Konrad Smoleński's sound installation brings 800 kilos of bronze sound might to the 55th Biennale, building a vision of a futuristic world of whirring machines
Smoleński shaping up the bells for "Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More", 2013, photo: Bartosz Górka, / CC BY-SA
Konrad Smoleński's sound installation brings 800 kilos of bronze sound might to the 55th Biennale, building a vision of a futuristic world of whirring machines and temporal fantasies
The jury selecting Poland's representative for the 55th International Art Biennale in Venice chose Smoleński's project Everything Was Forever, Until IT Was No More, curated by Daniel Muzyczuk and Agnieszka Pindera. According to the jury's statement, the installation fills the entire pavilion, engineering a sound machine that will reverberate directly with its visitors. The project evokes an emotional reaction, a sense of disquiet and tension, while dealing with issues of accumulation and classification of knowledge and information in a society overloaded with data. It is an attempt to start fresh, slowing down the breakneck pace of history, with the installation's title drawn from AlexeiaYurchak's book about the fall of the Soviet Union from an individual perspective.
Smoleński has only begun to divulge details of the project, which involves a visual and sound layer that are mutually interdependent. As he explains, "the exposition is made up of three elements. The first are two bells which were made in the bronze workshop of the Kruszewski brothers in Węgrów - with my input. They are the source of all events taking place within the exposition". The bells weigh about 400 kilos apiece and are distinguished by their particular sound, represented by the letters "H" and "B". As Smoleński describes the concept,
Their sound will be processed, then reproduced through another element of the exhibition - two walls of speakers. The sound emitted from the speakers will then have a completely new character because I tried to minimise the tone of reverberation and have it end up as a constant stream of sound, a wave. This physical dimension of sound will be transferred onto objects in the vicinity and lead to a third element, which will be two walls of storage cabinets. This impact gives the effect of a resonance, which can be compared to the waves made when dropping a stone into water.
The jury was brought together by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, with Galit Eilat, Donata Jaworska, Joanna Kiliszek¸ Grzegorz Kowalski, Anna Markowska, Luiza Nader, Anda Rottenberg, Piotr Rypson, Jarosław Suchan, Aneta Szyłak, Krzysztof Wodiczko and Hanna Wróblewska among its members.
The exhibition is to be accompanied by a catalogue of texts by Craig Dworkin, Alexandra Hui and Andrei Smirnov on the history of science and sound, along with illustrations of the works of Konrad Smoleński. The publication includes conversations with physicist Julian Barbour, philosopher Simon Critchley, electro-acoustic musical legend Eugeniusz Rudnicki and curator Thibaut de Ruyter.
Konrad Smoleński (1977) is an installation and performance artist whose works are characterised by a forceful impact, usually created through audiovisual experiments. A graduate of the Academy of Fine Arts in Poznań and a member of the Penerstwo group, he also plays in bands as an active member of the PINKPUNK scene. His focus is on the experience of sound and image, exploring its possibilities and various ways of engaging and experiencing various media.
An active member in the young garde of experimental musicians, Smoleński blends genres in creating video works and audio installations that push the boundaries of art, music, performance, engagement and spectatorship. He is known as a radical artist grounded in an edgy, post-punk aesthetic, experimenting with relationships between sound and image, sound and object, performer and audience. Sound is often the driving force of his works, with imagery serving as the framework for sonic elements that are often unexpected, even jarring.
He took to the streets of the French capital in 2012 to present his BNNT Sound Bombing at the Paris Triennale. The electro-mechanical sounds Smoleński produced from a truck with four other performers were deliberately harsh and abrasive, aiming to incite a negative response in the audience of pedestrians and motorists. The extreme performances of "noise music" was meant to challenge the relative calm of the everyday through its unexpected, chaotic means of expression.
The project that filled the Polish Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2012 also made use of sound properties to make an artistic impact on the audience. Katarzyna Krakowiak's Making the walls quake as if they were dilating with the secret knowledge of great powers transformed the pavilion space into a vibrating structure of sound picking up on noise generated in neighbouring pavilions (Egypt, Serbia, Venice, Romania) via microphones installed in those floors and ventilation, heating and sewage systems. Visitors could "eavesdrop" on different sounds emitted from these other pavilions as evidence of the typical workings of the building and human activity, heightened by the effects of speaker systems, mixers and amplifiers. The intimacy of personal space was broken down by making all types of sounds available to a larger public, no matter how unpleasant, uncomfortable or plain embarrassing.
The 55th International Art Exhibition, curated by Massimiliano Gioni, will take place in Venice from the 1st of June - 24th November 2013 at the Giardini and at the Arsenale (preview: May 29th, 30th and 31st 2013), and in various venues the city. For more information, see: labiennale.org
Editor: Agnieszka Le Nart