Image: Installation view (with Michael Mahalchick, Brook Hsu, Sarah Kurten, Sofi Brazzeal, Michel Auder, Nicolas Guagnini, and Dawn Kasper) of The Split, GRIN, Providence, RI, 2017
Terms and Conditions: A Sonata for Two Women
2019, April 5 - May 5
Studio for Propositional Cinema
with Am Schmidt, Luzie Meyer, and ROBOT (John Miller and Takuji Kogo)
Early last year I visited the the preserved remains Kurt Schwitters’ Merzhytte, or “merz hut”. It had been constructed in the years following his exile from Germany at the onset of World War II, situated on an island on the rural West coast of Norway (eventually being transported and reconstructed at the Henie Onstad Kunstsenter, where it remains on permanent view). For Schwitters, “to merz” was to abolish boundaries between artistic disciplines; between the meaningful and the banal, between art and life. Thinking of Schwitters, I was reminded of one of his most enigmatic works, the nonsensical sound poem Ursonate. Although composed roughly 100 years ago, it resonates today as an endlessly generative artwork; one which originates in the form of written alphabet, yet isn’t necessarily complete until spoken aloud, or verbalized, and therefore interpreted.
Having been invited to curate an exhibition at ProsjektromNormanns in Stavanger, I wanted to take the opportunity to depart from Schwitter’s Ursonate in an effort to establish the framework for a generative exhibition; one that would be adaptable to ulterior scenarios, immaterial (and thus incapable of fixed reconstruction), and one whose potentiality would remain palpable. Afterall, Schwitters’ Ursonate remains resonant and fresh today, while the Merzhytte is sad in its dilapidation. In this regard, I choose to look at Schwitters’ output as a set of procedures, not objects.
Following this line of thinking, I invited the Studio for Propositional Cinema to participate in the project, an entity recognized for its efforts to reconsider the formal, material, and temporal conditions of exhibition formats in the 21st century. They responded not with a poem, but a script, and its license. Titled, Cut with Some Pieces of Cinematography: A Sonata for Two Women, I have negotiated terms to license the script and distribute it amongst two artists —Luzie Meyer and Am Schmidt— and one collective, ROBOT (a collaborative project between artists John Miller and Takuji Kogo). Invited to respond to, react, and/or extrapolate the script according to their practice, the terms of this license allows for abolished boundaries between artistic disciplines. While typically a script is understood to be a direct, verbal manifestation of language (such as for example, within a play or a film), I —as curator— have prompted each artist to appeal to other senses, experimenting with forms of perception, command and translation.
Convergently, whilst a cantata is meant to be sung (and thus verbalized), a sonata is meant to be played. With Ursonate, the artist performing the poem must employ sound since the words have no meaning. With this script however, its English language has definition; the artists thus appeal both to audition and other senses (such as olfaction) in order to translate, adapt or even abolish the literal meaning.
Furthermore, the terms and conditions upon which this exhibition has been constructed, generates a scenario why bypasses my curatorial license, limiting my role to that of an administrator. By distributing this script as a catalyst for the creation of newly commissioned works, its use both abdicates and re-doubles my curatorial responsibilities. It is difficult to predict how the show will come together in April, as its terms and conditions paradoxically liberate the artworks' interpretation to chance.
Ironically (and much to my chagrin), to explain this licensing business, I had to resort to an authorial first person.
-Amanda Schmitt, February 2019