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Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam celebrates John Cage on his 100th Anniversary
Sarkis - Ballads. Photo Ernst Moritz.
ROTTERDAM.- 2012 marks the centenary of the birth of the American composer John Cage. Cage is an important source of inspiration for Sarkis, the artist who this summer made an installation for the Submarine Wharf in Rotterdam’s docklands. Cage’s music plays an important role in Sarkis’s exhibition ‘Ballads’, which runs until 30 September.

This summer the sounds of John Cage (1912-1992) fill the five thousand square metre Submarine Wharf in Rotterdam’s docklands. A 43-bell carillon continuously performs the composition ‘Litany for the Whale’ at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen’s summer venue. The bell tower, made from eighteen tree trunks, is part of the exhibition ‘Ballads’ by Sarkis (1938). Using large objects, coloured light and Cage’s music, the artist makes a notional link between water and air. Each Sunday the carillon in the exhibition is played live, with a selection of other works by the famous composer.

Cage at the Submarine Wharf
John Cage wrote the composition ‘Litany for the whale’ in 1980 for two singers, who in turn imitate the call of a whale and sing the separate letters of the word ‘whale’. The notes in the piece follow one another at a tranquil tempo. As so often happens in Cage’s compositions, there are many moments of silence in the work, creating the illusion that the sounds are coming from the depths of the sea. Sarkis chose this piece by Cage to connect with the original use of the Submarine Wharf. Submarines were built in the shed in the first half of the twentieth century; mechanical beings that look like whales and dive and resurface according to the same principles. Through the medium of Cage’s music, Sarkis takes the visitor on an imaginary trip to the bottom of the sea. To accompany ‘Ballads’, Sarkis is showing an installation of watercolours based on Cage’s flute score Ryoanji (1983-85) in Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen.

Musical inspiration
Sarkis regularly includes in his work dialogues with other artists such as painters, architects and musicians. His fascination with music is manifest in the exhibition and he delights in sharing his sources of inspiration with visitors. At a table of books and CDs you can listen to jazz ballads by Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, John Coltrane and Louis Armstrong, as well as music by Cage.

Live music on Sundays
Each Sunday carillon players Frank Steijns and Mathieu Polak play the carillon in the exhibition. ‘Music for Carillon II’ by John Cage is being performed here for the first time on bells, as Cage originally intended it. There are also regular concerts at which the carillon is played together with piano. The museum is staging a children’s performance with a puppeteer for the youngest visitors.

Submarine Wharf
The Submarine Wharf is a unique partnership between the Port of Rotterdam and Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. For five consecutive summers it will be home to a specially-made major installation by a prominent contemporary artist.

‘Ballads’ will be on view until 30 September 2012.

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