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Resonance and Silence: Synesthetic aspects of film and video from the Goetz Collection at Haus der Kunst
Francis Als, El Gringo, 2004. Still, 1-Kanal-Video (Farbe, Ton), 4’ 12’’. Courtesy Sammlung Goetz.

MUNICH.- For the third exhibition of the cooperation between The Goetz Collection and Haus der Kunst, film and video works were selected in which acoustic aspects are as important as visual ones. Thereby the relationship between sound and image constitutes a broad range. These two elements are linked most closely in silence, in the still or silent image, which approximates other media such as painting and photography.

The fascination with combining image and sound has a long tradition. The term "synesthesia", from the Greek words meaning "together" and "sensation", came into use in the mid-nineteenth century and describes the ability to hear colors and see sounds. This tradition continues in various ways in contemporary film and video art.

In "Sabbath 2008" (2008), Nira Pereg shows preparations for the Jewish Saturday in an orthodox neighborhood in Jerusalem. The streets are being blocked off with metal barriers, which make a loud screeching sound as they are pulled across the road. This sound is isolated and becomes a kind of commentary in its overexaggeration.

In a manner that is both systematic and humorous, in his work "Telephones" (1995; presented in 1999 at the Venice Biennale), Christian Marclay combines film scenes with famous actors in a way that it looks as if they were calling each other. In combination, the different ringing sounds, the sounds from the cradle and of the rotary dial and the bits and pieces of conversation, become a new composition of film and video art.

In "El Gringo" (2003), Francis Als depicts his confrontation with a group of dogs on a street from the first-person perspective. The dogs bark aggressively at him as he tries to pass them; they finally bite his arm and at the camera. The camera is left on the ground at last. The viewer remains alone with it, like a severed sensory organ, and has to endure the sight of the dogs sniffing and edging at the camera until the image turns black.

Gary Hill's "Blind Spot" (2003) shows a 30-second shot filmed with a hand-held camera in a street in Marseille. The scene is increasingly slowed down until the elongation produces unpleasant sounds, and is segmented with black and silent sequences. Teresa Hubbard and Alexander Birchler also work with interruptions in the image flow in "Gregor's Room II" (1998/99). From a constant height, a camera circles a room in which a man is packing things into boxes. Through the openings - doors and windows - the view expands, only to be blocked by black segments a moment later. Proximity and distance to the event is alternately established and eliminated. The film is shown in a soundless version.

In the aesthetics of a documentary, Tacita Dean makes film images of old monuments that have long since lost their function. In her 16mm film installation "Sound Mirrors" (1999), one sees buildings made of poured concrete along the British coast of Kent. These constructions should serve as a military early warning system by amplifying the sound of approaching airplanes. In Dean's work, however, the sounds from the surrounding natural environment, rather than from airplanes, are superimposed with the sounds of the projector. What usually creates the acoustic background now enters the foreground and is charged with meaning.

The absence of acoustic stimuli can trigger acoustic memories and establish links to other media. In "Ruurlo, Bocurloscheweg, 1910" (1997), David Claerbout makes use of this possibility. In a black and white photograph of the village - whose name is the same as the work's title - he shows a tree gently moving in the wind, while everything else remains static. The absence of sounds initially gives the impression that we are looking at a photograph; the viewer only slowly registers the movement.

Hans Op de Beeck uses the absence of sound to establish a connection between the medium of film with that of painting. In "Colours" (1999), he places people in a rigid stance against various monochromatic backgrounds, in the manner of the Old Masters. The images also reveal Op de Beeck's exploration of the topos of the living image. In "Uomoduomo" (2000), Anri Sala also offers a possibility of a portrait in film through the absence of sound. The rigid shots, made with a hand-held camera, show an old man. Placed in the center of the picture, his face can't be seen and there is virtually no information related to his identity. He is slumped over and asleep in a church pew; his body repeatedly threatens to fall over, but he catches himself each time. This "in-between" state between falling over and maintaining balance is typical of Anri Sala's work.

Six of the selected works focus on music without making the visual elements of the work seem illustrated. In Tim Lee's work "The Goldberg Variations" (2007), one can hear the eponymous work by Johann Sebastian Bach. Lee refers here to Glenn Gould, who recorded the variations and the aria separately in his ideal conception and then combined them in a single track. Lee translates this piece of montage in individual black and white close-ups of his right and left hand playing piano, with the hands shown on two separated displays. Using hard film cuts, the shots of his hands are joined. An irritating sequence accompanies a continuous melodic flow.

Wolfgang Tillmans' first video work "Lights (Body)" (2000-2002), relates to his early photographs of techno clubs. The close-up images of the disco lighting, which moves to the rhythm of a remix of "Don't Be Light" by Air, is reminiscent of a typical club night in the 1980s or 1990s. "Light" can mean both "light" (i.e. the noun) and "light" (i.e. the adjective). With respect to this dual meaning, the rhythmic movements of the lights can be regarded as both physical liberation from gravity through dance, as well as a reference to the volatility of life.

In Rodney Graham's "A Little Thought" (2000), shots of an idyllic summer day are accompanied by a song of the same name which was composed and sung by the artist. The images of a swan on a lake, blooming cherry trees and the harmonic sounds, are in discord with the text of the song, which is about a fatal car crash caused by a driver's failure to pay attention. Only when seen from the perspective of the camera panning above a street is a connection to the lyrics established.

In Guido van der Werve's "Nummer drie.take step fall" (2004) passages accompanied by classical music, and silent sequences alternate with one another, as does rest with movement. Like a sonata, the work is structured in three parts: A dance company and an Asian fast food restaurant in the same building, a street at night and a dancing ballerina in a park. The grimly portrayed everyday scenes are repeatedly interrupted by seemingly random sequences.

In Christoph Brech's video "The Wind that shakes the Barley" (2008), we see nameless tombstones of deceased, unbaptized children surrounded by grass blowing, sometimes more intensely, sometimes less, in the wind. Although the ambient sounds are missing, one has the impression of being able to hear the hissing of the wind. The suddenly introduced Irish folk song transmits a melancholic sentiment and appears irritating as it is simultaneously played forwards, and more softly, backwards.

The exhibited works were selected by Len Krempel.

With works by Francis Als, Hans Op de Beeck, Christoph Brech, David Claerbout, Tacita Dean, Rodney Graham, Gary Hill, Teresa Hubbard & Alexander Birchler, Tim Lee, Christian Marclay, Nira Pereg, Anri Sala, Wolfgang Tillmans and Guido van der Werve.

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