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BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art profiles commissioning legacy during 10th birthday season
Janet Cardiff, The Forty Part Motet 2001 Photo: Atsushi Nakamichi / Nacása & Partners Inc. Courtesy of the Fondation d'entreprise Hermès, 2009.
GATESHEAD.- BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead opened to the public at midnight on Friday 13 July 2002. This summer, to mark the 10 year anniversary of the opening, BALTIC will present a season of exhibitions highlighting its legacy of commissioning new work. It will re-stage Janet Cardiff’s The Forty Part Motet and present two new commissions by 2007 Turner Prize winner Mark Wallinger and Newcastle based artist Richard Rigg.

The Forty Part Motet was co-commissioned and staged as part of BALTIC’s preopening programme at the Castle Keep in Newcastle upon Tyne in 2001. The work has since travelled internationally and now features in several major international collections such as the National Gallery of Canada in Ontario Canada and Inhotim in Brumadinho, Brazil.

A reworking of the renaissance choral work for forty voices Spem in Alium Nunquam Habui 1573 by Thomas Tallis, The Forty Part Motet consists of forty separately recorded voices played back through forty individual speakers in eight choirs of five. The work allows the audience to get inside the music and experience it from the unique and intimate vantage point of the singers. As the audience moves through the space the voices weave in and out of each other, exchange back and forth between one choir and another, and can be heard all together in overwhelming waves of textured sound.

Cardiff’s work reveals the music as a changing construct and explores how sound can physically create a space. The conventional audience position is to be seated in front of the choir. In Cardiff’s The Forty Part Motet, however, the audience is free to move around the oval arrangement of speakers in the gallery to create their own unique experience of the work - connecting to different parts of the composition as the music passes back and forth and relating directly to individual voices – to immerse themselves entirely in the sound.

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