Francesco Conz’s collection. From January 15—19, 2020, the KW main exhibition space will be the stage for performances, tying the artworks to various contemporary approaches and explorations on sound.
Selected from a collection of over 65 “prepared pianos,” the 24 works in the exhibition are deeply tied to the history of the Archivio Conz. Under the direction of Stefania Palumbo and chief curator Gigiotto Del Vecchio, the Archivio Conz is dedicated to presenting and preserving the archive and publishing project of Francesco Conz (Cittadella, 1935 – Verona, 2010) – a significant patron and collector of Fluxus, Viennese Actionism, ZAJ, Concrete Poetry, and Lettrist works. First acquainted with the Viennese Actionism and New York avant-garde movements in the early 1970s, Conz grew personally engaged with the artists and their creative process. Turning his home in Asolo, Italy, into an international meeting place for artists to live and work, he spent the next thirty years working with more than 120 artists, commissioning and producing the over 3,000 works that constitute the Archivio today.
Building on John Cage’s first artistic exploration of the medium at the end of the 1930s, the “prepared pianos” are commonly understood as pianos altered by placing objects between or on the strings. Throughout the years, a wide range of artists have manipulated the instrument – moving beyond the alteration of sound to fully rethink the structure and form of the piano as a privileged place for artistic creativity. The selection of pianos in the exhibition includes works by Robert Watts, Carolee Schneemann, Jack Hirschman, Ay-O, Nam June Paik, Allan Kaprow, Dorothy Iannone, among many others.
The exhibition leans on the piano’s many facets – as a symbol of the virtuosity of Western music, but also as an object deeply rooted in society, culture, and the visual arts. Pursuing Francesco Conz and the artists’ exploration of the boundaries between art and music, the presentation traces the historical roots and motivations that led artists to openly attack an emblem of Western musical tradition, thereby unveiling its social undertones. In doing so, it also examines the ways in which artists sought to extend common understandings of music – deconstructing the traditional bond between music and noise; integrating and amplifying the visual dimension of musical performances; and turning performers and audiences into protagonists of a creative sound happening.
The resulting visual environment – one that is at once architectural and evocative of sound – rethinks the exhibition space as a platform for further explorations into contemporary art and sound. For five days, “Pause: Broken Sounds/Remote Music” will be activated through a series of performances examining various approaches to sound – extending it through poetry, movement, and musical experimentation. The program will notably include American visual artist and musician Charlemagne Palestine’s minimalist interpretations; a “instrumental conversation” recording session by Sky Walking; German musicians Phillip Sollmann (Efdemin) and Konrad Sprenger’s esoteric approaches to music; a vocal exploration of sound by English poet Angharad Williams; and a choreographed piece by Croatian visual artist and dance maker Nina Kurtela.
Presented following in this Collection Feature, are selection of the 24 exhibited pianos on exhibition.