Ari Benjamin Meyers — An exposition, not an exhibition

Can we imagine a space for music that exists outside of recordings, headphones and concerts? Taking this question as a departure, An exposition, not an exhibition by American composer and artist Ari Benjamin Meyers presents new works developed from ongoing research into dissolving the delineation between contemporary art and music.

Meyers sculpts elements—compositions, sites, performers and audience members—into a meta-score that challenges conventions around and perceptions of what we think of as music and musical performance. Specifically, and for the first time, the artist takes as his starting point the grey area of what is commonly referred to as “contemporary” or “new” music. As a trained composer who works in the field of contemporary art, Meyers is often confronted by a paradox: although there is a body of “new” music spanning back over one hundred years, it seems to have little or no place in our cultural consciousness, not even in the all-embracing contemporary art discourse of today. How does this music relate to us and what happens when this “contemporary” music is disrupted, deconstructed and unbound from its usual mode of “classical” presentation in the concert hall?

To amplify the spectrum of voices addressing this quandary, Meyers invited six leading Hong Kong composers Shane Aspegren, Steve Hui, Charles Kwong, Lam Lai, Vanissa Law, and GayBird Leung to write a set of intimate musical interventions that comprise Hong Kong Solos. Staff members at six contemporary arts organizations across the city—Asia Art Archive, Hong Kong Arts Centre, M+, Para Site, soundpocket, and Things that can happen—perform the works for visitors by appointment at their desks.

At Spring Workshop, Meyers presents Litany and Rapture, engaging the Hong Kong New Music Ensemble—who are in residence at Spring Workshop throughout 2017—in an arduous durational live performance of their entire repertoire, characterized by conditions set by Meyers and an embrace of contrived imperfection. Finally, there is a single moment at the opening when, under Meyers’ orchestration, the performers from the multiple segments of the exhibition come together with Spring’s staff to sing his composition Anthem, after which the choir disbands.

These new works do away with trappings of how music is consumed and disseminated today, providing live testing grounds where the dynamics of performer and listener are continuously unpacked and overturned. The works can only be experienced live, and so despite traces of exhibition activities recorded as chalkboard entries, what transpires each day is recorded only in the memories of those who were there.

Team: Natasha Hoare, Christina Li, Anja Lindner, Samuel Saelemakers, Rosa de Graaf.

An exposition, not an exhibition was developed during Ari Benjamin Meyers’ two residencies in the summer and fall of 2016 at Spring Workshop, which is in the final year of its five-year run. Stemming from his ongoing work on the essence of live musical performance and the questions surrounding its protocols for audiences, performers and institutions as well as its place within the context of contemporary art, the presentation showcases the first iteration of research and key themes for the Kunsthalle for Music and will be followed at Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art (Rotterdam) by a conference in May 2017 and the inaugural exhibition of the Kunsthalle for Music in January 2018. The Kunsthalle for Music is commissioned by Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, together with Spring Workshop.



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