Guest Post: The Art/Music Shuffle

By guest blogger Marcie Foster, part of the KS 300 class (meet them here>).

Exploring a gallery, I find myself a little bored. I’ve seen these images a few times now, I know the lines and I know the colours. Even when I close my eyes, I can tell you exactly how it looks. Visually speaking, I’m fulfilled. I am a little careless and I pull out my iPod.

The art world shuns me. The high-brow activity of perusing art, of examination: it’s all lost as I put in one ear bud, and then the other.

What song to pick? I’m a musician, I’m an artist. The two combine in perfect harmony, well… in my head at least. I select a generic classical track, and move on to viewing the next piece.

I love collecting soundtracks; I appreciate them for their standalone quality as well as the accompaniment with film. I wonder though, as the song ends and I move on: “but art, why doesn’t art deserve a soundtrack?”

Why doesn’t a gallery get background music? Would it conflict with the already sterile silence of the space? These are some of the questions I ask myself as I flip back and forth between songs, between genres, between artists, between paintings and prints.

It’s not that there’s no music: The Kitchener Waterloo Art Gallery is hosting a New Music event Feb 19th at the Gallery. [If you miss it, March 19th is the next event.  Find the details here.] I think that it is unfortunate that this event is hosted in co|lab, an event space and not in the main gallery.

I’ve got my ear buds discreetly in and I’ve got the volume at a low level should I be scolded. Why silence is so uncomfortable for me, I’ll never know. I see the changes in each and every piece as the sound flows into my ears. Every song reflects the art differently. I experience new life with each 3 minute increment.

I’d start to dance, but I think that too may be unwelcomed. I have felt the sterility of this space: the intimidating hum of the lights, the clacking of heels through the hallways. Now and then, I see a few children pass through, but all are told to be quiet, and even the teacher whispers. I want to yell out: “What is so important about silence?” Sound waves won’t crack or break; they won’t steal or injure this accumulation of culture.

And all the while, this narrative I’ve got going on in my head is silent. I look like everyone else, quiet as can be, only the squeaking of the soles of my winter boot on the pristine floor.

The gallery has consumed my noise. It is a space, a visual space, supposedly not to be conflicted with sound or audible confusion.

The gallery needs a soundtrack, just as it needs you to come and enjoy its view. There’s nothing wrong with a little music, there’s certainly nothing wrong with conversing: it’s a part of our community; music unites us as people and as Kitchener-Waterloo.

My iPod battery is low. It’s just a coincidence that I’ve finished my tour.

About The Kitchener Waterloo Art Gallery

The Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery exists in real space in Kitchener, Ontario. Featuring contemporary work, the Gallery provides opportunities to connect with art through public programs, classes and exhibitions. Admission is free.
This entry was posted in @KW|AG, Guest blogger, Music, Things we like and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Guest Post: The Art/Music Shuffle

  1. Crystal says:

    Hi Marcie,
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and hopefully you’ll be able to stop by on Saturday night. The last time we had a New Music event you could hear the music throughout the whole gallery, effectively providing a soundtrack for the shows. I don’t think I’d be alone in saying it was a pretty great night.

    Just to get back to the idea of silence and your question about what makes it so important… Admittedly, when we host shows that don’t have an audio component it can feel a bit like time is standing still. And when you are the only person in the gallery that sense of time-standing-still can also take on a sense of being worlds away from your everyday life. A bit sterile to some, but I would suggest it is actually more theatrical. When planning exhibitions we always keep in mind how the artists envision the optimum conditions in which they’d like to have others encounter their works. Believe it or not, there have actually been situations when having the show seem cacaphonous, with lots of sound leaking between rooms, was what we were going for. It all depends on the work.

    There are no hard and fast rules about whether or not you can sing or dance at KW|AG, at least in my opinion, so go ahead and do it. All we’d ask is that you treat the artwork with same amount of respect you would offer a dance or duet partner; give them a little room to have their own solo or share the lead:)

    If you are interested, there are loads of artists who have made incredible statements on silence (John Cage) and sound (Janet Cardiff). We will be showing a work by Althea Thauberger in the spring. I’d love to chat with you about what you might think of her work!

  2. Pingback: Guest Post: Thinking about context |

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